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Contemplating the Tribulations and Ultimate UW Legacy of Steve Sarkisian

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The shocking dismissal of USC head coach Steve Sarkisian recasts the legacy that he leaves behind at the University of Washington

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

This is not a tragedy, at least not by today's standards.

Buses have not crashed.  Bridges have not fallen.  Towns have not flooded.  Cancer has not been diagnosed.  Nobody has died.

All that has happened today is that a case of substance abuse has once again derailed a promising career and divided a man's family.

Tragic?  No.  But somber, nonetheless.

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The news that Steve Sarkisian has been fired from his post at USC after only one and a half seasons in his "dream job" is sad.  The fact that it comes just days after he suffered defeat at the hands of the program that gave him his big break - and will likely go down as the only such matchup he'll have in his career - makes it even more bitter.  This news is relevant to Washington because it distracts attention from what was a great upset engineered by Chris Petersen just as it casts a pall over the five seasons that Sark gave to UW.

This blog has been filled over the past two years with some divisive and fiery debates as to how Sark's tenure should be viewed in the light of history.  As interesting and emotional as that discourse has been, its time has come to an end.   With Sarkisian removed from the conference and unlikely to be an active head coach anywhere in the near future, we as a fanbase can close this chapter and move on.  We are able now to look at his time here with a bit more objectivity while not overcome by the emotions that his shortcomings or the nature of his departure may elicited.  This may be the only good that has come from the events of today.

History doesn't remember the spin that fans will subject those facts to and, soon, neither will we.


So, let's begin.  Steve Sarkisian inherited an 0-12 team in 2009 and proclaimed that "it wasn't going to take very long" to rehabilitate the spiraling Husky program.  In his first game, a home slate against a highly ranked LSU team, Sark's Huskies put up a spirited fight that ended in a much closer loss than what was expected.  A few weeks later those same Huskies delivered a win for the ages with an upset victory over #3 USC.

One year later, Sark would return the Huskies to the post-season.  He delivered 28 conference victories in his five years.  That is one more victory than the total of what three different coaches had delivered in the previous nine.  He beat eight top 25 teams.  In 2013, he delivered the most prolific offense in UW history.  He sent nine players to the NFL draft including two first rounders (and he gets credit for recruiting four others).  He won four of five Apple Cups.

Those are simply facts.  They are achievements that will go down in Husky lore.  History doesn't remember the spin that fans will subject those facts to and, soon, neither will we.

Of course, we all know that there was so much more left not achieved.  He wasn't perfect. Sark never finished better than third in the North.  He was prone to playing up or down to his opponent.  He struggled to put a quality defense on the field.  He never came close to beating Oregon.  He never took Washington to the heights that the Dawgfather did.

Perhaps that's it, then.  The legacy of Steve Sarkisan at UW is that he never equaled the accomplishment and stature of Don James.

Geez.  No pressure.

The fact of the matter is that Steve Sarkisian donned the purple and gold.  He jumped in when the program was in the depths of its darkest times and when no other established coach would.  That stands for something.

From the day that he proclaimed that it wouldn't take too long to the moment he delivered that 2009 upset over USC to the day he gave us "God's Play" and restored UW to the post-season after what seemed like an eternity away, Sark took a position for Husky football.  His tenure was not a waste.  Sports memories were born.  Sports bar and coffee shop chatter was had.  Husky pride was restored.  So was Husky Stadium.

Those are good things and they are worthy of just a little bit of sports reverence.

I realize that many Husky fans will not soon, or perhaps never, look fondly on Steve Sarkisian or the time he spent with UW.  That is understandable.  I'm not trying to turn those opinions with this article.  But today is a notable day that deserves to be marked. This day is the end of the "Seven Win Sark" debate in the Dawg Pound and across our fan base.

The evil duo of "Fate" and "Circumstance" have led Steve Sarkisian down a path that he cannot now escape on his own.  Along the way, he's been stripped of all that he - and every man - holds most sacred:  his wife, his children, his career and his dream job.  The Steve Sarkisian story has graduated from the realm of sports and now dwells in a category where phrases like "fellow man" and "compassion for others" are germane to the discussion.

But Sark is a Dawg.  And Dawgs travel in packs, never alone and never without hope.  Godspeed, Coach.  Husky nation still barks for you.  WOOF