Nov. 23, 2012; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian looks on against the Washington State Cougars during the second half at Martin Stadium. The Cougars would go onto beat the Huskies by a final score of 31-28 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
ESPN’s Paul Finebaum revealed on Brock Huard’s ESPN Radio Seattle show today that, according to his sources, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian is USC’s number one target for the vacant head coaching position.
Ignoring the he-said-that-he-said-that-anonymous-people-said nature of this report and doubts that Sarkisian would leave the program he’s building in the first place, let’s take a look at the potential hire.
Sark, as he’s been known, has obvious ties to USC. Not only did he play ball for the Trojans (albeit baseball), he coached in the golden age under Pete Carroll, running the offense for two seasons with general success. When he was hired away by Washington in December 2008, it was generally believed that either he or Lane Kiffin might be the heir apparent should Pete Carroll make his widely rumored jump to the NFL.
As we now know, it was Kiffin who eventually took up the mantel when that day came. Meanwhile, Sarkisian remained at Washington, never quite succeeding but always showing enough potential to keep the Huskies interesting.
Which is precisely why Haden should look at Sarkisian and hear instant alarm bells.
In four seasons up in Seattle, Sarkisan has posted the following records: 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6. He has gone to three bowl games and emerged with a victory just once.
To be fair, he has recruited very well, finishing in the top 30 of Yahoo! Sports rankings every year during his tenure. But then, Lane Kiffin was a great recruiter too.
With success in recruiting and W-L records that are just good enough to avoid being called bad, Sarkisian has lived off of the “potential” label for most of his career as a head coach. This season he has his Huskies an impressive 4-1, but four of those wins came against an overrated Boise State, Illinois, FCS Idaho State, and the same Arizona team that USC just dominated. Their one loss to Stanford is far from a bad loss, but it epitomizes what the problem with Sarkisian is — it was a loss that spoke of potential, but not results.
That’s not to say the Sark couldn’t succeed at USC. The question is whether he should be choice number one. If he is, Pat Haden’s idea of a coaching search is surprisingly unimaginitive.