LOS ANGELES (KRON) — Officials at the University of Southern California on Monday announced that they have released football head coach Steve Sarkisian amid reports of alcohol abuse, including accusations that he was allegedly drunk during a game a few weeks ago.
“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,” the school said in a press release.
Offensive coordinator Clay Helton has been named interim head coach for the Trojans.
On Sunday, USC athletic director Pat Haden said that Sarkisian was taking an indefinite leave of absence after it was determined that the troubled coach is “not healthy.”
Haden announced the decision when Sarkisian didn’t show up for practice. Sarkisian had been on the road recruiting during the long weekend, but apparently wasn’t in condition to lead practice Sunday, according to Haden.
Sarkisian publicly apologized before the season after he showed up drunk at the Salute to Troy pep rally and made a slurred public statement. He announced he would be getting unspecified treatment, but didn’t believe he had a drinking problem, blaming his unsteady appearance on combining alcohol and medication.
Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News reported that Sarkisian is “expected to seek treatment” and that players noticed the coach was “not sober” at a special teams meeting Sunday morning. Wolf also reported “a USC source called me during practice to say Steve Sarkisian was not in ‘good shape’ this morning.”
Wolf said Sarkisian may have been intoxicated during USC’s 42-14 win at Arizona State last month.
Helton begins his second stint as USC’s interim coach.
“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,” the school said.
Helton led the Trojans to a Las Vegas Bowl victory in 2013, a calendar year in which the Trojans had four different head coaches.
“It’s a very unique honor to get it (this way),” Helton said about taking over for Sarkisian. “Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before, and once again am very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are very talented and want to do something special here.”
Sarkisian, a former BYU quarterback who played in the CFL, was an assistant under Pete Carroll on the Trojans’ great teams of the previous decade. Coaching alongside Lane Kiffin, Sarkisian ran USC’s offense before getting hired by the University of Washington to take over a winless program in 2009.
“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 school said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.