When USC athletic director Pat Haden made the decision Sunday to fire football coach Lane Kiffin, speculation arose that Washington coach Steve Sarkisian would be among the school’s top candidates to fill the vacancy. The speculation has always been there, more noticeably late in 2012 when Kiffin’s seat became warm as the Trojans staggered to a 7-6 finish. Sarkisian has close ties to the area — he grew up in the Los Angeles area — and was an assistant for four years (05-08) at USC before taking the Huskies head coaching job.
He was eager Monday to address the rumors when questions turned quickly away from the No. 15 Huskies’ game Saturday against No. 5 Stanford and toward his future at UW. Sarkisian denied that he or his agent had been contacted by USC, though he didn’t indicate what he would do if he was offered the job.
“I have never once and I will never comment on hypothetical scenarios,” he said.
“I know that’s the world that a lot of us in this room live in. That’s your job to do, I understand that. But I’ve never done that in the four-and-a-half years that I’ve been here, and I won’t do that.”
Sarkisian and Kiffin are close friends, having worked together for two years (2005-06) during the Pete Carroll era.
“My first thoughts are with Lane and his family and Layla (Kiffin) and those kids,” Sarkisian said. “That’s a hard thing to do. Those kids had to get up this morning and go to school. That’s hard. We’re real people. We’re figureheads in a sense because we’re coaches, but our wives and our kids live real lives and they deal with it more on a day-to-day basis than we do.”
Asked if the rumors would create the type of attention that could derail a Husky team that Saturday reached 4-0 for the first time since 2001, beating Arizona 31-13 in a Seattle monsoon, Sarkisian unsurprisingly referenced during his presser the “no distractions” mentality he began preaching during the off-season.
Earlier Monday, he spoke to players during a team meeting about his future to try to quash what will be unchecked speculation — at least, until USC administrators fill the vacancy. The Trojans Monday named Ed Orgeron interim head coach, though former Jaguars coach and ex-Trojans linebacker Jack Del Rio and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin have been floated as possible replacements.
“I bring it up to them. That’s how we are. We’re a very close-knit group. We’re a mature group,” Sarkisian said. “We openly talk about things and I think that we’re in a good place to do that as a football team and a football program. I think when you ask them about it later they’ll give you the same response.”