BERKELEY, CALIF. – Most of the Washington Huskies don’t know much about Steve Sarkisian, who will be officially introduced as their new coach Monday, Dec. 8.
But they know he will be new, and as their 0-12 season came to a close Saturday, they seemed excited about that.
“It’s a little revitalizing,” freshman Kavario Middleton said. “Having a young guy coming is providing energy, it’s a little exciting.”
Sarkisian is 34 years old and will move up from USC, where he has been assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
He and the university announced his hiring Saturday afternoon, after Tyrone Willingham ended his four seasons as UW coach with a 48-7 loss at California, and after USC ended its regular season with a 28-7 win at UCLA.
Sarkisian said he intends to begin recruiting for Washington immediately, but will help coach the Trojans in the Rose Bowl.
“I’m excited,” Sarkisian said. “It’s been a great program in the past and they’re obviously down now. But I’m going to get them back to fighting for a championship.”
Sarkisian has been on the USC staff for seven seasons, while the team has gone 74-15. He spent the 2004 season as quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders.
He is a 1997 graduate of Brigham Young, where he was a second-team All-America quarterback and Western Athletic Conference player of the year, and went on to play three seasons with Saskatchewan in the Canadian Football League.
He will be introduced in a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Don James Center at Husky Stadium. The public is invited.
“I’m thrilled to have Steve heading up our football program,” UW president Mark Emmert said in a university release. “He’s a very talented, energetic coach with a great work ethic and values that match the UW. His challenge is very clear. We believe he’s entirely up to it, and we look forward to a return of the glory years for Husky football.”
The announcement received approval in Seattle where Washington was playing a basketball game against Texas Southern at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. With 11:54 left in the first half, the Huskies ran a video collage of some highlights from the school’s football glory days, and announced Sarkisian as the next head football coach. The crowd responded with a standing ovation.
After suffering their 14th consecutive loss Saturday – dating to November 2007 – several UW players voiced similar optimism.
“I think it’s going to turn around real quick,” sophomore linebacker Mason Foster said. “I heard he’s a great coach. He coached at a real good program, so hopefully we can just turn this around fast and take this year and never have this feeling in your stomach again, because it hurts.”
Foster and the rest of the defensive players faced Sarkisian’s offense in November, when USC crushed UW, 56-0. They remembered it as basic, but effective.
“Just up-tempo, just trying to run the ball down your throat and trying to get the first down on second down,” linebacker Trenton Tuiasosopo said. “(UW defensive coordinator Ed Donatell) was good friends with (USC coach Pete Carroll) and gave us the downlow really on their offense. ... I thought it was basic, but up-tempo.”
Donatell and other UW assistants are under contract until the end of the school session. Typically, a new coach will bring in a mostly new staff, while often keeping some holdovers to help with continuity and serve as a bridge to recruits. Donatell is the only coach thought to have a contract that would assure him of a UW paycheck for another season, but he said Saturday he isn’t certain that’s the case.
The end of this season also marked the end for this UW senior class and kicker Ryan Perkins, who is giving up the game due to knee trouble. None wanted to go out with a winless season, and some said they are envious of the opportunity that awaits the returning players under a new coach.
“I have all the respect in the world for Coach Willingham,” senior Michael Gottlieb said. “It’s just unfortunate that the marriage didn’t work out. It’s not his fault, it’s not our fault, it’s just a collective team fault. But I think the guys have a great future coming forward here. I think they’re going to really surprise some people next year. I’m definitely envious.”