Washington left with unexpected coaching search

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.”