Multiple sources told ESPN Monday that USC has hired Washington’s Steve Sarkisian as its new head football coach. Sarkisian admitted early Monday on KJR radio that he spoke with the Trojans about the job, but denied interviewing for it, saying the Trojans contacted him. Sarkisian, Washington’s head coach since 2009, led the Huskies to a 34-29 record in five seasons, including 8-4 this season.
Sarkisian becomes the first Washington head coach to voluntarily leave the position for another school since Darrell Royal, who coached the Huskies in 1956 and departed for the University of Texas in 1957.
Sarkisian served as an assistant coach at USC under Pete Carroll for seven seasons in two stints, from 2001-03 and from 2005-07. In 2007 and 2008, he was USC’s assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. During Sarkisian’s time at USC, the Trojans went 74-15, including 22-3 when Sarkisian called the offensive plays.
Sarkisian will replace the fired Lane Kiffin and, more recently, interim head coach Ed Orgeron. Coaches under consideration included Boise State’s Chris Petersen and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. Petersen reportedly withdrew from consideration, although it’s not known whether he did so after learning of USC’s interest in Sarkisian, or was turned down by USC first.
Sarkisian took over a UW program in 2009 that had gone 0-12 under Tyrone Willingham in 2008. Sarkisian’s first team finished 5-7 and his next three 7-6, 7-6 and 7-6. The Huskies played in bowl games after each of those seasons, beating Nebraska 19-7 in the 2010 Holiday Bowl, losing to Baylor 67-56 in the 2011 Alamo Bowl, and to Boise State 28-26 in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl.
This year’s Huskies, who ended defeating Washington State in the Apple Cup Friday, will play in a fourth consecutive bowl, as yet unidentified, although it’s unclear at this point whether Sarkisian will be involved in the game.
Washington, which rose as high as No. 15 in the Associated Press poll this season after opening 4-0, has yet to issue a statement on Sarkisian’s change of jobs. USC has not issued a statement, either.
If the Huskies stay in house to replace Sarkisian, the obvious choice would be defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, although Wilcox might be tempted to leave with Sarkisian.