Steve Sarkisian will be taking a leave of absence as USC's head coach, athletic director Pat Haden said Sunday. Haden said he found out at 1 p.m. that Sarkisian was not at a 12:30 practice, and Haden said it became clear Sarkisian is "not healthy." The coach is reportedly expected to seek treatment. Players reportedly noticed that Sarkisian was not sober at a special teams meeting that morning.
Players were informed after practice that offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be the team's interim head coach. Helton previously served as USC's bowl interim in 2013 after Lane Kiffin was fired and Ed Orgeron left.
This is particularly concerning because of an offseason incident in which Sarkisian apologized for apparent drunken behavior at a booster event and vowed then to seek treatment for his actions. He also said he would not drink for the remainder of the season and would ban alcohol from the coaches' locker room.
This comes just three days after USC lost to Washington to fall to a disappointing 3-2 on the season. This comes in a year when USC was expected to be a College Football Playoff contender and was ranked as high as sixth in the nation, behind star quarterback Cody Kessler and a talented roster.
It appears Sarkisian will be gone for a while, though no clear timeline was given.
The Trojans travel to No. 14 Notre Dame on Saturday.
Other sources not corroborated by peers have accused Sarkisian of being drunk during games and on team flights.
BREAKING: #USC assistants pulled Steve Sarkisian out of player huddle on sideline during Arizona State game. Believed he was not sober— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) October 11, 2015
"His eyes didn't look right, he was too animated,'' said one #USC coach— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) October 11, 2015
BREAKING: #USC players said Sarkisian drank and passed out on flight back from Washington State game in 2014. Some reportedly took photos— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) October 11, 2015