USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was placed on an “indefinite leave” from the football team by the university’s Athletic Director Pat Haden on Sunday after it became apparent that he was “not healthy.”
Clay Helton, the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, will take over as the interim coach, USC stated.
Sarkisian was not at the team’s practice early Sunday afternoon, prompting a phone call from the athletic director once he learned of the situation.
Based on the conversation, “It was very clear to me that he is not healthy,” Haden told reporters at a brief news conference. “I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence.”
When asked by a reporter to specify what led to the determination that Sarkisian was not fit to continue coaching, Haden responded, “It was apparent,” but did not elaborate.
Sarkisian came under fire before the season even started for his erratic behavior at the “Salute to Troy” kickoff event, where he slurred words, used an expletive, and told the crowd of athletic supporters that several opponents “sucked.”
He apologized the following day.
At a news conference two days after the incident, Sarkisian said his behavior resulted from mixing a small amount of alcohol and an unspecified medication. He stated at the time he would seek treatment in order to determine whether he had a drinking problem.
Sunday’s abrupt announcement comes just three days after the team’s disappointing 17-12 loss to the Washington Huskies at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
USC is 3-2 this season, but just 1-2 in the Pac-12 Conference. They take on intersectional rival Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday.
Helton has a 1-0 record as interim head coach, having coached the team to its 45-20 Las Vegas Bowl victory over Fresno State.
“We’ll take the same approach we did the last time we were in this,” Helton told reporters after Haden’s announcement. “It’s all about the kids, and it’s all about the Trojan family, and that is it.”
USC AD Pat Haden announces that Steve Sarkisian will take an "indefinite leave of absence." Clay Helton named interim head coach.
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) October 11, 2015