USC athletic director Pat Haden and football coach Steve Sarkisian joined the crew from ESPN’s flagship show College GameDay.
This week the show was broadcasted live from Indianapolis, Ind., the site of the Big 10 conference championship game, and coincidentally the same city where the NCAA headquarters are located.
Much of the talking points were similar to Sarkisian’s introductory press conference, as host Chris Fowler peppered the USC representatives with questions surrounding Sarkisian’s hire and the plan moving forward.
When asked why he decided to hire Sarkisian and not Ed Orgeron, Haden responded, “It was very, very hard. Coach Orgeron and our team, the assistant coaches, did an unbelievable job.”
The athletic director cited the fact that USC had been preparing for the decision since Sept. 29, and said “Coach Orgeron was clearly, clearly a candidate.”
Haden again stated USC interviewed only five candidates, with Sarkisian being the final interview, and it was Sarkisian’s “Familiarity with USC, high school football, high school coaches in Los Angeles” that separated him from the other candidates.
Fowler asked Sarkisian how he intended to handle the challenge of keeping NFL draft eligible juniors on the team, despite the public support many of them gave for Orgeron’s candidacy.
Sarkisian stressed a team-first environment and said, “What’s going on inside that locker room is more important to me than anything else.”
According to Sarkisian, he has already held meetings with all of the USC players who may forgo their final year(s) of eligibility.
He said the players are excited and want a chance to win a championship, which is something Sarkisian stated he believes can be accomplished.
Fowler then questioned Sarkisian’s plan to keep USC’s defense at a high level, and the coach said he needed to begin by retaining some members from the defensive staff.
Sarkisian didn’t divulge further details and USC announced on Friday that titles and responsibilities wouldn’t be assigned until the entire staff was intact.
The coach again stressed that USC is not in rebuilding mode, and gave credit to Orgeron for showing that rebuilding isn’t necessary.
When asked about the less than favorable response to hiring Sarkisian and the attempt to replicate the success seen under Pete Carroll, Haden gave credit to Sarkisian for embracing the standard.
Interestingly, in the same response, Haden went on to say he didn’t believe Sarkisian was a “Much different person than Pete Carroll, much different person than Lane Kiffin.”
The idea that Kiffin and Sarkisian may be one and the same certainly won’t ease the concern that has come with Sarkisian’s hire.
Sarkisian has already proven to be more adept at dealing with the media than Kiffin was.
Ultimately, it will be Sarkisian’s ability or inability to win games that will determine whether or not he will be accepted by the Trojan fan base.