LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Steve Sarkisian was fired Monday as USC’s head football coach, one day after he was placed on indefinite leave by the university.
Clay Helton, who was named interim head coach on Sunday, will continue in that current role for the 3-2 Trojans, according to USC Athletic Director Pat Haden.
Sarkisian, 41, was placed on an indefinite leave of absence Sunday after Haden determined that the troubled coach is “not healthy.”
Haden announced that decision in a hastily called news conference Sunday after Sarkisian failed to attend practice.
Sarkisian publicly apologized before the season after he showed up drunk at the “Salute to Troy” pep rally on Aug. 22 and made a slurred public statement. He announced he would be getting unspecified treatment, but didn’t believe he had a drinking problem, blaming his unsteady appearance on combining alcohol and medication.
He apologized the next day, saying without elaboration that his behavior resulted from mixing alcohol and medication.
“I sincerely apologize to my players and staff and to our fans for my behavior and my inappropriate language at our kickoff event Saturday night,” Sarkisian said. “I have a responsibility to all of them and I let them down.
“Pat Haden talked to me after the event about my actions and I assured him this will not happen again.”
Haden released a statement discussing the termination of Sarkisian’s short head-coaching career at USC: “After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately.”
“I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players, and the way they are responding to this difficult situation. Through all of this, we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well-being.”
Los Angeles Times writer Gary Klein spoke with CBS2 Sports Director Jim Hill, and described the turbulent time at USC.
“It has been a chaotic period here at USC, I think that it is actually just the latest in five years, really, of chaos,” Klein said. “Steve Sarkisian attended a team meeting on Sunday morning with his team. Less than two hours later he was not on the field for practice.”
“USC’s powers-that-be must have huddled today, had some high-level meetings, and decided to move quickly.”
Sarkisian went 12-6 during his short tenure leading the talented Trojans, and Helton will be inheriting a team that was dropped from the AP Top 25 after losing 17-12 to unranked Washington.
“Clay Helton can lead this program,” Klein said. “He proved he could do it back in 2013, but obviously, the speculation over who is going to be the next USC head coach has already begun, and it’s going to continue.”
USC booster Ron Kolar, meanwhile, did not mince words in his relief over the termination of Sarkisian.
“It’s a black-eye that this happened, and very embarrassing to all Trojans, and I’m very relieved to see him gone,” Kolar said. “Pat (Haden), being a very bright guy and a businessman, first slept on it, and talked to legal counsel. That would be the smart thing to do.”
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)