USC Athletic Director Pat Haden had a difficult decision to make this past weekend. Haden had the option to hire interim head coach Ed Orgeron, which the fans were clamouring for. Haden however made the right move and hired former offensive coordinator and Washington Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian.
Sarkisian has everything USC could want in a coach. He knows the school; he has spent seven years of his coaching career employed by them. He also knows the Pac-10. Outside of his brief stint with the Oakland Raiders, and his start with a junior college, he has only ever coached in the conference. More interestingly, he feels like LA, unlike Orgeron. He’s young (only 39) and good-looking. He has a soft smile and the swagger of a former Division 1 quarterback. He has the potential to be the younger Pete Carroll. What more could Haden ask for?
Alas, Haden’s decision will come under fire from the fans and boosters alike. They were won over by Orgeron during his stint coaching the Trojans. Who can blame them? Orgeron had USC playing with a fire that no one had seen under Lane Kiffin. His quirky Cajun accent was made all the more lovable by how often he fawned over USC every time he was asked if he wanted the head coaching job. Haden’s eyes are on the future, beyond their success under Orgeron in a lost season. It may feel tough and unfair, but going with Sarkisian was the right move.
It is so easy to fall in love with the now. If an eligible bachelor goes on a few dates with a girl and he realizes she’s bubbly and looks great in a sun dress it’s easy for him to think, “She’s the one! I’m gonna marry this girl!” If there is one thing that comes with wisdom it is the ability to take a step back and look at more than just the now. This same ability would lead Mr. Bachelor ask the important questions.
How come she has no job and dropped out of school?
How come she drinks so much?
If she’s so great, how come she’s 28 and hasn’t dated in 3 years?
Sports is no different. Take Tim Tebow, as an example. He rattled off a winning streak and everyone was quick to anoint him the next Peyton Manning. Fans were so staunch in their belief in Tebow that they were actually upset when Denver Broncos general manager John Elway brought in the real Peyton Manning. Elway considered the future and asked the hard questions.
Who can throw better?
Who can win more games?
Who gives us a shot at a title?
Manning was the resounding answer. Similar questions ran through Haden’s mind over the past few weeks and all the answers pointed to Sarkisian and not Orgeron.
Who has spent more years as a head coach?
Who fits the program more?
Who’s more marketable in recruiting?
Who would other programs look to hire?
The last question is extremely polarizing. Say Florida, Texas, and Michigan all dumped their coaches at season’s end. All three powerhouses would have Sarkasian on their shortlist of replacements. Would any of them even think about bringing Orgeron in? Maybe as a coordinator, but no one is thinking twice about him as the face of their program.
What makes these decisions so difficult is that going with what’s sexy now is always more popular. Who wants to dump the girl in the sundress, trade the quarterback on a winning streak, or get rid of the coach the fans love? No one wants to. Unless they want to get it right in the long run. That is an Athletic Director’s job. Haden did not make the move because of popularity. If that was his goal he never would have hired Kiffin in the first place. He made it because it was right. Sure he could have stuck with what was popular now, but where would the Trojans be in 2 years? 7-6? 8-5?
Where would the Broncos be if they rode with Tebow for another two years?
Where would the eligible bachelor be with the sexy, chronically unemployed girl for another 24 months?
None of the answers are pretty, which is why Haden made the tough move now, rather than suffer the consequences later. Steve Sarkisian has what USC needs to get them back on track, and it may come under some fire today, but in two years, when it matters, it will prove to be the right move.
By James Hadley