Why Steve Sarkisian’s Actual Quote Matters, Not Oregon


Last week’s Pac-12 Media Days brought the usual buzz of energy, hype, and absurd expectations. As per usual, players and coaches did their best to answer decontextualized questions from journalists with whom they have no regular contact.

RELATED: 5 Takeaways From USC’s Trip to Pac-12 Media Days

Given the rapid fire nature of the questions and the fact that they’re coming from a variety of sources, the press are bound to have some fun with a few answers and that’s exactly what happened to USC head coach Steve Sarkisian.

Speaking with reporters during a session, Sarkisian was asked about the difficulties of recruiting within the conference. Never one to shy away from what’s important at USC, Sarkisian opined on the challenges facing the coaching staff when they recruit.

Seems simple enough, but what happened as a result of his answer was a barrage of tweets, articles, and trolling comments from journalists who felt slighted by something Sarkisian never said. The comment in question, the one that had everyone worked up, was actually added after the fact by ESPN’s Chantel Jennings. So, why does any of this matter?

In order to answer that question, it’s best to first frame Sark’s comments into the context they deserved and 140 characters will now allow.

"Media: “You brought in a really good recruiting class. How difficult is it to recruit in this conference? Sark: “Well, I think the thing in our conference of what’s going on right now, I said this earlier, I think the conference has really invested in recruiting. That sounds kind of odd to say, but everybody’s got facilities. Everybody’s got private planes. Everybody’s got new gear. Everybody is doing something to try to stay on the cutting edge of what’s going on in recruiting. “For us, yeah, sure, we do those same things. We have those same things. But at the end of the day we fall right back on our rich history, tradition, our amazing university, being in Los Angeles. The number two media market in the world. You think about the fact that 11 National Championships, six Heisman Trophies, more NFL Hall of Famers than any other university, so there is a lot that we can hold on to that I think is very appealing to kids. We’re not going to take the field in 13 different uniforms in 13 different games this fall. We’re going to wear cardinal and gold. You know what we wear. “So we have to lean on the things that are true to us and who we are. I think that’s why kids come here. It is what they’re looking for.”"

Here is what was tweeted:

The difference between the two statements is rather stark. One of them completely and thoroughly answers the question in a thoughtful, reasoned, and articulate manner. The other is a hot-take based on an assumption.

To put this another way, Jennings took a 208-word, 1,107 character response and reduced it to an 18-word, 91-character long tweet with bonus information.

After mentioning that she had added the Oregon spin of her own accord on Twitter, the gist of the conversation is that Jennings felt it was pretty clear Sarkisian was discussing Oregon because their uniforms are synonymous with their brand of recruiting.

To be fair, their uniforms are definitely a good chunk of who they are as a both a national and Pac-12 brand, it would be foolish to deny that fact.

But the problem with the contracted quote was that Sark mentioned far more than just the uniforms. The uniforms were a footnote at the end of a much larger point.

If Oregon is synonymous with uniforms, then USC is synonymous with tradition.

Remember the question was about the difficulties in recruiting the Pac-12, not the difficulties in recruiting against Oregon, which hasn’t really been an issue for the Trojans.

Understanding that the question was about Pac-12 recruiting, it shouldn’t have been a reach to include the sharp uniforms and gear that other Pac-12 schools not named Oregon have been rolling out, especially since Sarkisian highlighted that fact in the first part of his response.

Oregon are far from the only Pac-12 brand using new gear, logos, and branding to attract recruits in the modern game. They might be the Pac-12 flagship in that respect, but this is a nationwide trend now and a reality for all coaches.

Remember, the question was about the difficulties in recruiting against the entire conference, not strategies for out-recruiting Oregon.

It is also curious that in the Twitter outrage that followed, no mention was made of Sarkisian’s tradition comments. If Oregon is synonymous with uniforms, then USC is synonymous with tradition.

Along with tradition, Sarkisian mentioned the 11 National Championships,


six Heismans, and many other claims to fame that USC uses as part of their tradition package. You can include the double-nickels and the No. 5, if you’re into more recent traditions.

ALSO READ: 25 Best USC Football Traditions

Even though Sarkisian mentioned all of that and tradition when asked about USC’s difficulties in recruiting, uniforms and Oregon somehow became the takeaway instead of what USC uses to bring athletes into their program. If Sarkisian was focused on tradition, why was the commentary focused on Oregon?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Remember, Sarkisian’s ‘really good recruiting class’ was part of the question and part of answering that is explaining how USC landed those kids over other Pac-12 schools — tradition.

In reality, Sarkisian has a full plate ahead of him this season and there is a lot expected of the Trojans by way of progression in 2015.

Firing off a pointless shot at Oregon four months ahead of their scheduled meeting runs counter to everything USC set out to accomplish in 2015.

It’s far more likely that Sarkisian meant what he said about tradition because it’s such an enormous part of USC’s identity.

Are uniforms an amazing recruiting tool? Absolutely. Are they something to which players are held accountable by their teammates, peers, and coaches? No. It’s a uniform. You put it on and play, not much discussion is required.

Tradition is what Sarkisian knows, preaches, and uses as a recruiting tool every day. And if anything was obvious about Sarkisian’s answer, it was his deep-rooted belief that tradition was, is, and always will be one of USC’s greatest strengths.

It’s also the answer that matters to the question of why USC over another Pac-12 school.

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