The first-year USC coach is off to a 2--0 start thanks to a 13--10 victory over Stanford last Saturday. But there was controversy when, after a dispute with an official, Sarkisian got help from a high-placed friend.
DAN PATRICK:How do you feel after beating Stanford?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I felt great right after the game. Then you start looking at the tape and go, Jeez, we gotta play better than that if we want to keep winning.
DP:Was the win overshadowed by [USC athletic director] Pat Haden coming down to the sideline? [The Pac-12 fined Haden $25,000.]
SS: Not in our building. We're proud of our players and the way they played.
DP:How did Haden happen to come down?
SS: I was flagged for delay of game for standing in the white—which is a penalty. At the time I vehemently disagreed with the call, but by the letter of the law, I was wrong. I got into a discussion with the officials and I felt like at that time I needed to get back to the game. So I made it a point to have Pat come down. By the time Pat got there, it was already resolved. I regret calling Pat down. It wasn't his decision. He's not in the best of health right now. [He has had two recent hospital stays.]
DP:What got to you?
SS: I just disagreed with the call. We're gonna disagree with calls. As I said to the team, It's not O.K. the way I reacted.
DP:Did it help that Haden came down?
SS: I don't know. I don't know if it helped us get a sack-fumble on third down. Or if it helped Andre Heidari kick a 53-yard field goal.
DP:How many scholarship players do you have?
SS: A little over 60. We have 52 eligible to play right now.
DP:How many do other teams typically have?
SS: Every team is allotted up to 85. We're pretty significantly less than that. I think over time our number will get better. But that's O.K. We're going to focus on what we do have, not what we don't. The scholarship numbers will never be a crutch for us this season.
DP:You had a busy August.
SS: Always entertaining. Hollywood. USC.
DP:How do you prepare for [cornerback and team captain] Josh Shaw jumping off a balcony and other stories from the off-season?
SS: You control what you can control. You do the best job you can educating your players. I jokingly said to the staff the day of the Fresno game [a 52--13 win] that I was looking in Section 13.3 of the head coaches' manual and I didn't see anything on how to handle it.
DP:Congrats on the win. Now don't call Pat down to the field anymore.
SS: You got it. And I told him I won't jump on his back anymore after games either.
Fox's Donovan McNabb thinks quarterbacks today enter the NFL with advantages he didn't have as a rookie in 1999. "These quarterbacks are getting tutelage from gurus," McNabb said. "They're fundamentally sound coming out of high school. They're [more] advanced than we were coming out." ... MLB Network's Harold Reynolds told me he'd spoken to Alex Rodriguez recently and that A-Rod is definitely planning to return to the Yankees. I asked him if A-Rod would want to take over for Derek Jeter at shortstop. "If it was up to him," Reynolds said, "he would definitely play short." ... David Moore of The Dallas Morning News had an interesting perspective on his local team. "The Cowboys have become the Kardashians of the NFL," Moore said. "They're popular for being popular. They're competitively irrelevant while being socially relevant."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SARKISIAN)
ELSA/GETTY IMAGES (MCNABB)
TAYLOR HILL/GETTY IMAGES (REYNOLDS)