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Thiel: No Surprise UW's Sark Leaving Job for USC

Elaine Thompson
Associated Press
FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2013 file photo, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian runs onto the field before NCAA college football game against Washington state in Seattle.

University of Washington head football coach Steve Sarkisian has accepted a coaching job at the University of Southern California, USC announced on Monday.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the news "wasn't a surprise."

“I believe I wrote when he was hired five years ago that he would last in this job until USC has a head-coaching vacancy,” said Art. 

After all, said Art, Sarkisian served as assistant coach under Pete Carroll at USC and is a native of the Los Angeles area. In fact, when USC parted ways with its head football coach four weeks into the season, Art said he figured Sarkisian would try for the job.

“This is sort of par for the course in big-time college football, because it’s a very predatory business, and poaching coaches has a long and sullied, and storied history in big-time college sports,” he said. “I’m sure the Huskies are going to shrug and move on. I don’t think that there’s going to be a lot of emotions around Sark leaving except by the players who did grow real attached to him.”

Why Leave? More Money, More Prestige

Art says for Sark, the USC position is "basically his dream job, his hometown job."

"And USC will pay him more money than Washington could seriously think about,” said Art. “Steve is the highest-compensated employee in the state [of Washington]. USC can do him a lot better.”

Since USC is a private school, it doesn’t face the same salary constraints as public institutions, said Art.

And there’s something else: prestige.

“Washington fans don’t like to hear this, but the Huskies job is a stepping stone to other jobs. It is not a destination job yet. It used to be and it could be, but it isn’t right now,” said Art.

Possible Replacements

So who might the Huskies hire to replace Sarkisian? Art says there is an in-house candidate, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

“But he’s also in his mid-30s, as Sarkisian was when he was hired. And when you hire somebody that young who’s never been a head coach before, which is the case with Wilcox, he is going to be going through a steep learning curve as a head coach, as Sarkisian did,” said Art.

What about Jim Mora? Is there a chance Mora would leave UCLA and come back?

“You know, that would be a real chuckle,” said Art, adding it would be a “very remote possibility.”

Mora has had very successful two years at UCLA, but he is a UW alum and a Seattle native.

“I think it’s also unlikely for him to leave after two years at UCLA," said Art. "But this is, again, big-time college coaching. Never say never to anything."


You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.