Coach Sarkisian is Showing He Is Committed to Washington


When Steve Sarkisian first came to Washington, one of the first things on people’s minds was “Is he just using UW to advance his career and then will be gone in 3 years?” The fact that he was young and unproven as a Division I head coach left many to wonder if he considered Washington to be a “destination job” or just a “springboard” to another job with higher pizazz whether it be in the NFL or at one of the “big time” jobs out there, say an Alabama or Michigan or USC.

But, despite those worries, most people were basically fine with it as long as he helped to pull the Huskies out of the long 8 year nightmare of losing, punctuated with the embarrassment of an 0-12 season under Ty Willingham.

One of the first things Steve Sarkisian did was lobby hard to get

Nick Holt on board. He pushed Scott Woodward to make Nick Holt the highest paid assistant in the Pac-10 to lure him out from USC and up to the Pacific Northwest. Together this super-duo were going to make magic in Seattle. While the Huskies most certainly did turn things around, going from 0-12 to 5-7 and then to 7-6, the magic mostly seemed to happen on one side of the ball. While Steve Sarkisian’s offense was racking up points, Nick Holt’s defense still ranked right around where Ty Willingham’s did.

While Steve Sarkisian had been approached previously about possible openings elsewhere, the most notable of which was the Oakland Raiders job, the first real test of his commitment to the University of Washington came shortly after Nick Holt’s defense gave up 67 points to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. Would Steve Sarkisian do what was necessary for the future of the program and fire his good friend and long-time colleague or would he hold firm to his commitment to Holt while looking for a way out of Seattle at the next opportunity?

Sark did pull the trigger, and without much delay, and what we have seen since is nothing short of remarkable. Not only did he basically dismiss approaches by UCLA and the St. Louis Rams, he has gone all out, convinced Scott Woodward to open his wallet, and gotten just about every top notch assistant coach you could think of to revamp the Huskies defense. But, perhaps more importantly, to cause some of the highest rated defensive recruits on the west coast to take a step back and think again about Washington as an option.

First came the hiring of Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon from Tennessee. Peter Sirmon is well known for his recruiting accumen and is very close to Wilcox. While Wilcox’s recruiting prowess is somewhat untested, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind who has followed his career that he knows how to game plan and develop defensive schemes. The numbers at Boise State and Tennessee don’t lie. In addition, it isn’t like he is coming up from San Jose State. He’s taking a lateral move from an SEC team to the Pac-12 team. So, clearly Wilcox feels up to the challenge of rebuilding this defense.

Then came the hiring of Keith Heyward from Oregon State. Here, they took the Beaver’s defensive backs coach, someone who knows recruiting up and down the west coast, and brought him into the fold. It’s a blow to a Pac-12 North rival, while also shoring up what was likely the Huskies biggest weakness, the secondary.

But, the news that shook a lot of people was the dislodging of Tosh Lupoi. No one expected the Huskies to remove the long-time California player and coach. His ties to Berkeley ran deep and his ability to snag top notch defensive recruits was unquestioned. For Steve Sarkisian to convince him to come north, and at the same time, to make some of the highest profile recruits in California, including Shaquille Thompson reconsider is absolutely astounding. Other recruits like Cedric Dozier have also stated that they are going to take a serious second look at UW because of these moves.

Finally, Steve Sarkisian stepped up to the plate to help with the replacement of Doug Nussmeier by hiring Eric Kiesau from Cal as well. His close working relationship with Tosh Lupoi makes for another duo that seem primed to make up a close knit and well coordinated coaching staff.

All of this make sense in the context of the rebuilding of Husky Stadium. If this staff can turn the Huskies into a national power by the time the new Husky Stadium opens in the fall of 2013, then seats will be filled, excitement will be back, the stadium will get paid off, and all of that investment into those well paid assistants will be well worth it.

Steve Sarkisian has really assembled what looks like an All-star cast on his staff. He clearly has stepped forward to say to Husky fans that mediocrity is no longer acceptable. These moves make it clear that Steve Sarkisian is trying to build something and that he has no plans to leave Montlake until his mission is done.

I am not saying Sark is the next Don James or that he is going to coach here for the next 30 years. I am not saying he is a Dawg for life. When opportunities arise, Steve Sarkisian will examine them and if the right offer comes along, he may even going for it. But, Steve Sarkisian seems to understand the culture here. He knows the history of Husky football. He knows the importance of Husky football to the community. Steve Sarkisian will not leave Montlake until he has achieved his goals, which is to bring the University of Washington back to national prominence. I think he probably views that the Huskies rightful place is in the Rose Bowl, and I hope he won’t consider leaving until they get there again.

Steve Sarkisian still has a lot of work to do, but with these big moves in the first two weeks of January, he seems well on his way to achieving those goals…