Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian

Sarkisian during his first tenure at USC, 2008
Sport(s) Football
Current position
Title Offensive analyst
Team Alabama
Conference SEC
Biographical details
Born (1974-03-08) March 8, 1974
Torrance, California
Playing career
1993–1994 El Camino CC
1995–1996 BYU
1997–1999 Saskatchewan Roughriders
Position(s) Quarterback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
2000–2001 El Camino CC (QB)
2001–2003 USC (QB)
2004 Oakland Raiders (QB)
2005–2006 USC (QB)
2007–2008 USC (AHC/OC/QB)
2009–2013 Washington
2014–2015 USC
2016–present Alabama (OA)
Head coaching record
Overall 46–35
Bowls 2–2
Accomplishments and honors
Sammy Baugh Trophy (1996)

Stephen Ambrose "Steve" Sarkisian (born March 8, 1974)[1] is a former American football coach and former player. He is currently working as an offensive analyst at the University of Alabama. He was the head football coach at the University of Southern California (USC) from 2014 to 2015. Before that, he served as the head football coach of the University of Washington from 2009 to 2013. Sarkisian played college football as a quarterback at Brigham Young University (BYU) and professionally with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League (CFL).

Playing career

USC and El Camino College

After a standout baseball and football career at West High School in Torrance, California, Sarkisian's size (6', 165 lb) did not attract any college football offers. He began his collegiate athletic career in 1992 at USC as a non-scholarship middle infielder on the Trojans baseball team. He struggled playing NCAA Division I baseball and transferred after a semester to El Camino College, a two-year community college adjacent to his hometown of Torrance, where he played shortstop. At the urging of El Camino head football coach John Featherstone, one of his instructors, Sarkisian restarted his football career.[2] As a redshirt freshman in 1993, Sarkisian earned All-Mission Conference honors. In his sophomore season, he was named a junior college All-American after setting a national junior college record by completing 72.4 percent of his passes.



As a junior, Sarkisian transferred to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, for the 1995 season.[3] He was recruited by DeWayne Walker, then an assistant coach for the BYU Cougars.[4] Although Kansas State and Washington State showed interest, Sarkisian chose BYU primarily because the school boasted more combined Davey O'Brien- and Heisman-winning quarterbacks in the last decade than any other had in the previous 50 years of Division I-A. The previous starting quarterback, John Walsh, was also from Torrance and a friend of Sarkisian. Walsh left school a year early to enter the 1995 NFL Draft, creating a void in the depth chart; Sarkisian accepted a scholarship with BYU in December 1994.

At BYU, Sarkisian was coached by offensive coordinator Norm Chow under head coach LaVell Edwards. As a junior, Sarkisian passed for 3,437 yards and 20 touchdowns, earning All-Western Athletic Conference honors. Sarkisian finished the season in spectacular fashion, completing 31 of 34 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns in BYU's 45–28 victory over Fresno State. His completion percentage in the game (91.2 percent) set a NCAA record. The record stood until 2015.


As a senior, Sarkisian opened BYU's 1996 season by passing for 536 yards and six touchdowns in the Cougars' 41–37 upset victory over Texas A&M in the Pigskin Classic. The 536 yards passing were the most ever by a player against Texas A&M. Sarkisian finished the game with a 46-yard touchdown pass to K. O. Kealaluhi to seal the victory.[5]

BYU finished the regular season with a 13–1 record, defeating Wyoming, 28–25, in the WAC Championship Game. Sarkisian passed for 4,027 yards and 33 touchdowns during the regular season. His 173.6 passer rating led the entire NCAA. For his efforts, he was named WAC Offensive Player of the Year and a second-team All-American. Sarkisian was also awarded the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation's top passer, making him the seventh BYU quarterback to win the honor. He was also featured on the cover of TV Guide in December 1996. BYU finished the season with 19–15 win over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Sarkisian threw a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to lead the Cougars to a come-from-behind victory. BYU finished the season with a 14–1 record and ranked fifth in the nation in both the AP Poll and Coaches' Poll. The Cougars became the first Division I-A team in NCAA history to win 14 games in a single season. Sarkisian's 162.0 career passing efficiency rating is third on the all-time NCAA list.

Sarkisian earned his bachelor's degree in sociology from BYU in 1997 after receiving his associate's degree in general studies from El Camino in 1994.

Canadian Football League

Sarkisian played professionally for three seasons, 1997 to 1999, for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League (CFL). He was a starter in the 1999 season, finishing with 16 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions. His team finished with a dismal 3–15 record, prompting Sarkisian to end his playing career.

Coaching career

Sarkisian making USC's traditional "V-for-victory" sign after a 2008 fall practice

El Camino College

Sarkisian's coaching career began in 2000 when he returned to El Camino College as its quarterbacks coach.

USC and Oakland Raiders

The following season, Sarkisian joined his former coach, Norm Chow, at USC. Chow was hired as USC's offensive coordinator by new head coach Pete Carroll. Sarkisian worked as an offensive assistant in 2001 and then as quarterbacks coach in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, Sarkisian moved to the professional ranks as quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders of the NFL. Oakland compiled more than 4,000 passing yards, ranking eighth out of 32 NFL teams in passing yardage.[6] Sarkisian returned to USC for the 2005 season with the title of assistant head coach added to his duties as quarterbacks coach. In January 2007, Sarkisian interviewed with the Raiders for their vacant head coaching position, but pulled himself out of the running to stay at USC.[7] Sarkisian was named to replace Lane Kiffin as USC's offensive coordinator when Kiffin took the head coaching job with the Raiders.


Sarkisian leading the Huskies onto the field

The University of Washington introduced Sarkisian as its 23rd head football coach during a press conference in the Don James Center at Husky Stadium on December 8, 2008.[8] Sarkisian signed a contract that paid him $1.75 million in 2009, with a salary increasing to $2.3 million by 2013.[9] Down in Los Angeles, John Morton succeeded Sarkisian as offensive coordinator at USC.[10]

In Sarkisian's first year as head coach in 2009, Washington scored a huge upset of Sarkisian's former team, defeating #3 USC 16–13 with a last second field goal. Washington then lost six of their next seven games, but finished the season in strong fashion, dominating rival Washington State, 30–0, to claim the Apple Cup, and scoring another upset with a rout of #19 California, 42–10. Washington finished the year with a 5–7 record, a dramatic improvement over the previous season, a winless 0–12.

With Pete Carroll's departure from USC to coach the Seattle Seahawks on January 9, 2010, Sarkisian was discussed in the media as a potential replacement, but Sarkisian stated that he had not received an offer to become head coach of the Trojans.[11][12] Despite his public comments, Sarkisian was still considered a top candidate for the position by USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett. However, Sarkisian expressed reservations about leaving Washington after one year, and decided not to pursue the position.[13] Ultimately, Lane Kiffin was hired for the position.

In his second season as head coach of Washington, the Huskies went 6–6 in 2010. The Huskies defeated USC again with a game-ending field goal, this time in Los Angeles. At mid-season, UW had alternated losses and wins and was 3–3, then were outscored 138–30 in the next three games, all losses against Arizona, Stanford, and Oregon. They fell to 3–6, but finished the year on a high note with three consecutive wins and were bowl eligible for the first time since the 2002 season. The Huskies concluded the season with a stunning 19–7 victory over #18 Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, avenging a 56–21 blowout home loss to the Huskers in September. It was their first winning season in nine years.

With star quarterback Jake Locker departing to the NFL, many expected the Huskies to regress in the 2011 season, Sarkisian's third. The Huskies started out a surprising 6–2 and were undefeated in conference play at the halfway point of the season. At one point, they were ranked in all major polls for the first time during his short tenure. Unfortunately the rest of their season was a different story: they went 1-3 in their remaining conference games, with blowout defeats to Oregon, USC, and Oregon State. The Huskies subsequently lost in the Alamo Bowl to Baylor, 67–56, to finish 7–6 on the season.

In 2012, the Washington Huskies finished 7-6 yet again following a 26-28 loss to Boise St in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas. As his previous campaigns had gone, Sarkisian's 2012 Washington team defeated most of the lower-level Pac-12 teams but were blown out by the upper-level ones. Sarkisian's repeated seven win seasons earned him the mocking nickname "Seven Win Steve".[14] Sarkisian would go on to win eight games in 2013 before taking the head coaching job at USC prior to Washington's bowl game.

New contract

Sarkisian's original contract in 2009 was for five years and paid $1.75 million in guaranteed money for the first year, rising to $2.0 million in 2011 and $2.3 million in 2013. Following the 2010 season and bowl victory, he signed a new five-year contract that paid $2.25 million in guaranteed money in 2011, rising to $2.85 million in 2015.[15]

Back to USC

On December 2, 2013, Sarkisian chose to return to USC, accepting the head coaching position.[16] Sarkisian's goal was to get USC back to its winning ways with NCAA sanctions finally ending. Like Lane Kiffin, Sarkisian called all plays on offense and served as the de facto offensive coordinator.

Sarkisian dealt with some controversy before his first game as head coach, when defensive captain Josh Shaw told the team he suffered two high ankle sprains when he jumped from a balcony to save his drowning cousin. After numerous calls questioning the authenticity of the story, Shaw admitted he lied to the athletic department. Sarkisian suspended Shaw indefinitely.

On September 8, 2014, Sarkisian and USC athletic director Pat Haden were reprimanded by Pac-12 Conference commissioner Larry Scott for attempting "to influence the officiating, and ultimately the outcome of a contest" during the September 6 game with Stanford. Haden was fined $25,000.[17]

2015 leave of absence and termination

On October 11, 2015, Haden announced Sarkisian would take an indefinite leave of absence. Haden contacted Sarkisian after he learned that Sarkisian had not shown up to a scheduled practice on October 11, 2015. During his conversation with Sarkisian, Haden said he became aware that Sarkisian was "not healthy" and asked Sarkisian to take an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton would serve as interim head coach in Sarkisian's absence.[18][19] ESPN later reported that Sarkisian came to a pre-practice meeting, only to have his assistants tell him to go home when he appeared to be intoxicated.[20] Scott Wolf, the USC beat writer for the Los Angeles Daily News, reported on Twitter that several players smelled alcohol on Sarkisian's breath.[21]

On October 12, 2015, Haden announced that Sarkisian had been fired and named Helton as interim head coach for the remainder of the season (though the "interim" tag was removed after the season).[22] He subsequently revealed that he had tried to call Sarkisian to notify him personally, but by then Sarkisian was on his way to an out-of-state rehab facility and couldn't be reached. According to ESPN, Haden had placed Sarkisian on a zero-tolerance policy regarding alcohol use after Sarkisian mixed alcohol with medication before a booster event and made a drunken and profanity-laced speech at the event. The apparent intoxication at practice would have been grounds for termination.[23] However, multiple reports said that Sarkisian's assistants believed he was drunk during a game against Arizona State.[22]

Hours before Sarkisian's firing, the Los Angeles Times reported that Sarkisian had been involved in numerous alcohol-related incidents while at Washington.[24] Haden admitted that he hadn't done a public-records check on Sarkisian prior to hiring him.[25]

On December 7, Sarkisian filed a $30 million wrongful termination lawsuit against USC.[26] In March 2016, Sarkisian agreed to move his lawsuit against the university to private arbitration.[27]


In September 2016, Alabama hired Sarkisian as an analyst for their football team.[28]

Personal life

Born in Torrance, California, Sarkisian is the youngest of seven children, the only one in the family born in California; the older six siblings were born in Massachusetts. Sarkisian is of Armenian and Irish ancestry. His father is an Armenian born and raised in Tehran, Iran before immigrating to the United States at the age of 18 to attend college. Sarkisian's mother is an Irish-American from Massachusetts.[29] He attended Brigham Young University. Sarkisian is Catholic.[3] Sarkisian and his wife have three children, two daughters and a son.[30] In April 2015, it was reported that Steve Sarkisian and his wife filed for divorce.[31]

Sarkisian's running backs

Though known primarily for his quarterbacks, Sarkisian has produced a 1,000-yard rusher every full season that he was a head coach.[32][33]

NFL players coached


Draft Year Player Name Position Round Pick Team
2010 Donald Butler LB 3rd round 79th overall San Diego Chargers
2010 Daniel Te'o-Nesheim DE 3rd round 86th overall Philadelphia Eagles
2011 Jake Locker QB 1st round 8th overall Tennessee Titans
2011 Mason Foster LB 3rd round 84th overall Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2011 Dorson Boyce FB N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Seattle)
2011 D'Andre Goodwin WR N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Denver)
2011 Austin Sylvester FB N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Denver)
2012 Alameda Ta'amu DT 4th round 109th overall Pittsburgh Steelers
2012 Senio Kelemete OT 5th round 151st overall Arizona Cardinals
2012 Everrette Thompson DT N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Arizona)
2012 Devin Aguilar WR N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Tennessee)
2012 Erik Folk K N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Atlanta)
2012 Jermaine Kearse WR N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Seattle)
2012 Chris Polk RB N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Philadelphia)
2013 Desmond Trufant CB 1st round 22nd overall Atlanta Falcons
2013 Jonathan Amosa FB N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Green Bay)
2013 Justin Glenn S N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Kansas City)
2014 Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE 2nd round 38th overall Tampa Bay
2014 Bishop Sankey RB 2nd round 54th overall Tennessee
2014 Travis Coons K N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Tennessee)
2014 Greg Ducre CB N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with San Diego)
2014 Keith Price QB N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Seattle)
2014 Kevin Smith WR N/A N/A Undrafted (signed with Arizona)
2015 Danny Shelton DT 1st round 12th overall Cleveland Browns
2015 Marcus Peters CB 1st round 18th overall Kansas City Chiefs
2015 Shaq Thompson OLB 1st round 25th overall Carolina Panthers
2015 Hau'oli Kikaha OLB 2nd round 44th overall New Orleans Saints

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Washington Huskies (Pacific-10/Pac-12 Conference) (2009–2013)
2009 Washington 5–7 4–5 7th
2010 Washington 7–6 5–4 T–3rd W Holiday
2011 Washington 7–6 5–4 3rd (North) L Alamo
2012 Washington 7–6 5–4 4th (North) L Maaco
2013 Washington 8–4 5–4 3rd (North) Fight Hunger Bowl*
Washington: 34–29 24–21 * Sarkisian resigned before bowl game
USC Trojans (Pac-12 Conference) (2014–2015)
2014 USC 9–4 6–3 T–2nd (South) W Holiday 21 20
2015 USC 3–2* 1–2 (South)
USC: 12–6 7–5 * Sarkisian was replaced as head coach on October 12, 2015
Total: 46–35
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
#Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

See also


  1. Stephens, Ken. – "QB GENEALOGY – Steve Sarkisian is latest in long line of talented BYU quarterbacks". – Dallas Morning News. – December 31, 1996.
  2. Sports Illustrated – The Sky's the Limit – October 7, 1996 – accessed September 28, 2011
  3. 1 2 Bob Condotta, New UW football coach Steve Sarkisian makes a quick rise in profession, The Seattle Times, December 14, 2008, Accessed January 26, 2009.
  4. "L.A. serial: 'All My Coaches'". The Oregonian.
  5. "B.Y.U. Edges Texas A&M In Opener". The New York Times. August 25, 1996. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  6. "All signs point to Sarkisian takeover".
  8. "Washington To Introduce Sarkisian As New UW Football Coach".
  9. Seattle Post-Intelligencer – Rowdy reception for 'Sark' – December 8, 2008
  10. "Iowa State's Chizik hired to coach Auburn".
  11. "Washington coach Steve Sarkisian not a likely fit at USC if Pete Carroll leaves". The Seattle Times. January 8, 2010. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  12. "Washington's Sarkisian: USC hasn't called about coaching vacancy". Sports Illustrated. January 11, 2010. Retrieved January 13, 2010. In a text message to The Associated Press late Sunday night, Sarkisian said USC had not contacted him about their coaching vacancy that became official when Carroll accepted the head job with the Seattle Seahawks on Monday morning. Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said Monday night he also hadn't been told of anyone contacting Sarkisian. Archived January 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. Shelburne, Ramona. "How USC went from Carroll to Kiffin". ESPN LA. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  14. "Washington Arriving Ahead of Schedule but Perhaps Not Ready for Primetime". ESPN. July 28, 2016. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  15. "Washington extends coach Steve Sarkisian's contract through 2015".
  16. Schad, Joe (December 2, 2013). "USC hires Steve Sarkisian". ESPN LA. ESPN. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  17. Gary Klein, USC's Pat Haden fined $25,000 for 'inappropriate' sideline conduct, Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2014
  18. "USC coach Sarkisian taking indefinite leave". October 12, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-12.
  19. Klein, Gary; Thiry, Lindsey (October 11, 2015). "USC places Coach Steve Sarkisian on leave; Clay Helton interim coach". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 11, 2015.
  20. "USC's Steve Sarkisian takes leave, said to have arrived Sunday intoxicated". ESPN. 2015-10-11.
  22. 1 2 "Steve Sarkisian fired as USC Trojans head coach". Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  23. "USC AD Pat Haden: 'The decision I made didn't work out, and I own that'". ESPN. 2015-10-13.
  24. Nathan Fenno; Lindsey Thiry (2015-10-12). "Documents, former players point to Steve Sarkisian's alcohol use at Washington". Los Angeles Times.
  25. Abbey Martrasco (2015-10-13). "Pat Haden defends himself in wake of Steve Sarkisian firing". USA Today.
  26. Yahoo Sports
  27. Nathan Fenno (March 2, 2016). "Steve Sarkisian's lawsuit against USC is headed for arbitration". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  28. "QB SHOO-IN AS NEXT BYU STAR". Daily News. New York. September 5, 1996.
  29. Klein, Gary (April 21, 2015). "Steve Sarkisian and wife in process of divorce". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  30. "USC Football Head Coach Steve Sarkisian And Wife to Divorce". SB Nation. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  31. "Chris Polk Player Profile". University of Washington. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  32. "Bishop Sankey Stats". ESPN. November 20, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
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