Orgeron era at USC was over before it began

LOS ANGELES — How long does it take for a “sugar high” to wear off?

For Ed Orgeron detractors, the answer is seven games.

Unfortunately for the former interim head coach at USC, his past was just too much of a hurdle to overcome. His record while the head coach at Ole Miss, 10-25, was a black eye on his resume. It superseded 6-2, his record as USC’s interim head coach.

That 10-25 had him losing the USC job before ever really having a shot to earn it.

His success as USC’s interim wasn’t viewed as anything more than the players being on a “sugar high” — emotionally charged after getting out of a bad situation under former head coach Lane Kiffin.

Still, Orgeron began to make it tough on the hiring bodies at USC by leading the Trojans to a win in Corvallis for the first time since 2004 and upsetting No. 4 Stanford on national TV.
By doing so, he put himself in a sudden death opportunity for his job last Saturday with UCLA invading the Coliseum … but lost.

Vanished was the chance for the interim tag to be removed from Orgeron’s name. The loss was the worst game played by the Trojans under Orgeron’s watch. The energy and enthusiasm that had carried them to six wins in the first seven games of their “new season” was gone. The Trojans, essentially, fell flat on their face in a 21-point defeat to their crosstown rivals.

There was a notion that by the time game eight rolled around, the “sugar high” had worn off.

Proponents of Orgeron will say his 10-25 record at Ole Miss had nothing to do with who he is as a head coach present day. He’d grown and learned from his time in Oxford.

The 6-2 record on the field was much more than a “sugar high” as he turned a completely sour season headed for a disastrous finish into one that, all of a sudden, had USC doing a 180-turnaround and defeating the No. 4 team in the country on the Coliseum turf.

The result in the end was a reportedly “emotional” Orgeron addressing the team to announce his resignation after USC agreed to make the University of Washington’s Steve Sarkisian its next head coach.

The decision to go with Sarkisian was a “gut” feeling USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement.

“It was a slap in the face (to Orgeron),” said a former USC player.

Orgeron posted six wins in seven conference games as USC’s interim coach. Sarkisian never had more than five wins in a nine-game conference schedule in his five seasons at Washington.

In his first season at UW, he inherited a team that had gone winless the previous year and guided them to five wins.

To his credit, he nearly upset LSU in his coaching debut at Washington. He upset then-No. 3 USC 16-13 for one of his five wins on the year.

Following that season, Sarkisian was actually a target for USC after Pete Carroll’s departure to the NFL. His buyout at the time, however, was $3 million if he left UW after just one season. Lane Kiffin’s was $800,000.

Sarkisian stayed put in the Pacific Northwest and assembled three consecutive 7-6 seasons. A record that, as of late, makes those in and around the McKay Center cringe.

He went 8-4 in his fifth and final season at Washington.

With names like Kevin Sumlin, Chris Petersen and James Franklin floating around, Haden, making a hire for the crown jewel of the university, could have gone against the grain and veered away from the Pete Carroll era. He chose not to do so.

If you were to put Orgeron’s eight-game season and Sarkisian’s body of work in Seattle on the scales, did Haden make the right choice?