- Greg Katz, Columnist, WeAreSC.com
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There is a rather chilling scene in the horror classic “The Exorcist” in which little 12-year-old Regan, her body being invaded by evil, cries out, “Mother, make it stop!”
Well, after going through the glorious Pete Carroll era, USC Trojans fans can’t make it stop or seem to catch their breath from the cumulative effect of NCAA sanctions, the Lane Kiffin era, the coaching transition of Kiffin to Ed Orgeron to Clay Helton and the recent Steve Sarkisian Salute to Troy tawdry episode.
Trojans fans would just like to enjoy quality football, championship football, drama-free tailgating, and not a series of punchlines on the news and entertainment circuit regarding their beloved team.
From time to time, storied programs like USC will fall short on the scoreboard, but the only real damage to these types of powerhouse institutions is when they impale themselves from within.
The old saying of shooting yourself in the foot continues to apply to the Trojans, a program that has produced 11 national championships, 33 bowl victories, 163 All-Americans, six Heisman Trophy winners and 477 NFL players.
As has been well chronicled, Steve Sarkisian spoke to a huge media gathering Tuesday morning, and he revealed the root cause of his “inappropriate” behavior at Saturday night’s Salute to Troy was a mixture of “meds and alcohol.”
Sark said he believes he doesn’t have a drinking problem but will be evaluated, and said the team’s punishment for his Salute to Troy misstep was left up to the “leadership committee,” which ordered him to do some physically grueling up-and-down exercises as penance.
While Tuesday morning’s news conference addressed the incident, questions remain. Are the players really behind Sarkisian, as senior Heisman Trophy quarterback candidate Cody Kessler and junior All-Pac-12 linebacker Su'a Cravens proclaimed in front of the media?
Maybe yes and maybe no. You’d have to say “yes” based on the surface comments of the two respected team leaders, and “no” because it makes sense that deep inside Sark’s players have to wonder if it had been them emulating their coach’s behavior at Salute to Troy, how would it have been handled?
Obviously, there continues to be a lot of second- and third-guessing as to whether the current athletic administration’s reaction was appropriate. Shouldn’t Sark have been suspended for at least one game either by himself or the administration?
If Sarkisian had implemented a one-game suspension on himself, wouldn’t the Trojans family and a normally forgiving nation given him a standing ovation and tossed praise his way him for being a coaching role model for student-athletes? Wouldn’t a negative have been turned into a positive and the firestorm of public condemnation been reduced substantially?
Players want to play and coaches want to coach, but wouldn’t a one-game suspension be a reminder that it’s a privilege and not a right to be on the field? You can almost bet if one of Sarkisian’s assistants did what Sark did they’d either be suspended or sent to pack their bags.
The USC football program, of course, should never be in these types of uncompromising situations. The leader of the USC football program is supposed to be at the top of his profession, like a CEO at a major corporation, and act accordingly with class, dignity, maturity and unquestioned leadership skills.
The USC job shouldn’t be a learning-on-the-job apprenticeship. Being the head coach of the Trojans is at or very near the top of the college coaching profession.
Yet if USC is spending millions of dollars investing in a coach to be the face of the program and lead them to all levels of championships, shouldn’t the return be a million dollars' worth of Urban Meyer-type results?
To his credit, Sark admitted he has let down everybody from the university to his own children, and from his heart he has rededicated himself to coaching what he and others believe is a championship-caliber team.
So, are there simple solutions to this latest drama?
Yes, it will stop when those in power decide to finally make it stop.
And it will also stop if the 2015 Trojans win games -- lots and lots of games. After all, isn’t winning a Pac-12 championship Steve Sarkisian’s best and immediate end-all, cure-all?