Quotes from athletic director Pat Haden, head coach Steve Sarkisian, quarterback Cody Kessler and cornerback/safety Josh Shaw.
Dec. 3, 2013
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USC Athletic Director Pat Haden
“Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the John McKay Center. Thank you to President Max Nikias. He has been an incredible mentor to me and given me some great counsel and advice. He has hired many high profile people in academia. I really appreciate your support along the way. To the three guys that I work with, clear, strategic thinkers, Steve Lopes, Mark Jackson and JK McKay. Thank you for everything you guys have done over the last couple of weeks.
“We have an incredible football staff. These people are incredible, incredible human beings and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. We thank all the coaches and Clay Helton, who was our offensive coordinator will be coaching the team in the bowl game.
“A special thank you to Ed Orgeron, one of the greatest Trojans of them all. I have worked with him for over a decade. We tried everything we could do to keep Ed here. In the end, Ed wants to be a head coach and he deserves to be a head coach. I told him I could help him in whatever he needs to reach his goals. He decided to leave and I respect that.
“What these coaches accomplished in the last eight games of the season was fantastic. They are men of character and integrity. I and the USC family will be forever grateful.
“We began the search on Sept. 29. We had a list of 20 possibilities. We had the ability to do our do-diligence. We watched a lot of games and game tapes. We talked to dozens of people. We interviewed five of them, including Ed Orgeron for three hours several weeks ago. Among the qualities we were looking for – a proven leader with success and experience, is committed to academic success, life skills, NCAA compliance, development, can assess, recruit and develop players that can compete for national championships. Someone who can connect with people in a positive way, be it student-athletes, fans, parents and donors. Someone with passion and energy and can make adjustments in a game. Someone who can effectively communicate to the staff in order to win and has a true understanding of USC, it’s rich tradition and athletic heritage.
“We believe and I believe that Steve Sarkisian aligns with these attributes. Steve was the only person offered this job. What I believe must be taken into context are two things since I have heard some reference to his overall record at the University of Washington. He inherited a team that was 0-12 and led them to a bowl in his second season. Only the past 21 years, only three teams have won more than eight games in one season at the University of Washington and those teams have benefited from an extra game with a bowl game.
“In Steve we get a coach that really knows USC, its culture and its tradition. A coach that beat eight top-25 teams during his tenure, including USC twice. He is a proven evaluator of high school talent, a big time recruiter who knows southern California football, has relationships with local coaches and knows the Pac-12 and USC. He has shown a great commitment to academics during his tenure at UW. I believe he is uniquely positioned to have the smoothest and fastest transition to USC.”
On when he offered Coach Sarkisian the job…
“There are some good things and bad things about having a long evaluation period and you can tend to overthink things, which is a faulty trait of mine. A lot of people wanted us to get caught up in the emotion, give Coach O the job before the UCLA game. I wanted to and promised myself that I was going to wait and get in front of all the people I wanted to get in front of. That was the process we went through. Immediately after the game, the four of us got on a plane and visited two coaches, the second being Coach Sarkisian. After we talked for a period of time, he wanted to think about it and I told them I needed to talk to President Nikias. We felt that Steve was uniquely positioned for the job.”
On the transition from Coach O…
“This has been the hardest few days of my life. And I have had some hard few days. I have such great respect for Coach O and we met yesterday morning. It was hard. He was hurt. I know I was hurting his feelings. It never feels good to hurt anyone’s feelings. On the other hand, it is my job to do what is best for USC and I feel I have done that. We fought hard to keep Coach O him here, but in the end, he wanted to be a head coach. And God bless him, I hope he goes somewhere and makes me look like an idiot. Max [Nikias] gave me great counsel. He told me to follow my gut feeling. And in the end I did.”
On if the UCLA loss cost Coach O the job…
“I set up this process in late September, early October. We were not going to get caught up in the emotion, good or bad. I wanted to see them all. I knew the strengths and weaknesses of Coach Orgeron. I don’t want our players to feel that they let Coach O down. These guys, particularly our senior class, think about what they have done. They are recruited by Coach Carroll, then play under Coach Kiffin, that doesn’t quite work out and then they have Coach O. These guys have had a lot laid in their laps the last couple of years. They have shown great character. We have special young men here of high caliber and high character.”
Head Coach Steve Sarkisian
“It is awesome to see so many familiar faces in the crowd. This is home for me. I can’t thank Pat and Max enough for this incredible opportunity. I am humbled and honored to be the head football coach at the University of Southern California. Growing up in the area this place means so much to me, I being able to say that is extremely humbling.
“I want to thank Scott Woodward and the players at the University of Washington for their tireless work in that community.
“I am the luckiest guy in the world. I have beautiful wife, Stephanie and three kids that I hope can come to this university one day.
“Oddly enough, this is my fifth time here. I came here out of high school to play baseball. Dan Hubbs [current USC head baseball coach] knows this, he was a junior on that team, I couldn’t hit the curve ball, so I transferred to El Camino to play both sports.
“When this one came about, to be home, to be the head football coach at USC is just awesome. To have my parents, be able to sit right here at a press conference accepting a job. You don’t get to do this. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“Five of the seven years I was here we went to Rose Bowls. The tradition, the passion, the support, the standard of excellence and the LA Memorial Coliseum. I can’t wait for the first time to run out at the Coliseum with these guys with me. We will not shy away from the expectations, we will embrace them. I came here to win championships and so did all these players. When it comes to recruiting and winning championships, we will recruit the kids with the talent, desire and character to do that.
“We are not rebuilding at the University of Southern California. We don’t rebuild here. I’ve known Coach O him since 2001. I know what he meant to these players. We owe him a great deal of gratitude as he left this place better than the way he found it.
“We had a team meeting last night, building the faith, the trust to shape us into the team we are capable of being. I have some great relationships forged here through childhood. We have already began the recruiting process, we are looking for the great talent in southern California and we will recruit great student-athletes from around the country.
“I feel so honored to be part of the Trojan Family. We will continue to earn their support and our loyal fan base will make them proud to be Trojans.
“It is key that we do all this with the utmost integrity and class and all that this university stands for. USC is about being the best. That is why we all chose to be a part of it. I want to be the best.
“To all the players who have worn the uniform in the past, this is your program. We will promise to uphold that legacy to return USC to the top. Fight on. Thank you.”
On how long he took to accept and his awareness of the mixed reactions to the hiring…
“It took a while. It was a tough decision. I am proud of what we accomplished at Washington. It is not an easy decision and not an easy decision for change, but change is inevitable. You have to go face those kids that you have recruited and tell them you are leaving. That was brutally difficult for me. Then at 7 p.m. I met with this team, with everything they have been through, I had to get them to understand what I’m about.
The perception on the outside isn’t that concerning. What I am concerned about is what is within this building, on the inside. There is so much involved with this because this process is about building trust and relationships. And then the victories come. Let’s evaluate this hire a few years down the road.
I think we have a championship caliber roster right now. I am focused on these kids right now and getting them developed. We are capable of winning, we just have to put the pieces together.”
On thinking he is right for the job…
“My ties to this program. I was here during an era that was unprecedented. I recruited majority of these kids to the University of Washington. Many of them it came down to UW and USC and they chose USC. I know we will put together a tremendous staff, recruit tremendous athletes and put together schemes that are on the cutting edge.
I have a strong belief in myself. I found a way to win as a player, as an assistant coach and a head coach. In everything I do I expect to win. It is an attitude that I have every day. I wasn’t surprised that got the job. It’s not an arrogance by any means, but I have a strong belief in myself.
On growing up in southern California around the program….
“It is really surreal. My freshman year here in college, I watched the SC/UCLA game from my dorm room in Flour Tower. My roommate was Nick Lachey and he wasn’t yet in 98 Degrees or whatever yet. To be here is very surreal and I love the challenge and opportunity. I am honored to think of all the great people that have been in that locker room. It is very humbling, but also very exciting. I can’t wait to get to work.”
On the process of the hiring and comments made on KJR radio…
“At the time, the deal wasn’t near finalized. The first thought that came to mind was in the best interest of the student athletes at USC and at Washington. I didn’t want to put either of the kids in those programs in a position of uncertainty. Hindsight is 20/20. I probably should have referred to it as an interview, but that is semantics.
“I know the feelings that they had and I know the tough meetings Pat and Coach O had with the players. At the time, it wasn’t the right thing to say. I am sorry if my message got misconstrued, but it was in the best interest of the young men.”
On talking to the draft eligible juniors…
“We are going to meet with each and every one of them. We will submit their draft forms. I want them to make an educated decision. If it is to stay here and compete for a championship, we will support them. If it means their future endeavors are to go to the NFL, we will support them. I want them to make an educational decision, not an emotional one. It’s about guiding them through the process. I have started to meet with some of the guys, but we are not near the end.”
On Lane Kiffin…
“I don’t know quite honestly. We are friends. I don’t know the day to day operations, the interactions with the players and the staff. From the outside looking in, there were moments of difficulty for Lane and moments of success. In the end it didn’t work out. Lane is a good football coach and I know he will land on his feet. We had a quick conversation and he said congratulations.”
On his first task at USC…
“Obviously recruiting is paramount. We have some mid years that we need to get in here based on scholarship reductions. Obviously, working with the student-athletes to finish the semester well. We have to do a great job of that. Also working on the staff and getting the staff finalized.”
On the offense…
“We have evolved really well as a team. We are an uptempo, no-huddle offense. We are a run-first team, but we strive for balance. At Washington, running back Bishop Sankey is a Doak Walker finalist. We utilized the tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins. We finished in the top 10 or top 8 in the country in total offense. We have a dynamic offense, one that I think it is something that these guys should be excited to play in. It is one that will be predicated on speed and a power running game.”
On practice being open to the media…
“Depending on compliance factors, for our 15 practices in the spring, I would like to keep it open to everybody. Also when we get to training camp, we will use an NFL model. The first few weeks will be open, because I want people to see the team. As we move forward from there and get into game planning, access will be limited.”
On getting close to winning a national title at Washington…
“I think we were getting very close at the University of Washington. We played three poor quarters this year and we lost a few ballgames. We were close. Whoever gets that job, is walking into a great situation. They get to reap some of the benefits of my hard work, but that’s ok. They are close there, but I think we are really, really close here. We are closer here.”
On his role with the bowl game preparation…
“Clay Helton will be in charge of the bowl game. This coaching staff and players should be applauded what they have gone through this season. They have earned it. I will be around, I will be active, but by no means will I step on their toes. I will be at practice and at the bowl game, I won’t be on the sideline, I won’t be trying to coach. I will be gathering a lot of information during that time. My first practice won’t come until the spring. It’ll be a fun one.”
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler
On the departure of Coach O…
“It's been bittersweet. Coach O did a great job so it's unfortunate to see him go. You know I've personally talked so highly of him, but it's a business and we all understand that.”
On Coach Sarkisian…
“Like he said, half the guys were between here and Washington – I was one of them. So we're excited to see what it's like to play under him.”
On the coaching change…
“This is just how football is, on and off the field it's up and down. I think our guys did a good job and are more level-headed now. The meeting with Coach O was obviously emotional and we were all caught up in the moment. But that meeting last night, he did a great job. He said that if you need to talk to him he's always there and he said that he doesn't expect us to like him right away. He really understood what all the guys were feeling.
“I've heard great things about him so I'm excited. When he was here before he coached Matt, Mark, guys like that, so I'm really excited. And then Keith and I throw with the same QB coach so we talk, and he's never had a bad thing to say about Sark. I'm not worried about this team.”
On Sark’s offensive scheme…
With his scheme I've heard that there's a lot of different verbiage. But the concepts are the same. They're the same schemes he took with him from this team and Coach Carroll. The up tempo will really benefit us because we'll be able to play all four quarters and defenses will have to substitute, so it will be exciting. To go from 0-12 to winning seasons shows what he's capable of, how well his system works.”
On Coach O…
“Coach O was really a father to us. He said in the meeting last night that some parents are blessed with one or two kids, but he was blessed with 75 of us. He cared about each and everyone of us the same – starter or not – he had the same feeling for all of us, and that was love. We really felt that love from him. It was very unique.
“He handled the meeting last night better than you could expect anyone too. He talked for ten minutes then he asked everyone except the players to leave and he changed out of his jacket and tie into a USC sweatshirt. He said he wanted us to know that this was his home, and that he also had a hard meeting that morning telling his team he was leaving. So once he said that guys started listening. He asked guys who he recruited to share what they knew about him, so by the end we were joking around. It went really well.”
“You have to come compete every day no matter who you're playing for, and our guys have done a good job of understanding that – especially this year.”
On the team’s early morning workout…
“The workout this morning was our first early morning workout since last year, but it was really up tempo. We had music blasting, guys were flying around, having fun.”
Junior cornerback/safety Josh Shaw
On the early morning workout…
“Pretty much everyone showed up to the workout early this morning, in a time when it would be difficult to show up, and everyone worked hard.”
“Yesterday there was a lot of disbelief, sadness, anger. But now today we have to move forward and work on what we can control.
“It's been a roller coaster for the entire university, an emotional time for the entire university – a lot of collegiate athletes don't have to go through anything like this.
“Going through this makes us stronger as men. You know life isn't fair and things happen that are out of your control, but it's how you deal with it and bounce back up. This has been a good lesson for all of us.”
On yesterday’s team meeting…
“The one meeting was very emotional because we knew it was our last time to see Coach O, at least in the near future. And then Coach Sark did a great job of embracing us and knowing what mood we were in. But you have to remember he wasn't in a great mood either, because he had a difficult meeting earlier in the day too when he left his team.”
On Coach Sark…
“Coach Sark is humorous, easy to get along with, has a great relationship with his players."
On making a decision to enter the draft or stay in school...
"No matter who the head coach is you have to make the decision that's best for you and your family. You have to consider your position coach, the scheme – it's a process. There are a lot of pros and cons to weigh.”
On what he thought was going to happen with the coaching situation…
“I don't know if we had any expectations, but we had a high level of hope that it would be Coach O before the UCLA game, and after the game too, because of how much we love him and you know we would go to war for him. It's probably something we'll never understand, but that's not my job to do what Mr. Haden does. My job is just to perform well in school and on the field, so that's what I can control and what I'll do.”