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What Steve Sarkisian’s hiring means to Notre Dame

Dec 3, 2013, 1:46 AM EDT

Steve Sarkisian AP

When Notre Dame finishes the season next year in the Coliseum, they’ll square off against head coach Steve Sarkisian, who was tabbed to run the Trojan football program on Monday. After firing Lane Kiffin early this season, USC athletic director Pat Haden brings in another visor wearing, high-energy young coach from the Pete Carroll coaching tree, hoping to bring Troy back to the glory days that are feeling farther and farther away.

Sarkisian leaves Washington with a 34-29 record at his first head coaching stop. After taking over for Tyrone Willingham, who was fired after a winless 2008, Sarkisian won five games in 2009. He won seven games in each of his next three seasons, and leaves the Huskies at 8-4 this year. In Pac-12 play, Sarkisian has never won more than five games or lost less than four.

Here’s what Haden said about the hire:

“We are delighted to welcome Steve Sarkisian back to the Trojan Family,” Haden said in a statement. “We conducted a very exhaustive and thorough search, pinpointing about 20 candidates and interviewing five of them. We kept coming back to Sark. He is the only one who was offered the job. I believe in my gut that he is the right coach for USC at this time.

“He embodies many of the qualities for which we looked. He is an innovative coach who recruits well and develops players. He is a proven and successful leader. He connects with people. He has energy and passion. He knows how to build a program and create a culture that we value. He is committed to academic success and rules compliance. And he understands the heritage and tradition of USC.”

As it usually happens, some of the hottest potential candidates came off the board in the past few weeks, with Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin re-committing to the Aggies and Baylor coach Art Briles signing a multi-year extension. Yesterday, ESPN’s Joe Schad said the Trojans were focusing on Boise State coach Chris Petersen and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. That the Trojans hired Sarkisian the next day tells you something about Schad’s sources or the attractiveness of the USC head coaching position, a job that still has to deal with the final effects of crippling NCAA sanctions.

USC fans had wondered what Haden would do with his first big hire, especially after showing such decisiveness in firing Kiffin. But the hiring of Sark could’ve just as easily been hatched by water coolers or barbershops surrounding Heritage Hall. That Haden hired a search firm to seek out a Torrance, California native who will be on his fifth tour of duty as a Trojan says something about the process.

If Notre Dame fans were upset with the hiring of Brian Kelly, fresh off an undefeated season and back-t0-back BCS Bowl appearances at Cincinnati, you can’t expect Trojan fans to go crazy for a guy with a 34-29 record after five seasons. (Seen snarkily posted on the interwebs: Charlie Weis was 34-27 in his five seasons replacing Ty Willingham and he got fired. Sark got the SC job.)

While Sarkisian and Ed Orgeron coached on the same Pete Carroll staff, Orgeron will not remain with the program, turning down a reported offer to be associate head coach and one of the highest paid assistants in the country. Yet continuity between regimes should be something to watch, as the connectivity between the Washington and USC staffs (not to mention their schematic philosophies) is pretty significant.

It’s too early for Irish fans to figure out if they dodged a bullet or not. (Art Briles or Chris Petersen with USC’s athletes? Forget it!) And while Sark is hardly the type of showy hiring that fans come to expect (Jon Gruden, anyone?), he’s a solid head coach, a good offensive mind and a young, energetic guy cut closer from the Carroll cloth than Kiffin ever was.

Still, it’s worth pointing out that the mood at Heritage Hall wasn’t about the triumphant hire of Sarkisian, but the difficulty saying goodbye to Orgeron.

As Washington now decides whether it should chase UCLA coach Jim Mora, the offseason coaching carousel has officially begun to spin.

But for Irish fans wondering about the hire compared to the decision that brought Brian Kelly to Notre Dame, USC wasn’t able to hire Gruden or Bob Stoops, either.

  1. ndnapa - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:16 AM

    I think it’s a very good hire, and the one I thought would happen. Sark is no Kiffen. As an ND fan, it could have been worse if Peterson, Franklin or Del Rio were hired. But Sarkesian will be a much better HC than Orgeron, and he’ll bring his own DL coach, who is also an excellent recruiter.

    • dickasman - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:21 AM

      Y I hear that peter tosh is a scumbag of a coach. Very good at paying players.

      • andy44teg - Dec 3, 2013 at 9:44 AM

        Are you talking about Tosh Lupoi or Chris Petersen??

    • dickasman - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:24 AM

      I personally had orgeron rated higher than sarkisian but I didn’t say anything to pat cuz he’s gotta f himself n learn from his own mistake.

  2. dickasman - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:20 AM

    Slightly confused although not gay. Scrotum/Head scratcher. Steve who? Is that the Jewish Greek guy? I’ll take a gyro. Not as bad as O’leary hiring but pretty close. I didn’t really think he did much at USC or W. Good for us. Haden must be smoking that medical marijuana or he’s still on the NBC payroll.

  3. irishaggie - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:28 AM

    I agree with the comment about coach Pete or Briles. Growing up in Idaho I have followed BSU and have seen guys I played against in high school like Shea McClellin from a tiny high school become big time college players. Coach Pete is such a great coach and would be a 2nd Saban if he took a job at Texas or USC but he refuses to leave Boise because him and his family love it here and it’s where he wants to be.

    • dickasman - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:34 AM

      What do you guys do out there in Boise everyday? Do you guys get cable? Are there any hott chicks or is it all boise?

      • irishaggie - Dec 3, 2013 at 10:16 AM

        I actually think you would like it here dick. Idaho is a red state, we have 4g in Boise, night life is great, lots of vineyards/wine tasting and brewing companies, and girls (hott) wear skirts and high heels in the middle of winter.

  4. NJ_Baseball - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:34 AM

    That Haden hired a search firm does say something about the process, but it’s simply: That’s how coaches are hired these days. I’ve read a few articles over the past few years about how schools use firms to find football and men’s basketball coaching candidates. It’s often to keep things relatively quiet (remember the tracking of airplane tail numbers during the Urban Meyer chase?) but also to facilitate the process with a central middle-man that can send out feelers.

    • dickasman - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:37 AM

      I tell you what that Rural Meyer is worth the chase. No matter how much I hate the guy he seems to know what he’s doing. Call it coaching, paying guys off, recruiting whatever it is.

    • standingdomer - Dec 4, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      Agree with you. that’s how executives are hired. thanks for actually opining what you think it means, rather than just throwing about a bunch of facts together and pretending to offer a self-evident opinion.

      Keith… what do you think about USC’s hiring process? do you think spending money on a search firm was a farce? or that even while spending the money for professionals to search high and low, the best they could do was find a re-tread? or does it say (gasp!) that the quality of the Carroll coaching tree is so great that the best and brightest in the field are a reunion weekend away… or just that they visit OJ on weekends? should i seek out google maps to see what hidden clues are in Torrance, CA?

      sorry for the rant. it’s been slowly building up. just tired of journalists, or bloggers, talking out of both sides of their mouth – pretending to say something without actually saying it.

  5. onward2victory - Dec 3, 2013 at 4:09 AM

    Safe hire. I’m really glad they didn’t get Sumlin or Briles. That would have been scary. I like James Franklin a lot too. I don’t think Del Rio would have been a great college coach, doesn’t seem to have much personality.

    If Coach Kelly and Mr Martin can’t get a fast paced spread offense implemented next year with loads of talent at every offensive position, then I would love for ND to hire an OC from Baylor, Oregon, or A&M and make him our new OC.

  6. tbone71 - Dec 3, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    Agree 100%. As a head coach, Brian kelly is the right guy for the Irish at this time. As head coach / offensive coordinator, not so good.

  7. don74 - Dec 3, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Any place on Kelly’s staff for Orgeron? Guy can recruit.

  8. mediocrebob - Dec 3, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Say goodbye to Martin. I like the fact Kelly will be calling plays again. Good luck in Oxford, Chuck.

    • ndgoldandblue - Dec 3, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      I’d like to see Kelly bring in an offensive coordinator from outside the program, who runs a more up-tempo, fluid form of the spread rather than the “hurry up and wait”, check, re-check form of the spread we’ve seen from the Irish. Or, if they want to slow things down, perhaps Kelly could bring in an OC with a different offensive philosophy. A pro-style, power, play-action philosophy might work best with the personnel the Irish have. It worked beautifully in the Navy and BYU games. It could be the staple offense this team uses. The spread, in the form the Irish use anyway, seems to be a bit too slow-developing, and the players on offense are often confused or on a different page than the quarterback. Sometimes it looks like a mess. Maybe an OC from outside the program would be a nice change.

  9. runners00 - Dec 3, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Sark must love SC. Any job where you are the “University of” a state — particularly any job in a BCS conference where you’re university of a state — is a great job.

    As for the hire, I imagine SC is still recovering from the scandal and coaches are reluctant to take the job. Also, Texas A&M and Boise State pay their coaches well. So then the question is whether SC pays enough to justify packing up the family and moving to Los Angeles and dealing with Pat Hayden, an obsessive fan base, entitled recruits, NCAA sanctions/monitoring and the very competitive Pac12.

    I guess what I am saying is this: if you’re Bob Stoops or you’re Kevin Sumlin, the only place to go is down if you’re at SC. Coach Stoops has already won big at OU. Kevin Sumlin has a great quarterback, strong recruiting class and a legitimate shot at an SEC title next year. If either guy takes the SC job and he doesn’t immediately win, it’s a huge step back professionally.

  10. oldschoollyons - Dec 3, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    Haden obviously wants a young coach. Sarkisian is a known quantity from his USC days and is extremely good with quarterbacks, which is always important at USC. Besides, Haden had little choice since his interest drove other schools to give their coaches long-term contracts to keep them from leaving for USC or, in the case of Petersen, to reaffirm his decision to stay in Boise.

    Sarkisian was co-offensive coordinator at USC along with Kiffin in years of great offensive strength. So he has the potential to be effective as head coach now.

    Orgeron seems to have shot himself in the head by angrily resigning rather than taking Haden’s offer to be assistant head coach. Orgeron was foolish not to realize that he would not be the next head coach. He passed up a job that he’s well suited for in L.A. for a chance to be head man at some Little Sisters of the Poor out in the country.

  11. seagullsnest - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    USC again taps into the very staff that brought them to their knee’s?? Really. A perfect time to turn the page and move on from the past but SC still chooses to “try” and get those Carroll days back. The very regime that put them in the dog house in the 1st place! Nice. However will this help ND? As long as Kelly continues to “flounder” on offense, continues to spin 15 out of the 25 plates that need to be managed, continues to call VERY high risk of failure plays at important times, it WON’T MATTER what HC SC has…. BK will as usual – show up to the game and “REACT” to whatever is on the field in front of ND that day.

  12. tsombanj - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    With all due respect to everyone and their opinions, I suggest that Pat Haden knows a bit more about hiring a head coach than anyone on this site. So let’s respect his decision and assume Sarkisian is a good hire unless proven otherwise.

  13. tpdsdomer - Dec 3, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    Haden says his new head football coach “is committed to academic success and rules compliance.” It’s about time U$C football gave those concepts a try. CHEAT ON!

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