Steve Sarkisian’s Leave Of Absence & What’s Next

    USC football has to deal with Notre Dame, Utah and Cal over the next three weeks, but Steve Sarkisian first has to deal with something bigger.

    October 12, 2015

    USC football has to deal with Notre Dame, Utah and Cal over the next three weeks, but Steve Sarkisian first has to deal with something bigger.

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    The real shocker is that this type of thing doesn’t happen more often.

    USC head coach Steve Sarkisian is taking a “temporary leave of absence” after reportedly strange behavior and concerns over his health – with alcohol, pain killers, and a personal family issue all rumored to be in the mix – but at the very least, it seems like the guy just needs to take a timeout in a profession that doesn’t allow for a free moment.

    The concern started this offseason when Sarkisian came up with what was described as a drunken speech at a rally for key USC boosters, making national headlines and turning the spotlight and pressure onto athletic director Pat Haden and a school just getting out from under years of problems following the Reggie Bush scandal. But this seems to be something different.

    It’ll be tempting to tie Sarkisian’s off-the-field problems to the team’s performances in losses to Stanford and Washington, but at the same time, part of the issue could be coming from these defeats in a pressure-packed job that – as we’re finding out this season more than ever – doesn’t allow for even one mistake, especially at a place like USC.

    This isn’t to make excuses for Sarkisian, or for the losses, but he’s currently going through a divorce, people around the program have described various problems and concerns, and considering he’s the head man at one of college football’s biggest programs, it’s all taking a toll.

    Top coaches make millions, and they choose this profession, but it’s a hard life. It’s a tough world for the families – especially among the assistants – and it’s a job with no life outside of trying to get a bunch of children to come play football for you. A kid misses a kick, drops a punt snap – ask Charlie Strong – and two weeks later your whole world is in turmoil.

    That’s not to say that Sarkisian can’t hack it at the highest of levels – I have no idea if he can or not – but at the moment there are major issues that go beyond being the head coach at a place that demands nothing less than total dominance. Having to be the head coach at USC probably isn’t the best thing for a guy who needs help in other areas of life.

    So now it’s up to offensive coordinator Clay Helton to take the reins of this phenomenally talented team, at least for the time being, and he’s more than ready to handle the workload on the field – he’s been prepped for this, serving as the interim head coach before.

    And now it’ll be interesting to see where USC goes from here.

    Depending on the next step for Sarkisian, and depending on what he’ll have deal with to get his life in order, it’ll be horrible PR for Haden to try finding a new head coach to take the program in a different direction. On the flip side, USC has championships to try to win and players who committed to this place specifically, even though Trojan recruits always have a slew of other top choices.

    On the field, everything is still there for USC. The two losses came to teams from the North, so, realistically, the Trojans will almost certainly take the Pac-12 title by winning out – it’ll take one more Arizona State loss, too. And then, if they go 11-2 with a Power Five championship, and then the other factors are taken into consideration by the College Football Playoff committee …

    But that’s putting a guy’s problems and issues into a college football perspective, and that’s not fair. USC football has to go to Notre Dame, and it has to follow that up with Utah, and then a trip to Cal. The world around the program keeps spinning, and the Fighting Irish and others will hardly give the Trojans a break.

    But for now, Sarkisian’s world needs to be about getting better, with football not being a part of it in any way.

    MORE: Week 6 College Football Rankings, No. 1-128

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