University of Southern California football coach Steve Sarkisian has been asked to take a leave of absence from the program, athletic director Pat Haden announced on Sunday.
Haden’s comments, coupled with reports the coach appeared to be intoxicated during team events and a previous high-profile incident involving alcohol, have many concerned about the coach’s health and whether he will ever coach the USC football team again.
In announcing that offensive coordinator Clay Helton would serve as interim head coach, Haden said he had asked Sarkisian to take leave after the coach failed to show up to practice on Sunday.
“I got a call that Coach Sarkisian was not at practice,” Haden told the media. “I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence.”
Before missing practice in the afternoon, Sarkisian did attend a meeting in the morning. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reports that multiple sources told him Sarkisian “showed up in no condition to work.”
ESPN took it a step further, reporting that Sarkisian showed up to the team facilities “appearing to be intoxicated.”
A player told ESPN via text that Sarkisian “showed up lit to meetings again today.” Another source said he showed up Sunday morning and “appeared not normal,” and then was told to leave.
Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News, who was first to report that players believed Sarkisian was “not sober” at the meeting, also reports that some assistant coaches expressed concern about Sarkisian’s condition during USC’s win against Arizona State in September.
BREAKING: Some #USC assistant coaches believed Steve Sarkisian was drunk during the Arizona State game on Sept. 26.
— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) October 11, 2015
Before the season, Sarkisian announced he would receive treatment after admitting he mixed alcohol and unspecified medication during a donor event. At the time, Sarkisian announced he would not drink alcohol the rest of the season.
We have reached out to USC and Sarkisian for comment.