USC Coach Steve Sarkisian Has Long-Term Alcohol Abuse Exposed

By McCarton Ackerman 10/16/15

Sarkisian was allegedly drunk during games.

Steve Sarkisian
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University of Southern California football coach Steve Sarkisian has been fired after he took leave to address his issues with alcohol, but a new report suggests that his problems with the bottle started well before his most recent tenure.

An investigative report published this week by the Los Angeles Times uncovered 800 pages of receipts and expense reports during his time coaching at the University of Washington. Among the most extreme bar tabs were more than $1,600 spent over two days at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa's pool bar in 2013. Receipts from two separate Indian Wells retreats in 2012 and 2013 also showed that Sarkisian expensed $1,023 worth of alcohol at a restaurant, which included 91 shots of top-shelf tequila. At least 16 people attended one of the gatherings.

In addition, two players formerly coached by Sarkisian in 2009 said they had smelled alcohol on his breath on at least one occasion during morning team meetings. They also noted he had glazed eyes during these meetings and seemed unusually confrontational. Other players said that he regularly kept alcohol in his office and had occasionally appeared drunk on team flights.

USC athletic director Pat Haden reportedly asked Sarkisian to take a leave of absence from the team after showing up to work last weekend unfit to coach. Haden has declined to go into specifics, but stated that “it was very clear to me that he is not healthy.” Sarkisian was let go by the school soon after.

Sarkisian was reprimanded during the pre-season for showing up drunk at the “Salute to Troy” booster event and having to be pulled off the stage during a speech. After that incident, Sarkisian told Haden he had inadvertently mixed alcohol with medication. Although he agreed to seek outpatient treatment and not drink for the rest of the football season, he denied having a drinking problem.

Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will now take over as interim head coach.

"(It was) clear the team had a great deal of concern about the health of Coach Sarkisian," said Haden. "So did the staff have that concern for him, and it was also very apparent to me in the room of the support that Clay has from our team and his staff."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.