Steve Sarkisian: Game week ‘normal as could be’
Steve Sarkisian expects his last week as the offensive coordinator with the Alabama Crimson Tide to be like any other.
At least that’s what he said Wednesday as the No. 1 Tide (12-0) prepare to face No. 3 Ohio State (7-0) in the CFP championship game on Monday at Miami Gardens. Sarkisian was hired last Saturday to be the next head coach at Texas, where he’ll replace Tom Herman.
Sarkisian, 46-35 in seven seasons as a head coach with Washington (2009-13) and Southern Cal (2014-15), will oversee the Alabama offense for one more week before diving into his new job with the Longhorns.
“Quite honestly, my week for me would be a normal game week as if I hadn’t taken the Texas job,” Sarkisian said. “My focus is on the game. I’m prepping for the ballgame. Any of the spare time that I do have, that’s getting my attention for the job at Texas, whether that’s staffing or recruiting, things of that nature.
“But I would say my week has been as normal as it could be.”
Sarkisian was terminated at USC in October of 2015 after a 3-2 start with the Trojans in his second season. He landed at Alabama in 2016 as an offensive analyst, and filled in for Lane Kiffin as the offensive coordinator for Alabama in the 2016 title game loss to Clemson.
After leaving for a two-year stint with the Atlanta Falcons as offensive coordinator, Sarkisian returned to Alabama in 2019. Head coach Nick Saban said the expectations are clear for Sarkisian, and mirror those for other former Saban coordinators — such as Kirby Smart and Jeremy Pruitt — who coached in big games for the Tide after accepting jobs to head up other programs.
Alabama won national titles in 2015 and 2017 when Smart, then Pruitt, worked with the Tide as defensive coordinators despite holding new head coaching jobs with Georgia and Tennessee, respectively.
“Sark has done a marvelous job here,” Saban said Monday. “He’s very well organized. He works very well with all the people in the organization, players and coaches alike. He’s a good play caller on game day.
“Most of the guys in the past have been able to do that and been effective, and it’s not been a distraction for us,” Saban said. “We’re going to try to help manage it every way that we can so that it’s not a distraction for us this year.”
With Sarkisian, Alabama had an NCAA record streak of scoring 35-plus points in 24 consecutive games snapped in a 31-14 win over Notre Dame in the CFP semifinals. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith won the 2020 Heisman Trophy after posting 105 catches for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns. Quarterback Mac Jones, who posted 4,036 passing yards and 36 touchdowns this season, was a Heisman finalist.
“All the players really like him, and we just appreciate all the hard work he’s put into this program,” Jones said Wednesday. “He’s calling cool plays, but at the same time, we stick to our base rules and just follow what he wants us to do.
“And future quarterbacks, I’d just say enjoy Coach Sark,” Jones continued. “He’s a great guy. You can learn a lot about being a great person, and then also applying things to your game.”
Sarkisian said he’s relished the chance to work with Saban over the last four-plus years, in two different stints.
“This is the greatest college football coach of all time,” Sarkisian said. “He’s a tremendous mentor, and if you allow yourself to be mentored, I think you gain even more out of this experience.”
It’s an experience Sarkisian has crafted into another head coaching opportunity at another of the premier programs in the country. But the new job won’t begin in earnest until the 2020 season is complete, he said.
“At the end of the day I’m excited about the opportunity to go to Texas, but my focus is on this ballgame.”
–Field Level Media