Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence, Clay Helton interim head coach at USC

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Sunday October 11, 2015

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian will take a temporary leave of absence at the request of athletic director Pat Haden.

The LA Daily News reports Sarkisian is “expected to seek treatment” after not showing up at practice. Offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Clay Helton will serve as interim head coach.

"I got a call that Coach Sarkisian wasn't at practice. I learned this at about 1 o’clock (PT)," Haden said. "I called Steve, talked to him. It was clear to me he’s not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence. … I think it’s the right thing for our team. I always want to do what’s right for our team and school. I then spoke with the coaches and team. It’s clear the team had a great deal of concern about the health of Coach Sarkisian, so did the staff."  

When asked how he knew Sark wasn’t in the right condition, Haden said, “It was apparent to me.”

The LA Daily News also reports some assistants believed Sarkisian was intoxicated during the Arizona State game on Sept. 26. Sarkisian said he would seek treatment for alcohol use after a drunken incident at a booster event before the season, but said he could coach and get treatment simultaneously. It’s not clear if Sarkisian had started that treatment.

Helton previously served as interim head coach for USC’s bowl game in 2013, winning the game.

"It was also very apparent to me the support Clay has from our team and the staff," Haden said. "A big task this week with Notre Dame. It’s not going to be easy. Clay’s going to do a great job of getting our team ready and focused.”

Stay tuned to the Coaching Search Ticker for the latest news.

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to