Sarkisian was leaving the team to reportedly seek alcohol treatment.
Offensive coordinator Clay Helton was set to assume the team’s interim head coaching duties after Sarkisian announced his leave. USC is 3–2 this season, coming off a 17–12 loss to Sarkisian’s former team, the Washington Huskies, on Thursday.
USC athletic director Pat Haden issued the following statement:
"After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately.
"I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players and the way they are responding to this difficult situation.
"Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well being."
The Los Angeles Daily News reported that Sarkisian was clearly intoxicated at a recent team meeting.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Sarkisian’s problems with alcohol dated back to his time as the head coach at Washington. The Times spoke to several former Huskies players, some of whom said they could smell alcohol on Sarkisian’s breath during team meetings.
The Times also reviewed hundreds of pages of expense reports from Sarkisian’s time at Washington, including a receipt from January 2013 that showed Sarkisian and three of his assistants ordered eight shots of hard liquor and five beers before noon.
In August, after he appeared to be intoxicated at a booster event, Sarkisian told reporters he would seek treatment for his alcohol consumption but that he did not have a drinking problem. He said his actions at the event were the result of mixing alcohol with an unspecified medication. Sarkisian also said in August he would “without a doubt” swear off alcohol for the rest of the season.
Sarkisian has checked himself into a residential treatment facility, reports Cyd Zeigler of SB Nation.
- Christopher Chavez and Rohan Nadkarni