Programs usually look for former assistant and coordinators to take on head coaching jobs after they made their rounds. USC avoided a disastrous season thanks to Ed Orgeron, but decided to go in a different direction with the future of the football program, hiring Steve Sarkisian after he has spent the last five seasons rebuilding things in Washington.
Sarkisian was a quarterbacks coach at USC and later an offensive coordinator before taking on the Washington job, getting the team a year after they finished 12-0. He was only 5-7 on his first year, but Washington did manage to beat USC. He was considered for the USC job at the end of that season after Pete Carroll left to the NFL, but wasn’t sure leaving the Huskies after only one season was the right decision. Lane Kiffin took the job instead.
Sarkisian went on to win seven games, making three bowl games, between 2010-2012. This year, he finally broke the seven win barrier, finishing 8-4, including 5-4 in the conference, after beating Washington State in the Apple Cup. Washington have become a lot better during his time with the program, but they haven’t beaten Oregon during his tenure, and have failed to win any big game against ranked teams on the road. He leaves with a 34-29 record at Washington, including 24-21 in the Pac-12.
USC could have kept Orgeron, who took over for Lane Kiffin after one month and helped USC to a 6-2 finish, including 6-1 in the conference, ending the season with a loss to UCLA, that might have helped the AD make his decision. He was offered the opportunity to remain as an assistant head coach, possibly being the highest paid one in the country, but rumors suggest he was quite angry about not being considered to remain as the head coach and decided to resign.
USC, who have a bowl game to play, will be led by the team’s offensive coordinator, Clay Helton, against whoever they’ll face. Washington have already begun looking for their next head coach, as many think Jim Mora of UCLA will be willing to take the job. There’s also been talk of Gary Petersen from Boise State, but he has turned down similar offers in the past. Sarkisian is the first Washington head coach to voluntarily leave for another position since Darrell Royal in 1956 when he departed for Texas.
As a offensive coordinator at USC, he saw the team go 22-3, The expectations of him will be much greater than in Washington, without the luxury of saying he’s in rebuilding mode to help him hold on to his job if things don’t go too well.