The demon drink
USC fires Steve Sarkisian as coach battles alcoholism
October 21, 2015
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Last week, the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans fired their football coach.
At first glance, it seemed to be the logical next step for a once-proud football program that has struggled to find firm ground over the last decade.
But upon further review, the decision by USC’s athletic director Pat Haden, himself a former quarterback for the school, to fire head coach Steve Sarkisian, points to a much deeper and darker issue for Sarkisian himself.
Sarkisian’s history at USC began in 2001 after he was hired by then-head coach Pete Carroll to be the team’s quarterback coach.
He left again in 2008 to take the head coach position at the University of Washington and in 2013, the prodigal son returned (again) to USC to take over the head coaching job.
In his third term with the Trojans, Sarkisian was fired midway through his second season of leading the team.
The problems began in August, when Sarkisian appeared on-stage at a pre-season banquet slurring his words during a profanity-laced rant about the team’s upcoming opponents.
Sarkisian was pulled from the stage, and athletic director Haden was reportedly seen berating Sarkisian backstage of the event in front of a crowd of on-lookers.
The next day, Sarkisian issued a statement apologizing for the incident.
Later that same week, Sarkisian met with the media for the first time in the aftermath, and claimed a mixture of alcohol and medication was the cause of his embarrassing actions.
Since the very public incident, the Trojan football team, which had national championship hopes before the season, had went a pedestrian 3-2 under Sarkisian’s leadership.
Fast forward to October, and Sarkisian is now without a job.
Reports began surfacing that Sarkisian had been showing up to team meetings and practices inebriated, and was even allegedly drunk during the team’s game against Arizona State, a game which the Trojans won, 42-14.
Days after that news broke, Haden announced the program had placed Sarkisian on an indefinite leave of absence.
The following day, Haden announced his decision to relieve Sarkisian of his duties as USC’s head football coach after Sarkisian failed to appear for a mid-day practice session.
Sarkisian issued a thanks to the program and encouragement for his now ex-players in the aftermath of his firing.
Now, he faces his biggest challenge: winning his personal battle with alcoholism.
Dating back to his days as the head coach at Washington, Sarkisian was known to drink more than he should.
Perhaps now that one of the most sobering things a person can have happen to them, has happened to him. Sarkisian will be able to make the correct choices and find a way to get help.
There are no clear answers to what must be done in a situation like this, but one thing is clear: Sarkisian must find a way to turn his life around before something much worse than losing his job happens.
And the football team he was tasked with leading back to glory now must find a way to climb out of the pit of complete disarray Sarkisian’s alcoholism left them in.
Hopefully, both parties involved will be able to rise again and defeat the demons that have pulled them down.