When I got the news that Steve Sarkisian was to be USC’s next head coach, I was in Mexico and, thankfully, drinking heavily.
Like the majority of Trojans, I wanted to see Coach O in the permanent driver’s seat and his coaching snub stung (as I’m sure it did to him, 1,000 times over). O had earned his stripes with us. Sark, however, had not.
With a 34–29 record as head coach at Washington, Sarkisian was 24 21 in Pac-12 play. Yeah, he had a history with us. So did OJ Simpson. Past Trojan does not always equal the best decision for USC (Regardless, Coach O had Trojan history as well).
Sark told ESPN.com that he was watching the horrific UCLA game when he received the call offering him the job, which seems apropos for the story of Troy. We all know where we were the moment USC either became number one again or fell further into the abyss. After a few tequila shots, I still remained unenthused by the hire…until I started to see the decisions he was making outside of the playbook.
Almost immediately, it was clear that Sark knew how to handle himself in the media.
Coming off of a coach who viewed reporters with the same affection as a toddler does brussel sprouts, it was refreshing to see USC represented well, with a friendly and open representative. His sound bites were solid and his energy wafted confidence without the hint of sociopathic delusion-ism that had faced the public in SC’s most recent years.
Sarkisian opened practices back up to the media and actually shared injury information, cutting off the need for media speculation that Cody Kessler’s arm had turned into a tentacle and that Nelson Agholor was unable to practice because he was crying over this week’s episode of The Bachelor.
Another plus, Sarkisian named a quarterback before the first…and second…and third games.
He also excels at recruiting, with deep ties to many of the top schools in Southern California.
Fine. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, for as much time as a simulated sapphire necklace gets listed on QVC. Then, he’ll have to renew.
So, who is Sark really?
Born in Torrance in 1974, Sark played football in high school, but actually began his collegiate athletic career playing on the USC baseball team as a non-scholarship middle infielder.
Not finding success at SC (possibly related to the fact that his roommate was Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees and Jessica Simpson fame), he transferred to El Camino College, where the football coach urged him to resume his career as quarterback.
As a junior, he transferred to BYU (no, he is not Mormon), where he was coached by, you guessed it, offensive coordinator Norm Chow. His senior year, he passed for 4,027 yards and 33 touchdowns during the regular season, and was featured on the cover of TV Guide in December 1996.
After graduating with a B.A. in Sociology, Sark began his professional football career as quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League. After his team finished with a 3 – 15 record, Sark hung up his cleats for good.
Sark began his coaching career as the quarterbacks coach at El Camino College. The following season, he joined his former coach Norm Chow at SC, first as an offensive assistant, and then as quarterbacks coach.
In 2004, Sark tried his hand at the pros, becoming quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders. The next year, he returned to good ‘ole SC as assistant head coach. When asked by Pete Carroll what his ultimate career goal was, Sark responded that he wanted Carroll’s job.
Despite interviewing with the Raiders again, this time for their vacant head coaching position, he pulled himself out of the running to stay at SC as the offensive coordinator, while the current OC, Lane Kiffin, took the head role in Oakland.
In 2008, he took the head coaching position for the University of Washington, and we all know the story from there.
And the man behind the (smaller than a Denny’s menu) clipboard?
Sark was born the youngest of seven children. He was the only native Californian among his siblings, the others having been born in Massachusetts.
His father is Armenian, born and raised in Iran, who immigrated to the United States when he was 18. His mother is an Irish-American from Massachusetts. Sark is married to Stephanie and has two daughters, Ashley (12) and Taylor (6), and a son, (No Relation To Tom) Brady (9).
According to Sark, “The family is here. We are all together. We have not gotten a house yet. I don’t think you ever settle down in Year One.”
I’m not sure if that was meant to be comforting, but I’ll keep the tequila handy.