College Football – Steve Sarkisian – A Real Breath of Fresh Air For Washington’s Huskies

He is apparently half-Armenian and half-Irish, 34 years old and the new head coach of the University of Washington’s football team. Meet Steve Sarkisian, young, energetic, successful and excited about the opportunity to turn around the fortunes of the Husky football program.

That will not be as difficult a problem as Washington’s current 0-12 season record might suggest. We are purposefully not mentioning the fired coach whom Sarkisian is replacing. Sarkisian and the University of Washington deserve a clean slate at this moment in time. The old guy is history better left unwritten.

Before he arrived in Seattle to be announced as the new coach, Sarkisian had never been head coach of a major college football program. Some pundits consider his hiring a liability because of his inexperience as a head coach. I consider his inexperience an asset because Sarkisian is not bringing with him a bunch of failed practices, tired beliefs about what worked 20 years ago, and old cronies as part of the coaching staff.

Just winning a single game next season will make him more successful than his predecessor.

Sarkisian has been the quarterback coach, offensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the University of Southern California the last 2 years. USC is a national powerhouse led by head coach Pete Carroll. So what’s the big deal with USC and Pete Carroll? Just this:

In the 7 years prior to this season, Carroll is 76-14 (84%) at USC, the best winning percentage of any current Division 1 coach with at least 5 years of experience. Carroll won National Championships in 2003 and 2004, won an unprecedented 6 consecutive Pac 10 titles and appeared in an NCAA record 6 consecutive BCS bowl games, won an NCAA record of at least 11 victories each season, and has been ranked in the AP Top 4 in each of those seasons.

This year the Trojans won their 7th consecutive Pac 10 title, and are again 11-1 going into their 7th consecutive BCS Rose Bowl appearance, this time against Penn State.

So what has Sarkisian had to do with Carroll’s success? He was there 7 of the last 8 years, first as the quarterback coach and then as the quarterback coach, offensive coordinator and assistant head coach the last 2 years. Sarkisian led the USC offensive effort while helping develop Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart (drafted by the Arizona Cardinals) and Carson Palmer (drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals). He also helped develop John David Brody (drafted by the Minnesota Vikings).

It’s also one thing to coach quarterbacks when you haven’t been one or been a very successful one, and another thing to do so as a great college quarterback, which Sarkisian was at Brigham Young University.

After two years at a community college, Sarkisian started for BYU as a junior, passing for 3,437 yards and 20 touchdowns. He finished his first season by going 31-for-34 for 399 yards and 3 touchdowns in BYU’s 45-28 victory over Fresno State, setting an NCAA record for completion percentage (91%), and 2 of his 3 incompletions were intentionally thrown out of bounds to avoid the pass rush.

As a senior, Sarkisian passed for 4,027 yards and 33 TDs with a 173+ pass efficiency rating, the best in the NCAA. BYU finished the regular season at 13-1, won the Western Athletic Conference Championship and then beat Kansas State 19-15 in the Cotton Bowl. He was selected as WAC Offensive Player of the Year and a second-team NCAA All-American.

While Washington will be Steve Sarkisian’s first head coaching job, he is clearly a winner as a player and a winner as a coach at USC.

Thus far, Sarkisian has made 2 quality decisions-he accepted the challenge at Washington and he didn’t keep any of the holdover coaches from the 0-12 team he inherited. Nice work, Steve. Who wants or needs winless coaches?

Sarkisian’s first order of business (besides hiring a staff and recruiting like there is no tomorrow) will be to change the culture of Washington’s program by restoring a winning attitude with belief.

Only time will tell how much success Sarkisian will enjoy with the Washington Husky football program, but one thing is for sure: Athletic Director Scott Woodward’s decision to hire him is a giant step in the right direction.

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley