Washington left with unexpected coaching search
SEATTLE -- Based on his limited statement, Washington athletic director Scott Woodward is quickly moving ahead with trying to find a new football coach.
Washington was left in need Monday after Steve Sarkisian took the head coaching job at USC after five seasons of rebuilding the Huskies from an winless program and taking them to a bowl game in four of his five years.
Sarkisian will begin his duties at USC immediately, leaving the Huskies in need of an interim coach for their yet-to-be announced bowl game.
"The search for Steve's successor has already begun," Woodward said in a statement released by the school. "I will work hard in the coming days to find the absolute best fit for the University of Washington but I will not comment on or speculate about the process. We have tremendous tradition, fan base and a world-class institution, and I am confident we will find the right man."
Woodward plucked Sarkisian from USC after the Huskies went 0-12 in 2008. He was an unproven commodity as a head coach, but immediately made Washington respectable again. Sarkisian finished his Washington career 34-29, including an 8-4 regular season this year, capped by a 27-17 win over Washington State in the Apple Cup last Friday. It's the Huskies first eight-win season since 2001.
But the attempts at finally joining the upper echelon of the conference this season were turned back in losses to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. Sarkisian never defeated the Ducks in his tenure, an issue that stuck with Washington fans tired of getting beaten up by their neighbors to the south.
Sarkisian is the first Washington coach to voluntarily leave for another position since Darrell Royal in 1956 when he departed for Texas. Royal was at Washington for one season.
"Steve has led the rebuilding of our program to new heights and we are in a much better position than when he arrived," Woodward said. "I am happy for Steve and his family as they can return home and I wish them the best of luck in the future."
Sarkisian announced his decision to Washington's players during a team meeting on Monday afternoon. The meeting was short, with Sarkisian telling his team the decision was difficult and that the chance to return to his roots in Southern California was a major draw.
While fans may have been annoyed, current Huskies players did not begrudge Sarkisian his decision. Given ample opportunity to take a shot at his former coach after the meeting on Monday, quarterback Keith Price refused.
"He told the team it was a business decision. I'm not mad at him. His family is first," Price said. "It would have been nice to get another game with him -- my last game. But things happen. We have to move on. Whoever our coach is going to be for the bowl game we're going to play hard. There's still a lot to accomplish this season. To finish (with) nine wins would be huge for the program. For this team. So that's our next goal."
Whoever takes the Washington job will be walking into a prime position. The talent is better and deeper than when Sarkisian arrived and the Huskies now play in a palatial new stadium thanks to a $280 million face-lift that Sarkisian helped push. Washington now has its own football operations center that is on par with that of many other schools in the conference.
"I think this team has gotten to a level where we are self-motivated," Price said. "We don't need a motivational speaker. We're motivated. We understand the task that's ahead of us. We've dealt with distractions all year. I've dealt with distractions my whole life, and especially my career here. I've been through the ups. I've been through the downs. This is just another stepping stone."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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