SoCal reaction to leave of absence for USC’s Steve Sarkisian

USC Trojans football

One of the hardest jobs to do as a journalist is to ask questions about situations that go way beyond the game of football.  The leave of absence being taken by USC head coach Steve Sarkisian fits into that category.

Sarkisian is obviously dealing with a life problem that goes way beyond the game, but will be hashed and re-hashed by my colleagues.  Sarkisian was placed on leave by USC officials after apparently arriving intoxicated Sunday.

What’s happening within the proud USC Trojan football program hits hard in Southern California.  Right now, of the 15 “hard” verbal commitments to USC, ten hail from SoCal, according to

Mater Dei offensive lineman Frank Martin, who has given his verbal to the Trojans, tweeted the following after the news…

La Mirada head coach Mike Moschetti, whose defensive end Keanu Saleapaga, a 3-star defensive recruit, has given his verbal to the Trojans said, “We hope Sark gets the help he needs and can get his life back in order.  We always tell the kids at La Mirada  to commit to the school, not the coach, because coaches come and go.”

The Saleapaga family responded to a text message from High School Football America asking about Keanu’s verbal commitment.  Below is their response —

“Our prayers are with Coach Sarkisian and the USC program during this time. Keanu is very focused on his final school year and finishing his season strong… As of today we are still USC committed.

Jaime Ortiz, head coach at San Clemente, whose former quarterback Sam Darnold is now a freshman at USC, said, “There are numerous times in life where someone’s well being is much more important than football.  I have had the pleasure of having numerous interactions with Coach Sarkisian and he has been nothing but professional and courteous.  I wish him nothing but the best during this time and I know that the USC football program is in good hands with Coach Helton.”

Sarkisian will be replaced on an interim basis by offensive coordinator Clay Helton.

Sunday after the USC announcement, Skyline High (Michigan) All-American lineback Daelin Hayes withdrew his verbal commitment to the Trojans.

Related from USA TODAY High School Sports: Army All-American linebacker Daelin Hayes decommits from USC

Related from USA TODAY High School Sports: Top TE backs out of USC visit plans amidst Steve Sarkisian rehab

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About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.