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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


The stress of college football coaching manifests itself in many ways

Southern California coach Steve Sarkisian was fired Monday. (Associated Press / Associated Press)
Southern California coach Steve Sarkisian was fired Monday. (Associated Press / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • To paraphrase Spider-Man’s uncle, with great financial remuneration comes great responsibility. And stress. Read on.


• It’s never been easy to be a college football coach. You don’t think John Heisman lost sleep over running up the score over Cumberland College? Sure he did. A 222-0 final would bother even Chip Kelly. So add multi-million-dollar contracts and the extra layer of social media harping to a long-time mix of out-of-control boosters and ill-informed folks like me and what do you get? A job filled with stress and pressure. And a time-honored tradition to blow it off by hoisting a pint or two. Which brings us, in our usual roundabout way, to the demise of Steve Sarkisian. I only really interacted with Sarkisian in a one-on-one setting once. He was Washington’s head coach and I was doing a freelance piece for one of the national football publications. He gave me a half hour. Alone. On a stoop outside the Washington football offices. He couldn’t have been a better interview. Or nicer. Maybe it was because we had similar roots – we both played baseball in Southern California, I knew his JC coach and he had once played for a guy I had played with. Or maybe it was because I wasn’t part of the Seattle media contingent and he wanted to shove it up their noses – yes, folks do things like that – by being open with someone from outside the area. Maybe it was because he wanted to pump me for what I knew about WSU. Or maybe it was just because I caught him on a good day. Who knows? But he couldn’t have been nicer. So my opinion of him has always been colored by that day, criticism by others I respect and like be damned. No matter how I feel personally, however, about Sark the coach, Sark the man, and the demons he is currently fighting, bring out the sympathy in me. Listen, the only memory I have of my grandmother – my mom’s mom – is her bending over to kiss me and smelling so much of bourbon or whisky or whatever I wanted to gag. And run as far away as possible. She was an alcoholic who was only around as long as her liver held out. That wasn’t all that long. My mom was so straight-laced my dad used to say she went into the closet to change her mind. That’s also where she went to drink. A lot. It got worse as she got older until it finally ruined her marriage, her relationship with her only son (if you didn’t know, that would be me) and her life. She died young as well. So I have sympathy with someone like Sark, who is fighting the same demons. Alcoholism doesn’t just exist in the guy alone on the street or the mom in the back room. It’s everywhere. It’s life-destroying. It’s a disease that demands our compassion. And it’s not unknown in any high-stress industry – the definition of college football coaching. When it destroys a coach’s ability to function, a change has to be made. USC made one. Steve Sarkisian is making one, having reportedly checked himself into a residential treatment facility. Let’s pray he gets the help he needs, for his sake and for that of those close to him. As for USC football, the problem has left it in disarray. Again. It needs to dig itself out of a whole dug by a bottle. That’s not going to be easy. Nothing touched by the disease ever is.


• With Sarkisian’s firing and the retirement of Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, the coaching carousel is starting earlier in 2015. Which makes me wonder. If the Cougars continue to play to the level they’ve shown recently, will the music stop in Pullman this offseason? Mike Leach was a hot coaching commodity at Texas Tech, but was derailed by an off-field incident. He needed rehabilitation. Bill Moos and Washington State offered that. Thus far, Leach has been, in those regards, a model citizen. And a popular one with the national media. All that’s been missing is wins. Those may be starting to come. If the Cougars win six or seven games, something that is not that easy in the Palouse, will other schools come calling? Schools with larger wallets? Look, the average salary in the SEC is almost double what Leach is being paid at Washington State, so the chances he could be offered a pay raise by another school are pretty high. If there are a couple dozen coaching changes after this season, don’t be surprised if Leach’s name doesn’t surface in conversation about one or two of them. And, if there is a bunch of money involved, that he would listen. He should. After all, even if the Cougars win six or seven games this year and play in a bowl, if they fall back to two or three next season, the cry for Leach’s head will begin anew. Loyalty is no longer the name of a one-way street. Or any street for that matter. And it shouldn’t be.



• WSU: The Pac-12 announced the time of the Arizona game Oct. 24 and, lo and behold, it is at 1 p.m. again. That makes eight of the Cougars’ 12 regular season games with decent starting times. My guess is November will be filled with late-night starts. ... Jacob Thorpe shared the starting time news yesterday on Twitter (@JacobThorpeSR) and then put together this story on the Oregon State game, a first look at the Beavers and a transcript of highlights from the players’ press conferences yesterday as well as everything Leach had to say. Jacob also has a morning post with links. ... Luke Falk is No. 1 in this quarterback rating. ... Leach can certainly focus when he wants. He was focusing on the scoreboard here, making up his mind. ... A look back at the weekend that was. ... Oregon State hasn’t had much success this season under first-year coach Gary Andersen.

• Gonzaga: CBS Sports has listed its top 101 college basketball players in 2015. Only two Zags (No. 4 Kyle Wiltjer and No. 31 Domantas Sabonis) are on it.

• EWU: Idaho State picked up a big win at North Dakota last weekend. ... Montana picked up a basketball commitment this week from a Tacoma player.

• Seahawks: Let’s get right to it. The grades for the Hawks' loss at Cincinnati were dismal. And some of the snap counts seem a bit odd. ... The window of opportunity closes quickly in the NFL. Has the Hawks’ slammed shut already? ... Not if Pete Carroll has something to say about it. ... Carroll did have a little to say about his friend Sarkisian. ... Marshawn Lynch should be back this week against the Panthers. ... Seattle isn't standing pat in the secondary.

• Sounders: The Sounders' playoff hunt is in their hands. So is their seeding. ... Portland is in even rougher shape.


• That’s it for this morning. Thanks for letting me share. It was a little cathartic. Until later ...

Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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