USC released a statement denying Steve Sarkisian’s claims that the university wrongfully terminated his contract after failing to help him receive treatment for alcoholism.
Though the university earlier indicated that they had not received any notice of a lawsuit filed against them and do not comment on pending litigation, they took the time to further address some of the allegations in Sarkisian’s filing.
"“Much of what is stated in the lawsuit filed today by Steve Sarkisian is patently untrue. While the university does not as a matter of practice comment on personnel matters or litigation, the record will show that Mr. Sarkisian repeatedly denied to university officials that he had a problem with alcohol, never asked for time off to get help, and resisted university efforts to provide him with help. The university made clear in writing that further incidents would result in termination, as it did. We are profoundly disappointed in how Mr. Sarkisian has mischaracterized the facts and we intend to defend these claims vigorously.”"
Sarkisian’s lawsuit alleges that Pat Haden and the university did not live up to their end of his contract by firing him within 24 hours of putting him on leave after he was determined to have appeared to team meetings while intoxicated.
According to Sarkisian, he was not inebriated during team meetings on the Sunday after USC’s loss to Washington. Instead he appeared unwell because of a combination of drinking the night before, anti-anxiety medication, spiraling depression and stress from work and his ongoing divorce. He claims to have pleaded for time to go to a treatment facility but was met with disinterest from USC officials, who put him on a leave of absence and then fired him without due notice required by law.
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USC’s response calls the facts as Sarkisian sees them into question. General counsel Carol Mauch Amir counters that Sarkisian denied having an alcohol problem and that the university did have cause to fire the former head coach because he had been warned in writing that future offenses could result in his termination.
In Sarkisian’s lawsuit he claims that USC made him sign a letter agreeing to apologize in public, to undergo counseling and to avoid future embarrassments due to drugs or alcohol. That letter, he says, proves that the university was aware of his alcoholism. USC, meanwhile, argues that said letter is precisely the reason they had cause to fire him in October.
Though there is always the possibility of a settlement, it would appear that USC and Sarkisian are in for a lengthy legal battle which will only draw out the debate about Sarkisian’s controversial hiring and firing well into the new year.