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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Sarkisian Gone, Haden In The Clear

Haden says USC did nothing wrong in Sark's hiring.

On Tuesday morning USC Athletic Director, Pat Haden, addressed the firing of former head football coach, Steve Sarkisian, in a press conference at the John McKay Center.

Haden, who has been under scrutiny for hiring and ultimately firing Sarkisian, insisted that USC did nothing wrong during Sarkisian’s hiring process.

He explained, “In our hiring process, we used a respected national search firm that screened all our candidates, including Steve. Steve had NCAA and USC background checks done.”

Haden also noted that, at the time of Sarkisian's hire, he had talked to many of Sarkisian’s friends and former staff members, none of who raised a concern about a potential drinking problem.

There were many tough questions Haden addressed during the press conference, including why Sarkisian wasn't fired earlier this year after the coach appeared drunk at an alumni event in August.

Haden responded by saying that, at the time of the "Salute to Troy" alumni and doners event, it was in the best interest of the football program to keep Sarkisian at its helm. He also said that Sarkisian “deserved another chance and that’s what I gave him." 

On Sunday, Sarkisian was a no-show at practice, which caused Haden to place him on an indefinite leave of absence. The following day, Sarkisian was officially fired.

 Many speculated that Haden’s own job was in jeopardy following the unfolding of the Sarkisian saga. However, USC President Max Nikias issued a strong statement of support for Haden before Tuesday morning’s press conference.

 Nikias stated, “Pat Haden has been doing an outstanding job in leading Trojan Athletics in the past five years and I want to take this opportunity to reiterate my unwavering support for him.”

Nikias was not the only prominent figure to defend Haden. ESPN reporter Shelley Smith and KCBS reporter Jim Hill both weighed their opinions on Haden’s rule.

Smith explained that USC had created a set of guidelines for Sarkisian to abide by during his time as head coach.

ESPN's Shelley Smith interviews former USC Coach, Steve Sarkisian. (Scott Cook / Annenberg Media)
ESPN's Shelley Smith interviews former USC Coach, Steve Sarkisian. (Scott Cook / Annenberg Media)

“A lot of people are saying Haden should go because he didn’t do anything,” Smith said. “He did do something, there were things put into place, and then Sarkisian violated that, so it became a fireable offense.”

Hill added, “Pat Haden is a very smart man, he’s a dedicated Trojan, and he only wants to do what’s right. The president of the university has come out in support of Pat Haden, and that should say enough in itself.”

In wake of Sarkisian’s termination, offensive coordinator, Clay Helton, has been named interim head coach of the Trojans.

Helton is no stranger to the role of interim head coach. He led USC to a win in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl while serving the same role following the firing of Lane Kiffin and the departure of Ed Orgeron.

With a game against rival Notre Dame scheduled for this weekend, Haden, Helton, and the Trojans hope to turn the page on this chapter and return focus to football.

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