USC head coach Sarkisian’s drunken behavior raises questions

College football coaches need to be held to higher standard


College football coaches have a lot of responsibility.

They are CEOs, so to speak, of multi-million dollar businesses and are often times millionaires themselves. They’re also stand-in parents for 18-22-year-old men. They have to go into homes, look parents in the eye and tell them their child will be safe and productive under their watch.

So a college football coach allegedly showing up to practices and games drunk cannot be tolerated and raises serious questions about the university that hired him.

University of Southern California (USC) Athletic Director Pat Haden fired football head coach Steve Sarkisian Monday after putting him on a leave of absence Sunday. While USC has only said Sarkisian was not healthy and was not right during a practice Sunday, it’s becoming clear through media reports that Sarkisian came to the Trojan’s practice intoxicated – and it may not have been the first time.

Sarkisian has had a history of issues with alcohol – like showing up to practices smelling like alcohol and drinking in his office – dating back to his time at Washington, according to a report by The Los Angeles Times. There was also an incident in August in which the coach was intoxicated at a USC donor event. Sarkisian later apologized for the incident and said he mixed alcohol and medication and would go to rehab while continuing to coach.

While we as an editorial board support USC’s decision to fire Sarkisian, we’re left with questions.

How did the university let someone clearly dealing with alcoholism coach college students this long?

Did USC know about Sarkisian alcohol problems before it hired him in 2014?

It’s Haden and the university’s job to make sure their student-athletes are being coached in healthy and contrastive way – a drunken coach is none of those things. If USC had looked into Sarkisian’s history in any way after his intoxicated incident in August, they would have found what The Los Angeles Times found: that this was not an isolated incident.

It was not a slipup of mixing a drink or two with medication.

The fact that USC let their students play under a coach clearly dealing with alcoholism for seven weeks is alarming – almost as alarming as hiring him in the first place.

Did USC not at all look into the background of a man they were about to pay millions of dollars to and leave in charge of 100 impressionable college athletes?

We would hope that UB Athletics would have acted differently with any of its head coaches if faced with a similar situation.

We hope that Athletic Director Danny White has conducted thorough background checks on all of his coaches and would not hire a coach if such alarming red flags existed. And if any coach had displayed behavior similar to Sarkisian’s at the donor event in August, UB Athletics would have acted swiftly to investigate.

There’s too much on the line – money and the future of college students – to not do so. Which is exactly what USC appeared to do.

While we are for second chances and wish anyone dealing with addiction a speedy recovery, USC had no choice but to fire Sarkisian. He could never regain his credibility with those players – and with the parents’ of those players. He had to go. Hopefully he can take time to recover and work his way back at another program.

But he could not stay as USC’s head football coach.

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