Philadelphia, PA - It didn't take long. – Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It didn't take long.
Not even 48 hours had passed since USC closed up shop on the regular season when word came out that the Trojans had finally picked their permanent successor to Lane Kiffin.
On Monday, after reports surfaced early in the day hinting at the possibility, USC officially announced the hiring of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian as the next man to roam the sidelines as head coach for the Trojans.
During the months of speculation following Lane Kiffin's firing from USC, there seemed to be a new leader for the job each week. Jack Del Rio of the Denver Broncos was an early frontrunner, Chris Petersen's name got kicked around as always, Kevin Sumlin's name got brought up once or twice and even interim head coach Ed Orgeron seemed to have the inside shot at one point.
Well Del Rio is still coaching in Denver, Petersen won't be leaving Boise State, Sumlin will continue his renaissance of Texas A&M and Orgeron has left USC to pursue other head coaching opportunities.
That is all because of the hiring of Sarkisian. It is a move that may have been surprising because of how quickly it came to pass but also for how much it bucks the recent trend of USC coaches.
There won't be the same type of circus surrounding Sarkisian as there was when Kiffin was brought on nor Pete Carroll before him. Sarkisian wasn't the flashy hire. Clearly USC has learned from the mistake it made with Kiffin.
Instead of bringing in a big name, the Trojans brought in a coach with a proven track record that has roots in the program already. Sarkisian served as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator for seven years before taking the job at Washington and also played a little baseball for the Trojans as a student.
"He embodies many of the qualities for which we looked," USC athletic director Pat Haden said of his new head coach. "He is an innovative coach who recruits well and develops players. He is a proven and successful leader. He connects with people. He has energy and passion. He knows how to build a program and create a culture that we value. And he understands the heritage and tradition of USC."
Haden is right to an extent about Sarkisian's ability to build a program and his ability to innovate, especially on the offensive side of the ball. When Sarkisian took over for the Huskies in 2009, he was inheriting a team that had gone 0-12 the previous season and had not been to a bowl game since 2002. After a rocky start in his first year (5-7), Sarkisian has led the Huskies to four straight winning seasons.
The standings have not been the only place the Huskies have leapt forward under Sarkisian. This season the Huskies are second only to Oregon among Pac-12 teams in total offense (514.3 ypg), thanks to the up tempo approach Sarkisian has utilized. In the system, running back Bishop Sankey went from a backup last season to an All-Pac-12 rusher this year.
However, the Huskies never really moved beyond being a pedestrian squad in the standings with the 8-4 record this season marking the best win total of Sarkisian's tenure. Washington has also failed to look competitive against the top teams in the conference, going a combined 2-14 against Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA during Sarkisian's five years at the helm.
At USC, consistent trips to minor bowl games and little success in league play won't cut it. Those same results were why the Trojans got rid of Kiffin.
That being said, Sarkisian clearly understands what is expected at USC and he should. After all he was an integral part of the Carroll years when the Trojans had a Heisman-caliber quarterback and national title hopes year in and year out.
"I am extremely excited to be coming home to USC and for the opportunity that USC presents to win championships," Sarkisian said. "I can't wait to get started."
In a way Sarkisian has already gotten started. The recruiting season doesn't really sleep for major college programs like USC, and Sarkisian's hiring sent shock waves through the landscape. However, those waves have yet to yield any destruction to the upcoming recruiting class. Shay Fields, a wide receiver that had already committed to USC, and touted recruit Adoree' Jackson each spoke positively of Sarkisian's hiring to the Los Angeles Times.
Sarkisian's ability to recruit in Los Angeles is already well documented, as 37 players on the current Washington roster hail from the region. That includes star quarterback Keith Price, who went to St. John Bosco, the same school Fields and four-star defensive end commit Malik Dorton attend.
There are many reasons to love the Sarkisian hiring. It isn't a move just for a name. He has a background with the program as well as the area where he will be recruiting. He turned around Washington and USC is not nearly as far gone.
However, until USC hits the field nothing is certain. The speculation at USC is far from gone, it has just shifted to the debate about whether or not the Trojans hired the right guy.