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July 25, 2012

Sarkisian defends offseason hires




Shortly after making his opening comments at the Pac-12 Football Media Day the Huskies' head coach took a question he had to know he would face.

"Steve, you mentioned earlier, Tosh Lupoi and the situation last January. He was recruiting a certain number of players for Cal, and literally the next day, he was recruiting those same players for you. I know it happens throughout college football, but do you consider that ethical?"

Had I been sitting in Sarkisian's chair I might have been tempted to launch into a tirade. On the relevance meter this one registered just below the question to Oregon State head coach Mike Riley about Alabama's recent success and whether the Tide can sustain it.

Sarkisian chose, probably wisely, to give a measured response.

"I think it's the business," Sarkisian responded. He later concluded, "It wasn't about stealing other schools' recruits; it was about bettering the University of Washington and for our long-term success on the football field. And I believe we've done that."

That answer wasn't going to satisfy folks in Berkeley. It probably didn't mean all was forgotten with Jeff Tedford, who had been sitting in Sarkisian's chair just minutes earlier.

Without question the answer was right. It was right on every count. Any moral outrage over hiring coaches away from another school, whatever school it is, is disingenuous. College football is indeed a business and assistant coaches move around with regularity.

Tosh Lupoi had been with the Bears just a few short years. As is the case in any profession, when a better job comes along you take it.

The timing of the hires was immediately scrutinized but Sarkisian, like any coach in his position filling out a staff, was making a decision that would affect the long-term success of his program. For any coach to make a hiring decision with just a few weeks in mind would be absurd. It makes perfect sense, however, to make hires based on proven track records and your own personal experience with the candidates. You take the best person for the job if you can afford him.

Did the offseason hires give the Huskies a recruiting edge? Of course. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college football program and games are normally won by the team with superior players. So in football terms a coach's number one job is to recruit the best players he can.

But in this day and age the Huskies' offseason hires are the last thing that should bother anyone, outside of people at Cal. With the actual scandals we've seen all over the country in recent years it seems like commentators ought to have enough to talk about without stretching a non-issue like this into a so-called ethical issue.

After all, just about every school in the nation continues to recruit prospects that are verbally committed to other schools right up until Signing Day. Recruits have 'flipped' from other schools to Cal without any controversy. Why should coaches, who have careers and families to think about, be any different?

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