There are some serious concerns surrounding the USC football program, the biggest of which revolve around second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian. The doubts about his ability to lead this program only heightened Thursday night after a stunning loss to the Washington Huskies, Sarkisian's former team.
Only worsening the blow for USC athletic director Pat Haden was the fact that Washington's head coach is Chris Petersen, who the Trojans rejected in favor of Sark. Sure, it's one game, (Other than his 12-6 record at USC and his barely above .500 record at Washington) but Haden certainly didn't hire Sarkisian to lose to an inferior Huskies team.
So where does this leave Sarkisian? Should he get fired? Does he deserve leniency? There are so many questions. Here are the answers.
Why he should be fired
Shall we start with the debacle that took place at the Salute to Troy donor event. Sark got a little too liquored up and said some things he would soon regret. The slurred, expletive-laden speech he gave had boosters calling for his head on a silver platter. Pat Haden stuck with him.
As embarrassing as it was for his players to make him do up-downs in practice, memory of Sarkisian's actions at the event aren't going anywhere. It's not enough to make us forget.
Regardless of how you feel about that particular incident, one fact remains. The Trojans, a team projected as one of the best in the country heading into the season, are sitting with a 3-2 record. There is just entirely too much talent on this roster for USC to lose to Washington and even Stanford. A team that was picked to win the Pac-12 Conference should not look like this. They shouldn't.
To be brutally honest, the Trojans appear no better than they were with Lane Kiffin as the head coach.
Why he should stay
It's almost unfair to judge a coach after a season and a half. Sure, the Trojans have underperformed under Sark, but maybe it's not too late to turn things around.
Sarkisian is not a bad coach at all. He's won 12 of 18 games since taking over the reigns at USC. He's done a good job in recruiting.
The losses cannot always be blamed on the coach. There have been plays where the players could have executed better. There are so many factors that come into play.
In fairness to Sark, he inherited a program that was already in turmoil, left by Lane Kiffin. Maybe Haden should wait it out to see if the Trojans can figure things out. Some may argue the sample size isn't large enough to make a proper decision on a coach. Of course one also has to consider the impact that wanting to fire a coach after 18 games has on potential new coaches wanting to come to USC.
It all boils down to one question? Does the good outweigh the bad? The answer to that question is a resounding "No." Typically, coaches shouldn't be judged this soon into their tenure, but this isn't a typical situation. This is USC Football we're talking about.
Being a head coach for a Power 5 conference team is no easy task, but this is what Sarkisian wanted. He wanted to coach under the bright lights, even if that meant spurning his then current team for a conference foe.
At this point, it doesn't matter how many games Sark has coached. He's a distraction. Being a distraction is not going to turn this program around, which is what he was brought in to do. And if he can't accomplish what he was brought here for, why is he here?
This is not a knock on him as a coach, but these are facts. He hasn't lived up to expectations. It's time to find a coach who fits perfectly into the direction of the program and can put the Trojans back on top of the college football landscape.