Steve Sarkisian is a good coach but likely won’t build a dynasty at USC
Sark is not the “home run hire” many were hoping for, but he is a good coach who is extremely familiar with the school and recruiting area. He also has experience as a former USC assistant and some success running a Pac-12 program already. But will he be able to build a dynasty with the Trojans? I don’t think so, and most fans and observers would agree.
Sark took a Washington Huskies program that Ty Willingham drove into the ground and turned them around. They went from 0-12 in Willingham’s last year to 5-7 and then 7-6 in Sark’s second year. Sark went 7-6 three years in a row and finally did better than that mark by going 8-4 this season. He coached Jake Locker for two years and then got three with Keith Price, so he’s had very capable quarterbacks during his tenure — guys he should have been winning with. He’s done fine at Washington, but he didn’t build them into the power they used to be. As we saw with Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, Jeff Tedford early at Cal, Todd Graham at ASU, or even Jim Mora at UCLA, it is possible to quickly turn around a program in the Pac-12. Sark never quite got to that level.
People have good reasons for not being impressed by this hire from USC. Sometimes you could argue that it’s not about what will impress fans — nobody was impressed when Pete Carroll was hired — and that it’s only about your win-loss record. But who actually envisions Sarkisian winning 11 or 12 games a season and taking the Trojans to the Rose Bowl or better on a consistent basis? I see him having similar levels of success at USC as Mora has had at UCLA. That’s pretty good, but you want to shoot for something better when you have a program that’s the level of USC.
It strikes me that USC went with a safe hire. They went with someone who can provide some consistent winning and stability. They went with someone who knows the area and will be able to have more success recruiting to USC rather than Washington. But they did not go with a guy who will get the program back to the dominance it saw under Carroll. Could many coaches in the country do what Carroll did? Probably not, but I don’t think USC got a guy who will dominate. James Franklin would have scared people. Sarkisian does not.