Sarkisian's Curious Head-Coaching Journey: UW to USC to Texas

The former Husky football leader holds an unusual distinction in program annals over the past seven decades.

Steve Sarkisian, Alabama offensive coordinator, was hired as Texas football coach on Saturday after the Big 12 school fired Tom Herman following his four seasons on the job.

Sarkisian, of course, is a former University of Washington coach.

With a noteworthy distinction.

Sark is the only football coach over the past 65 college football seasons to leave the Husky job voluntarily and use it as a career stepping stone to work someplace else. 

After five seasons in Seattle, he abruptly said goodbye and good luck, and was hired by USC in December 2013.

His Husky coaching predecessors, Jim Owens, Don James, Jim Lambright, Rick Neuheisel, Keith Gilbertson and Tyrone Willingham, either retired or were fired. 

You have to go all the way back to 1956 to find another coach who did what Sark did — who didn't look at the UW as a final destination.

That was Darrell Royal, who came from Mississippi State, coached the Huskies to a 5-5 record and left for his dream job.


Royal turned the Longhorns in a national power.

In 20 seasons, he won national championships in 1963, 1969 and 1970.

He finished 184-60-5 at Texas — with two of those wins coming over the Huskies in 1974 and 1975 with Longhorns legend Earl Campbell in the backfield.

Royal died in 2012 at age 88.

Besides Royal and Sarkisian, just one other coach in 131 football seasons has bolted from the UW job for another.

Gil Dobie.

He left after eight seasons and a near-perfect 58-0-3 Husky coaching ledger for Navy in 1917, stayed three years in Annapolis, and coached at Cornell for 16 seasons and Boston College for three more. 

Sarkisian has lived both a charmed yet complicated football life.

As a BYU quarterback, he led the Cougars to a 13-1 season in 1996, which began with  resounding victory over Texas A&M and ended with a stirring Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State.

That one loss?

Sark got sacked six times in a 29-17 setback to the UW.

At Husky Stadium.

As the UW coach two decades later, he coached for five seasons and compiled a 34-29 record, leaving before the bowl game.

Against his old school, BYU.

Which the Huskies won 31-16 without him.

At USC, Sarkisian lasted just 18 games before he was fired over implications of being drunk on the job, a situation that first became a problem in Seattle.

His last game as a college head coach (not counting interim duty at Alabama) was a 17-12 defeat in Los Angeles that came four days before his termination — to the Huskies.

At Texas, Sark might want to avoid scheduling or facing Washington.

Not sure if there's a curse there for him or not.

For five years, Sarkisian has been trying to restore his coaching reputation.

Put his personal life back together.

Stay sober.

He seems to have made strides in that direction.

Texas is willing to hire him.

Seven years ago, Sarkisian became another Darrell Royal when he left the Huskies for another job.

That didn't work out so well.

Now that he has the Texas job, he'll attempt to become another Darrell Royal.

Here's to a second chance.

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