USC coach Steve Sarkisian has taken an indefinite leave of absence after athletic director Pat Hayden deemed the trouble coach as not being healthy.
Haden announced the decision in a hastily called news conference Sunday after Sarkisian didn’t show up for practice.
“I think it’s the right thing for our team, and I’ve always got to do what’s right for our team and for our school,” Haden said.
Los Angeles Daily News reporter Scott Wolf said Sarkisian may have been intoxicated during USC’s 42-14 win at Arizona State last month.
Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will take charge of the Trojans (3-2, 1-2 Pac-12), who have lost two of their last three games. USC visits No. 14 Notre Dame (5-1) on Saturday.
Haden wasn’t specific about the reasons for Sarkisian’s absence, only saying that “it was very clear to me” that the second-year USC coach was unwell. Haden asked Sarkisian to take a leave during a phone conversation.
Sarkisian publicly apologized before the season after he appeared to be intoxicated while making an unsteady public statement at the Salute to Troy pep rally.
During that reception, Sarkisian apparently disparaged several of the Trojans’ Pac-12 rivals, including Arizona State and Oregon, along with Notre Dame. He ended his comments with a profane version of USC’s “Fight On” slogan.
He announced he would be getting unspecified treatment, but didn’t believe he had a drinking problem, blaming his appearance on combining alcohol and medication.
Sarkisian is 12-6 during his short tenure leading the talented Trojans, who were dropped from the AP Top 25 after losing 17-12 to unranked Washington last Thursday. Sarkisian had been on the road recruiting during the long weekend, but apparently wasn’t in condition to lead practice Sunday, according to Haden.
Haden informed the players of the change in a team meeting.
“(It was) clear the team had a great deal of concern about the health of Coach Sarkisian,” Haden said. “So did the staff have that concern for him, and it was also very apparent to me in the room of the support that Clay has from our team and his staff.”
Helton begins his second stint as USC’s interim coach. He led the Trojans to a Las Vegas Bowl victory in 2013, a calendar year in which the Trojans had four different head coaches.