USC lost its second consecutive home game last Thursday, this time against Washington. Yes, after allowing 41 points in a loss to Stanford on Sept. 19, the Trojans didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter against the Huskies and lost, 17-12, on Oct. 8.
“It was tough,” former USC Heisman winner and current Pac-12 Network analyst Matt Leinart said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I was actually at the game and it made it even more disappointing watching that, but yeah, it’s been a tough year – to say the least – for USC football, for fans, for former players. That game, I don’t want that game to define how the rest of the season is going to play out, but we just don’t know. But it was difficult. You have to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. You credit Washington. They’ve got a real good defense, but that’s a game USC should win, especially coming off a bye. So just disappointment from the fact that those are kind of the games you need to win – and when you let those slip away, your margin for error is just so much smaller in this day and age of college football with multiple losses.”
Three days after the loss, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was asked to take an indefinite leave of absence. On Monday, he was fired.
Sarkisian had modest success at USC – he went 12-6 – but his dismissal went beyond that, as reports have surfaced in recent months suggesting that Sarkisian is struggling with alcoholism.
“Obviously everyone was well aware of the state of the program and Sark had just been struggling,” Leinart said. “But the reports of him showing up (intoxicated) and all those things was a surprise to me, as it was to a lot of people. It’s just an unfortunate time. I said this yesterday and I’ll say it again: I support him in his life and getting his life together and figuring out this difficult process that he has in front of him. So many people are focused on winning and losing – and I get it. You want to win. You want to win championships at SC. But this is bigger than football. This puts life into perspective. All of us have dealt with adversity in our life and all of us have dealt with someone dealing with a different type of adversity, and you always support them no matter what. That’s kind of where we’re at with Sark. I just hope he gets better. I’m here for him. He knows that. SC now has to move on.”
Offensive coordinator Clay Helton has been named the interim head coach.
Sarkisian’s replacement is yet to be determined, but Leinart simply wants his alma mater to go for the best coach available.
“That sounds simple, but sometimes everyone gets caught in where they coached before or what coaching tree they fall under,” Leinart said. “To me, I don’t care. I could care less if the next head coach has USC ties at all. It doesn’t matter to me. The next head football coach needs to understand just what it is to be at USC and understand the tradition and the history and the expectations. . . . and second, like i just said, I just want a great football coach. I don’t want the decision to be made (based on) where he comes from. It doesn’t matter. Look at what Pete Carroll did. Pete Carroll got fired from New England, didn’t have a great go-around there and came in and resurrected USC. Now, was he a diamond int he rough? Absolutely, but that happens because he’s a great football coach. So that’s what I want. I want a great football coach. Once we get that, I think it’s safe to say USC will turn it around sooner than later because it’s USC.”