Washington Huskies

UW says Sarkisian’s alcohol purchases did not violate school policy

Steve Sarkisian talks to his Washington Huskies team during the 2011 Apple Cup at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Sarkisian was fired Monday as head coach at USC.
Steve Sarkisian talks to his Washington Huskies team during the 2011 Apple Cup at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Sarkisian was fired Monday as head coach at USC. Staff file

In the wake of his firing Monday as USC’s head football coach, Steve Sarkisian’s history of alcohol use during his five-year tenure at the University of Washington has been called into question.

A report published Monday by the Los Angeles Times included several travel receipts that Sarkisian submitted to the UW, many of which listed large amounts of alcohol reimbursed by the school.

But a UW spokesperson said the school’s travel reimbursement policies allowed for these purchases — and that in certain instances, Sarkisian wasn’t necessarily reimbursed for the charges listed on the receipts.

The UW’s intercollegiate athletic travel policies — outlined in a 10-page document furnished by the university to The News Tribune and The Olympian — do not address the matter of reimbursement for alcohol-related purchases, except to note that student-athletes are not allowed to purchase or consume alcohol while traveling.

That’s because UW employees, coaches and athletes receive a per diem to pay for their meals — a set amount determined by the domestic and foreign lodging and meal allowance schedules of the U.S. Department of State — and are therefore permitted to spend such money at their own discretion.

Receipts are not required for meals purchased via per diem. But if a university employee hosts an outing attended by others for “department relations” purposes — such as team-building or development — the expenses are eligible for reimbursement in their entirety.

That’s why a receipt from Don Diego’s restaurant in Indian Wells, California, dated March 18, 2013 — which included 42 shots of Patron tequila and an alcohol tab that came to $522.80 — qualified for reimbursement. Sixteen people attended that particular outing, a coaches’ retreat called “Dawg Days in the Desert,” which allowed Sarkisian to be reimbursed from a separate account.

These purchases, UW spokesperson Carter Henderson said, are reviewed by the administrator assigned to the sport (at that time, the administrator in charge of football was O.D. Vincent, who is no longer with the school). Henderson said there is no “hard and fast” limit to how much alcohol can be purchased at such events, and said these type of expenses are approved at the discretion of the sport’s administrator.

Henderson also said it’s likely that Sarkisian was not reimbursed for some of the purchases included in the published receipts, such as a $90 bottle of Veuve Clicquot, a French champagne, delivered to his room at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live in May 2011. (Exact reimbursement information was not immediately available). But Sarkisian was required to submit the receipt in order to be reimbursed for the cost of lodging.

Sarkisian was fired Monday after he reportedly showed up to a team meeting intoxicated on Sunday morning, then missed that day’s practice. He was originally placed on an indefinite leave of absence before USC athletic director Pat Haden decided Monday to terminate his contract. A report by SB Nation indicated that Sarkisian has checked into a rehabilitation program.