This certainly isn’t how first-year USC head football coach Steve Sarkisian hoped his tenure with the Trojans would begin. Just days before the team is set to open the 2014 season, the 40-year-old finds himself and the football program surrounded by controversy.
The week began with the story of cornerback Josh Shaw, who claimed he suffered two high ankle sprains as he saved his drowning nephew. In a story posted on the USC website, Sarkisian praised his senior captain, calling him “heroic.” On Wednesday, Shaw admitted that his account of what happened was a lie, and the school immediately suspended him for an indefinite period of time.
“We are extremely disappointed in Josh," Sarkisian said. "He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story.”
On Thursday, Sarkisian lost another senior, as Anthony Brown quit the team. The cornerback turned running back wasn’t a star like Shaw, and he was behind Buck Allen, Tre Madden and Justin Davis on the depth chart. However, his exit has made national headlines. In an Instagram post, Brown said left the football team because he could no longer play for the Trojans head coach.
“Sark treated me like a slave in his Office…Can’t play for a racist MAN!!!!! #Fighton”
Multiple USC players have come to Sarkisian’s aid, defending him on Twitter. Still, this clearly isn’t what the head coach had in mind for opening week.
Sarkisian came to USC in December, leaving Washington after five seasons. He’s attempting to lead the school back to the top of college football following NCAA violations that caused the program to have its 2004 BCS Championship vacated.
The Trojans enter the 2014 college football season with high expectations. They rank No.15 in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll, looking to compete with the likes of Oregon, UCLA and Stanford for the Pac-12 Title. The program was seeking stability following the firing of Lane Kiffin during the season, and after popular interim head coach Ed Orgeron was not brought back.
The Trojans are scheduled to being their season on Saturday when they host Fresno State at the Coliseum.