How could it be? I went through the same stages of grief that most Trojans experienced yesterday. Anger (What do you mean SARK), Sadness (anything but Sark), Bargaining (well maybe he'll bring a great staff), and finally resignation (oh well of least its just more of the same). In the end its this final emotional state that brought me some insight. None of this is Sark's fault. He's just a mediocre coach that was fast wearing out his welcome in Seattle, and when presented with the opportunity for a better, higher paying, job he took it. I or anyone would do the same. The real problem is the entire way that hiring decisions are made within the USC Athletic Department.
For those new to the University, or those whose interaction with it has come mainly on Saturdays, USC today is a far different place than it was 20 years ago. Until Steven Sample took over, a USC education (which I posses) was not quite the world famous accomplishment that it is today. The admissions standards were far lower, many of its grad programs were dominated by alumni, and a good many of those graduates went on to work at USC. Troy really showed a preference for Trojans. For better or for worse Sample changed that attitude. Today USC competes with Cal and Stanford for the best high school students, and its grad programs are stocked with high achievers from other top schools. In addition graduates of these programs would not even be considered for faculty positions, which generally go to the best the Ivy League has to offer. Normatively speaking this is good, its progress. It has made the University better.
The Last vestige of the old USC is in the McKay center. When Mike Garrett, an AD widely noted for his lack of interpersonal skills and failure to methodically make good decisions,was let go, rather than selecting an experienced AD with connections in the various athletic association bureaucracies USC hired Pat Haden. A former USC QB, Rhodes Scholar, Football Commentator, Trustee and Lawyer. A man with a resume that lacked one key element -- experience running an athletic department. Any athletic department. He had come home to "save" us. To deliver us from the folly of Mike Garrett. But his main qualification was that he was a Trojan, and could be trusted.
In truth Pat Haden can be trusted. He is a nice man, who loves USC, and is a living embodiment of all of the good things about the university. He is also a terrible AD. I will admit, I have been critical of Haden since his hire, but until yesterday I didn't really think he was incompetent. When he fired Kiffin I even reconsidered my opinion, but in that decision lie the true apotheosis of his problems. Why was Kiffin fired at the airport? Why not call him in the next day to his office and give Kiffin, a grown man with a family who no one alleges did anything but try his best at USC, some dignity? The simple answer is that I believe it was a rash decision, made in the heat of anger over a bad loss, and one which Haden knew he would reconsider if he allowed himself to sleep on it. This is no way for a leader to made decisions.
A recent article proclaimed that while Sark is not a sexy hire his appointment "feels right." I suppose that is true. If you have been eating vanilla ice cream for 4 years and in an effort to expand your palate you try French Vanilla it will "feel right." Staying in your comfort zone always feels good, but its often a bad choice. We should not be surprised by Haden's choice, because Haden was chosen the same way, as was Mike Garrett, Paul Hackett, Ted Tollner, Lane Kiffin and many others who have led our Trojans on the sporting field. What we as Trojans have to ask ourselves is why, if this policy of looking only at those within the Trojan Family is not good enough for the academic side of the University, is it acceptable in the McKay center?