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December 2, 2013 at 11:22 AM

UW’s Steve Sarkisian leaving for USC head-coaching job

UW coach Steve Sarkisian. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

UW coach Steve Sarkisian. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

Steve Sarkisian has been named the head coach at USC, the USC athletic department announced Monday afternoon.

Sarkisian, the Washington head coach since 2009, met with UW players at the Husky Stadium football offices at 2 p.m. to inform them of his decision to leave.

UW senior quarterback Keith Price said he found out about Sarkisian’s decision earlier Monday from reports on social media.

“He said he was doing it for his family,” Price said after the meeting. “I’m not mad at him.”

UW athletic director Scott Woodward then addressed the team after Sarkisian said his goodbye.

“On behalf of the University of Washington, I want to thank Steve Sarkisian for the past five years of service to our institution,” Woodward said in a statement. “Steve has led the rebuilding of our program to new heights and we are in a much better position than when he arrived. I am happy for Steve and his family as they can return home and I wish them the best of luck in the future.”

Sarkisian will not coach the Huskies in their still-to-be-determined bowl game this month. A press conference to introduce him at USC is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday.

“First, I’d like to thank the University of Washington and athletic director Scott Woodward for the opportunity they gave me five years ago,” Sarkisian said in a statement. “I believe the Husky program is in a better place now than when we arrived, and I am proud and thankful of the players for that.

“That said, I am extremely excited to be coming home to USC and for the opportunity that USC presents to win championships. I can’t wait to get started.”

Sarkisian, 39, spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at USC under Pete Carroll in the 2000s. He was 34 when he landed his first head-coaching job with the Huskies in 2009, taking over a UW team that finished 0-12 in 2008.

“We are delighted to welcome Steve Sarkisian back to the Trojan Family,” USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement. “We conducted a very exhaustive and thorough search, pinpointing about 20 candidates and interviewing five of them. We kept coming back to Sark. He is the only one who was offered the job. I believe in my gut that he is the right coach for USC at this time.”

“The search for Steve’s successor has already begun,” Woodward said. “I will work hard in the coming days to find the absolute best fit for the University of Washington but I will not comment on or speculate about the process. We have tremendous tradition, fan base and a world-class institution, and I am confident we will find the right man.  We will compete for Pac-12 and national championships and we will do so with class, integrity, sportsmanship and a commitment to our student-athletes. That promise is at the forefront of my mind as I embark on finding our next football coach.”

At USC, Sarkisian will take over for interim coach Ed Orgeron, who was named to replace the fired Lane Kiffin in September.

Sarkisian is 34-29 in five seasons at UW. He just finished his best season with the Huskies, with Friday’s 27-17 victory over Washington State leaving UW with an 8-4 record in the regular season.

A Torrance, Calif., native, Sarkisian played baseball briefly on partial scholarship at USC for one season before eventually landing at BYU as a quarterback. He then joined Carroll’s staff at USC in 2001.

Sarkisian becomes the first UW coach to leave voluntarily for another job since Darrell Royal departed for Texas following the 1956 season. Since then, six UW coaches either retired or were fired.

Under his current employment contract with the UW, Sarkisian faces penalties for breaching his contract and leaving early.

The contract states that should Sark leave before the end of his third contract year – Jan. 31, 2014 – he “shall pay the University $1,500,000.”

But if Sarkisian leaves after that date, he’ll only be penalized $1 million, the contract says.

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