Head Football Coach Steve Sarkisian
In a frequently-told tale, Husky football coach Steve Sarkisian recalls his days as a young assistant traveling to face Washington at Husky Stadium. During the drive across Lake Washington, with the iconic home of the Dawgs towering ahead, Sarkisian marveled aloud at the city, the stadium and the atmosphere surrounding the UW program. A decade or so later, Sarkisian is in charge of the Washington football program he was admiring that day. And in just three years, he has re-established the kind of tough, exciting environment that was then, and is again now, so closely associated with the Husky football.
The 2011 season, Sarkisian's third as head coach, provided more highlights for his up-and-coming program. The Husky offense posted one of its most prolific seasons ever, scoring 434 points over the course of the season, the most by a UW squad since the 1991 national championship team and the second-most in school history. Quarterback Keith Price shattered several key school passing records, including touchdowns (33), completion percentage (.669) and passing efficiency (161.9). Sarkisian's offense also featured tailback Chris Polk, who became the second Husky in history to rush for 1,000 yards in three different seasons, finishing the year with 1,488 rushing yards, second-most in Washington lore.
The Huskies scored nearly 12 more points per game than they did the previous year. They also had marked improvement in passing yards (65 more yards per game) and total offense (47 more yards per game), while the team's third-down percentage improved vastly over the previous season, from 32 to 46 percent.
Sarkisian coached his team to a third straight win over Washington State in the annual Apple Cup to remain undefeated against the UW's in-state rival and to wrap up a 7-5 regular-season record and 5-4 mark in the Pac-12 North. The Huskies secured a berth in the Valero Alamo Bowl, the No. 2 game in the Pac-12 bowl lineup, where they and the Baylor Bears put on one of the greatest offense slugfests in bowl-game history.
In 2010, Sarkisian's second season in Seattle, the Huskies made another clear step forward. The Dawgs went 7-6 overall and finished third in the Pac-10 Conference with a 5-4 record. Then, in the Holiday Bowl, Washington provided one of the bowl season's top games, beating an 18th-ranked Nebraska squad, 19-7.
The win over the Cornhuskers was the last of a series of exciting, gutsy victories in 2010. The season included three Husky wins decided on the very last play of the game, plus another in which the winning score came inside the final minute. On Oct. 2, the Huskies traveled to face a USC team with revenge on its mind, having fallen the previous year in the final seconds in Seattle. But the UW repeated the feat, this time leaving no time at all on the clock as Erik Folk's 32-yard field goal capped a 61-yard drive and a 32-31 victory over the Trojans.
Two weeks later in Seattle, Washington eked out a 35-34, double-overtime victory over Oregon State. The game ended when the Beavers' pass attempt on a two-point try fell incomplete. With their backs against the wall in terms of a bowl berth, the Huskies closed out the season in dramatic fashion. After beating UCLA, 24-7, in a nationally televised Thursday night game at Husky Stadium, Washington went on the road for the final two weeks.
At California on Nov. 27, Sarkisian made perhaps his boldest play call of the year. With the Dawgs trailing 13-10 on the Bears' one-yard line with only two seconds left, Sarkisian bypassed what would have been a game-tying field goal and went for broke, giving the ball to tailback Chris Polk, who plunged over the goal line to give Washington a 16-13 victory. Finally, in the annual Apple Cup in Pullman, Jake Locker's 27-yard touchdown toss to Jermaine Kearse with 44 seconds remaining propelled the Huskies to a 35-28 win over the Cougars and granted the Dawgs their first bowl berth since 2002.
Sarkisian was introduced as the new head coach of the Washington football team on Dec. 8, 2008. From the start, Sarkisian made it clear that he didn't think it would take long to turn the program around and get it back to the high level of success that UW football has enjoyed throughout its history. In his first season, 2009, he seemed to prove that he was right.
Washington, which posted a winless season for the first time in school history the year before Sarkisian signed on, surged to a 5-7 record in 2009, an improvement of five victories over the previous year. No BCS-conference school in the nation could boast such improvement in terms of wins in 2009. And, Sarkisian's Husky squad pulled off that feat against a schedule that included 10 opponents who ended the season bowl-eligible.
Improvements came in nearly every category. Washington scored 26.1 points per game, nearly double their per-game average in 2008 (13.2). Meanwhile, UW opponents scored nearly 12 fewer points per game, dropping from an average of 38.6 to 26.7. Thus, the Huskies' average scoring margin made a drastic improvement of nearly 25 points. Total offense was up more than 110 yards per game while total defense improved to the tune of 62 fewer yards per game allowed. Rushing offense, rushing defense, passing offense, punting, punt returns, sacks, turnovers and third-down conversion rate, among others, all made marked improvement.
But most of all, owing to Coach Sarkisian's stated top goal, the Huskies played hard and earned respect from each and every opponent. The result was not only more wins, but a reinvigorated Husky Stadium and momentum that carried to 2010.
From a memorable 16-13, last-second victory over third-ranked USC, to a near-miraculous victory over Arizona thanks to a late interception. From the first shutout in the Apple Cup since 1964 (30-0 over Washington State) to a season-crowning, 42-10 victory over 19th-ranked California, the 2009 season was full of highlights and good memories.
Sarkisian came to the UW with a wealth of experience as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. His string of success is nearly unprecedented as, during his time at USC, he coached two Heisman Trophy winners and oversaw one of the nation's most consistent and dominant offenses.
Sarkisian spent 2007 and 2008 as the Trojans' assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. He had also previously served as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach (2005-06), quarterbacks coach (2002-03) and as an offensive assistant (2001) at USC, for a total of seven seasons there. During his seven seasons as a member of the Trojans' staff, the team has posted a combined 74-15 record. As offensive coordinator, his record was 22-3.
Aside from his various roles at USC, Sarkisian also spent one season as quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2004 and as QBs coach at El Camino College in Torrance, Calif., in 2000, his first coaching job.
In Sarkisian's final season with the Trojans, 2008, he helped lead USC to a 12-1 overall record, an 8-1 Pac-10 mark and the conference title. The Trojans capped the season with a 38-24 victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl and were ranked No. 3 in the final AP Top 25. USC's offense ranked No. 11 in the nation in total offense (454.69 yards per game) and 14th in scoring (37.54) while quarterback Mark Sanchez finished his college career with a 164.64 pass efficiency rating for the season, sixth-best in the nation.
In 2007, USC averaged 434.9 yards per game and scored an average of 32.6 points en route to an 11-2 overall record and a 49-17 win over Illinois in the Rose Bowl. The Trojans finished with the No. 3 ranking in the final Associated Press top 25 poll. USC quarterback John David Booty, despite missing several games with injury, was drafted in the fifth round by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2008 NFL draft.
In 2006, with Sarkisian as quarterbacks coach, Booty earned first-team All-Pac-10, leading the Pac-10 in passing efficiency and total offense. That Trojan team posted an 11-2 reocrd and closed the season with a 32-18 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl and a No. 4 ranking in the final AP poll.
In 2005, quarterback Matt Leinart won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, was a finalist for the Davey O'Brien, Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards and was a first-team All-America selection. Under Sarkisian's tutelege, Leinart set 16 USC records (including 11 Pac-10 marks and two NCAA records). The Arizona Cardinals made Leinart the 10th pick of the 2006 NFL draft. USC's 4,157 passing yards in 2005 set a school record and the Trojans finished fifth in the in passing offense with 319.8 yards per game. The 2005 USC team went 12-1, outscoring opponents 638-297 for the season. The Trojans posted a 12-1 record before falling to Texas 41-38 in a thrilling national title game in the Rose Bowl, finishing with a No. 2 final ranking.
Sarkisian spent the 2004 season as the quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders. His quarterbacks passed for more than 4,000 yards in 2004 as Oakland ranked eighth in passing in the NFL.
In 2003 as quarterbacks coach at USC, Sarkisian helped Leinart earn first-team All-American and the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year Award. Leinart also finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting while setting Pac-10 season records for TD passes (35) and consecutive passes without an interception (212). Leinart also set a school record with the highest pass efficiency rating in USC history (163.2). USC coasted to the first of two straight national championships, going 12-1. The Trojans beat Michigan, 28-14, in the Rose Bowl.
In 2002, quarterback Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy and Unitas Award en route to setting the Pac-10 career records for passing yards and total offense. Palmer was selected as the overall No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft, selected by the Cincinnati Bengals. That season, USC went 11-2 and capped the season with a 38-17 victory over third-ranked Iowa in the Orange Bowl to finish as the nation's No. 4-ranked team.
As an offensive assistant in 2001, in Pete Carroll's first season in charge at USC, Sarkisian helped the team to a 6-6 overall record and a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. Sarkisian spent the 2000 season as the quarterbacks coach at El Camino Junior College in Torrance (Calif.). Warriors quarterback Robert Hodge earned All-American honors that season and El Camino played in the CHIPs For Kids Bowl.
Sarkisian starred at the quarterback position at the prep, collegiate and pro levels. After his standout career at Brigham Young University, he was played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League for three seasons (1997-99). He had a record-setting two-year (1995-96) career at BYU, playing under legendary coach Lavell Edwards. Sarkisian completed 549-of-824 passes (66.6 percent) for 7,755 yards and 55 touchdowns in his career. His 162.0 career passing efficiency rating ranked third on the all-time NCAA list.
As a senior in 1996, he led the nation in passing efficiency (173.6, No. 7 all-time) as the Western Athletic Conference champion Cougars went 14-1 and won the 1997 Cotton Bowl. He was the WAC Offensive Player of the Year in 1996, earned second-team All-America honors and played in the East-West Shrine Game and Hula Bowl. As a junior in 1995, he earned all-conference honors and led BYU to the WAC title.
As a senior at BYU, Sarkisian actually faced his current team in Husky Stadium, on Sept. 14, 1996. That day, his Cougars suffered their only loss in their 14-1 season, falling to the Huskies, 29-17. Sarkisian completed 23-of-35 passes for 279 yards, no interceptions and two touchdowns.
Sarkisian transferred to BYU from El Camino Junior College, where he played two seasons (1993-94). He was a first-team Junior College All-America selection as a sophomore and earned all-conference honors in 1993 as a freshman. He also played baseball at El Camino in 1993. He originally enrolled at USC as a baseball player, spending the fall of 1992 on the Trojans' roster before transferring.
Sarkisian was a standout football and baseball player at West Torrance (Calif.) High. He earned his bachelor's degree in sociology from BYU in 1997 after receiving his associate's degree in general studies from El Camino in 1994.
Steve Sarkisian was born March 8, 1974. He and his wife, Stephanie, have two daughters, Ashley and Taylor, and a son, Brady.