America’s Sickest University Football Coach…

… and that’s saying a lot – has yet another nationally broadcast meltdown. Drink and violence and litigiousness have long been Steve Sarkisian’s (scroll down) game plan, and the resulting embarrassing spectacles in front of trustees, obscene actings-out in the larger community, and, in this latest instance, psychotic attacks on team staff, have totally endeared him to the nation’s premier football programs. He pulls in a huge salary and is massively lionized at one dominant program after another.

He hasn’t yet started pulling out a gun during his special moments (This is How We Do It), but once he does that, he’ll be guaranteed the head coaching spot at the school of his choice.


The world of university football/basketball coaches is mainly a variant of Trumpworld. Everyone loves the athletic Trumplets’ sick dirty twisted lying ways, and when the sickest and dirtiest die, the, uh, what’s the word, encomia are enmazing! You’d never know from American sports journalism that Bobby Knight or Mike Leach (one of America’s most fanatic Trumpers) was anything other than a fine inspirational example to us all when his sadistic treatment of players comes to a permanent end. And so it is with another manifestly insane person, Steve S.

Of course a few sissy nay-sayers are calling for him to be fired. They seem worried that the school he rules – Texas, Austin – may suffer reputational damage through having made a gibbering lunatic the highest-profile, highest-compensated person on campus.

To which UD says: Fiddle dee dee! It’s Texas, sweetie!

University of Southern California football: Ave atque vale.

USC and its athletic department spent much of the past few years embroiled in various stupid scandals... USC was one focus of the Justice Department’s men’s basketball corruption case that went public in 2017, and the program finally got hit with NCAA probation earlier this year as a result. In 2019, USC was on the front page of the New York Times (and not the sports section) for its central role in the Varsity Blues scandal, wherein rich parents fabricated and bribed their kids’ way into elite schools. [USC] administrators [have been] dealing with racketeering and corruption cases and NCAA investigations… [O]utside legal disputes stemming from USC’s 2000s NCAA problems weren’t entirely wrapped up until the end of July. This July.”


USC had to fire back-to-back coaches in the middle of the season. Find another major program so badly directed that it’s had to do that.

And then USC had to do it again this year, something no other major program has even had to contemplate. Think of the degree of mismanagement that requires. From an incredibly immature Lane Kiffin to an incredibly intemperate Steve Sarkisian to an incredibly incompetent Clay Helton, they turned the keys of one of college football’s historic top three programs to an over-their-head trio of not-ready-for-prime-time players.”


The second writer, who calls USC’s program “dead,” doesn’t even mention the very special Sarkisian/Puliafito/Nikias magic, about which UD wrote a few years ago. Surely he doesn’t mean to leave out of his autopsy the very top of USC’s leadership!


John Martin. Sarkisian. Puliafito/Varma. Tyndall.
Takes a whole lot of naughtiness merely to kindle
A bit of Oh me!
From ol’ USC.
It’s less of a school than a swindle.

‘USC’s leaders never responded to the inquiries. Numerous phone calls were not returned, emails went unanswered and a letter seeking an interview with USC President C.L. Max Nikias to discuss Puliafito was returned to The Times by courier, unopened.’

Only after The Times published its report Monday did USC address the matter publicly.

The University of Southern California not only ignored – for a year – well-sourced questions from the Los Angeles Times about deadhead supreme Carmen Puliafito; the office of its president went to the trouble of returning by courier, unopened, a letter requesting an interview.

Kids, can we think of a better way to say fuck you? I don’t think we can.

And now USC is trying to make us believe that they’re just getting wind of Carmen’s… uh… is there one word into which we can bundle what the $1.1 million a year head of the Keck medical school has been up to after hours – during hours – for years?


How can we explain USC’s suicidal behavior? Carmen’s almost certainly gonna bring down the president and some trustees. Probably lots of USC patients are going to be suing the school, since – I don’t know – if you found out that your suspicions about the madman checking your eyes – the guy everybody told you was fine – the dean of the med school for chrissake! – were in fact accurate, wouldn’t you be a little pissed? How much money did you spend to get treated by a meth head?

USC sure likes to make fools of people – reporters, patients. On the other hand, it serves and protects people like Carmen Puliafito.


Again, then: Why? Why did President Nikias and his provost, the wonderfully named Quick, not only do nothing as their million dollar man drugged his way into oblivion on screen, but ignore and insult anyone who tried to tell them what was going on?

Well, remember they did the same thing with the last high-level highly-compensated, high-profile, high-as-a-kite campus hero: Steve Sarkisian. So we’ve got a pattern here; we’ve got a culture here. Let me suggest what that culture is.

USC is Hollywood. The school is in (roughly speaking) and of Hollywood. School song:

Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about

Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me

Well, the new dean met with USC medical students. Turns out they’re pissed.

One of them had the audacity to suggest that the president of the University of Southern California should resign, given how incredibly badly he dealt – continues to deal – with his beyond-disgraced million-dollar med school dean (Is the now ex-dean on leave? The school seems to say that he is. Is that leave with pay?).

“If this is true, if it turns out that it is a cultural problem with the university, with President Nikias, will you [She’s addressing Carmen Puliafito’s replacement as dean.] fight for President Nikias to be let go, so we can bring in another president who wouldn’t let this happen?” the student asked.

Because it sure looks as though the prez knew a lot was wrong with Puliafito, and that he therefore knew this worst of outcomes – a big national scandal – was possible… After all:

At the meeting on the Keck campus, students — some wearing hospital scrubs — said university administrators should have known more about Puliafito’s troubling behavior, including reports that he appeared drunk or otherwise intoxicated at campus events. One woman said that it “seems shocking that no one has been able to figure anything out in the last 10 years. … People are now going to be questioning our professionalism.”

So that’s a new but not surprising thing – he appeared drunk or otherwise intoxicated at campus events.. In earlier Puliafito posts, I’ve anticipated that we’ll be getting reports of his having exhibited signs of trouble at public USC events. You don’t reach this guy’s depth of squalor without revealing it in various ways. But, as the student’s comment suggests, the thing that needs explaining here is why the university kept the guy in his position for years. Achieving his degree of debauchery is not the work of a day. What sort of university president lets his medical school dean – his $1.1 million man – slide down the long slide and not do something about it? Especially given the simultaneous meltdown of his football coach, Steve Sarkisian?

Or was that in itself the problem? Was the president simply overwhelmed with a pretty amazing set of events – the alcohol/drug breakdowns at the same time of a dean and a coach? A 2015 Newsweek opinion piece is titled:


And the writer asks:

[W]here were the real adults — [USC Athletic Director Pat] Haden, university president C.L. Max Nikias and chief operating officer Steve Lopes —

when Sarkisian showed up drunk at one USC event after another?

For sure the university should ask itself whether a president who mishandled both of these crises – Sarkisian and Puliafito – is fit for the office.

Highest Salary. Highest Profile. Highest.

Their football coach reportedly showed up to practices and games stinking drunk; at a major fund-raising event, he gave a speech so rambling and foul-mouthed that institutional attention finally had to be paid to Steve Sarkisian’s drinking problem. He doesn’t work at the University of Southern California anymore, but his memory lingers on in a massive lawsuit he filed against the school for wrongful termination.

While the school grapples with the lawsuit and the ongoing bad publicity, the head of USC’s medical school, whose shady past and ongoing meth-fueled insane behavior the university appears to have been treating with the same avoidance it treated Sarkisian, finally erupted into public view two days ago, with a big LA Times story.

So, these are the two sexiest positions at any university – the massively overpaid and overpraised football coach; the similarly celebrated med school dean. Even when they’re not drunks and meth heads, these people tend to present schools with problems having to do with justifying their outsized compensation, anticipating outsized legal bills when the schools try to fire them, and just generally attempting to handle people who know damn well they make far more than the school’s president and indeed may have more institutional clout.

So at USC you had this hopeless, intimidated president gazing with horror upon a coach and a dean who may have been highly effective fund raisers and all but were also imploding or threatening to implode from addictions and addiction-generated naughtiness. The understandable impulse is to control the situation, to quietly make it go away, to avoid at all costs an award-winning press exposé of staggering corruption and hypocrisy at the top of a major American university.

To make matters even worse than this, both “coach” and “med school dean” are clean-limbed, healthy-living type things, allowing the school to lecture the student body and indeed the country about teamwork and exercise and the whole mens sana in corpore sano thing. USC had two rampant substance abusers coming out with this shit, which means they found themselves solidly planted in farce territory.

There’s yet another wrinkle with the Carmen Puliafito thing. Unlike Sarkisian, who became visibly fucked up due to his drinking, ol’ Carmen had been, far as we can tell, functioning at a very high level as dean even while snorting up everything in sight in every luxury hotel room in Pasadena. The guy was only exposed because the police got called by a hotel where Puliafito’s girlfriend overdosed. Word of it got to USC’s president, and then to the press, which ran with it.

Franchement, UD has trouble believing the guy was in fact managing to run the med school smoothly while spending most of his time drugging. UD’s gonna predict that as this story develops we will discover Puliafito’s behavior had been deteriorating for some time, and that people on his staff were increasingly doing his $1.1 million a year job for him.

Oh, one more thing. Expect Puliafito to sue USC, just as Sarkisian did. For… I don’t know. For not curing him.

Fight Song, University of Southern California

Beautiful front porch, wake unto me,
Look how you’ve beautified old USC.
Major corruption since 2010
And now a lawsuit from Sarkisian.

Beautiful front porch, millions to pay
To get Sarkisian out of the way.
Salary, bonus, settlement too
Then the same story with somebody new.

Beautiful front porch, how you do shine!
Making me proud of this great school of mine.
Millions for coaches, nothing for me
Beautiful front porch of old USC.

‘[The UCLA football player] also had harsh words for his instructor: “I’m not aware of the teacher’s name who reported me,” he wrote. “I tend to often forget names of people with no importance.”‘

Ain’t it the truth. At America’s football schools, we li’l ol’ instructors don’t count for shit, man. The person who really counts, far as UD can tell, is the assistant coach.

Not the coach. The coach is kinda above it all (‘cept for that dummy Kyle Flood). His job is to take millions in compensation and let the assistant coach(es) do … whatEVer… Coach don’t know. Coach don’t wanna know. They say Rick Pitino’s assistant coach turned the dorm for basketball players into a whorehouse … Rick’s far too classy a guy to know anything about that. They say an assistant coach at UCLA sat on academic support staff to get professors to change athletes’ grades. They say an assistant coach at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette worked out a little conspiracy with a friend of his who supervised ACT tests to toss the lads’ tests and substitute passing ones.

And you know what I bet? I bet Steve Sarkisian’s assistant coaches at the University of Southern California have been working their asses off to help him hide the fact that he’s running a big-time football empire while alcoholic.

I bet his University of Minnesota coaching assistants knew that AD Norbert Teague drank too much and pawed women and all.

Yes, over the years it’s become clear to UD that the fixer, the dirty-work-doer, the facade-maintenance-man in the vast theater of the absurd which is this nation’s effort to meld professional sports with (wait for it) universities is the assistant coach. The assistant coach is the guy who runs after the horse-drawn wagon picking up shit and trying to make it smell like roses.

UD thanks John.

“[T]here was a lot of real quality dialog that took place in that weekend.”

A few years ago, when he was football coach at the University of Washington, Steve Sarkisian went on a couple of those all-important coach retreats – at taxpayer expense, of course – so that real quality dialog, as he puts it up there, could take place. This article shows you two receipts for two such events, representing major hundreds of dollars in state-reimbursed booze for between ten and fifteen people.

UD would love to have been at those dialogs. Like this, only with guys.

Now that Sarkisian has behaved, uh, strangely at his latest job (the upshot of those expensive dialogs is that Sarkisian dumped his UW job right after UW paid for them), the gloriously scandal-free University of Southern California, people are… I dunno… beginning to ask whether Coach might have a wee problem. Which has brought on one of the peppiest Coacha Inconsolata pieces UD has ever read. (Put Coacha Inconsolata in my search engine for clarification of that term.)

TIME TO GET OFF SARK’S BACK, orders the campus paper’s sports editor. Coach’s public apology was

as down as I’ve seen Sarkisian, or any college football coach for that matter, during his tenure at USC — even worse than the team’s last-second loss last year to Arizona State.

Pure Coacha Inconsolata. After all, there he was, “manning up and opening up about his issues in front of reporters — not an easy thing to do.” Courage, indeed, to hold a press conference when your public behavior is so obscene that you don’t have any choice.

The writer ends on his strongest argument.

[I]f this year’s team wants any chance at playing in the Pac-12 championship game or even the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, they’re going to need Sarkisian — not in rehab, not at home, but on the sidelines with his headset on and ready to go.

Shambling wreck or not, we need this guy!


Two other quick points:

1.) Keep in mind Norwood Teague’s recent alcohol-fueled demise at Minnesota. USC’s president is surely thinking about the damage ol’ Norwood did to that school as he ponders Sarkisian’s fate.

2.) What’s with the need for weekend retreats on top of all the country club memberships coaches get? Can’t these guys meet anytime at one of the clubs USC is paying for?

Front Porch Surreal

Professors are always the weirdos; egghead university culture is always the bizarre thing against which the wholesome normality of college sports stands in all-American relief. Here’s the google-eyed weirdo peacenik photo that typically runs with articles about university professors. How much finer and firmer, how much more real, the football players racing out of the arena’s mist amid battle songs to start the fight on the field…

Yet football – routinely touted by idiots as the front porch of the university – is so much freakier than anything the professoriate could come up with. Football makes the American university not merely academic fraud central; it makes it a kind of endlessly looping Chien Andalou, with the first school out of the gate at the beginning of a new (cough) academic year the already notoriously disgusting University of Southern California.

USC has mainly been about the obvious stuff – cheating, impermissable benefits, blah blah. But now it’s Front Porch Surreal:

USC is finding itself in the media for all the wrong reasons this week. First, there’s the saga of Josh Shaw, who broke both his ankles this weekend by jumping off a balcony for an unknown reason [and lied about it]. And now senior Anthony Brown is accusing the team’s coach, Steve Sarkisian, of being a racist.

Sarkisian “treated me like a slave,” complains the player, who abruptly left the team; and, well, given the prominent and pretty plausible description of the university football landscape as a “plantation,” one can’t be too surprised at this latest grotesquerie.

But I mean. It’s not just USC. Richie Incognito? Out there in the clean-living heartland of Nebraska? They’ve still got their beloved torturer’s bio up on their university website. No professor can compete with University of Nebraska Weird. The University of Nebraska should audition for

$600,000 for a job well done.

A local journalist thinks there’s something wrong with the severance pay Washington State University’s just-fired football coach (his record: 9 – 40) is getting:

At the risk of stating the obvious — this seems like a particularly bad time to pay Paul Wulff $600,000 not to coach Cougar football.

The money spent on college sports is mind-boggling enough. In the most recent survey of state salaries, UW football coach Steve Sarkisian came out on top, with $1.98 million in gross pay for 2010.

UW basketball coach Lorenzo Roma was paid $1.14 million last year, making him the second highest paid state employee.

But at least they draw their astronomical pay for coaching. Wulff’s salary is small by comparison, but next year he’ll be paid to not do his job.

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