USC has prevailed in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed against the university by former head football coach Steve Sarkisian, who claimed he was wrongfully fired instead of receiving time off to seek treatment for alcoholism.
An arbitrator reviewing the lawsuit ruled in the university’s favor. The website TMZ, citing copies of arbitration documents, reported that the arbitrator determined Sarkisian “must bear sole responsibility for having actively concealed from USC his claimed disabilities.”
USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann said in a statement, “We are pleased that the arbitration has reached its rightful conclusion and we wish Steve Sarkisian well.”
Sarkisian, now the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, said in a statement he is “disappointed in the decision, but we will respect it and move on.”
“Much gratitude to everyone who has shown their support and stood by me,” he said. “The last two years have been trying, but I am in now a great place, healthy, happy and loving my job with the Falcons and have the support of my family and friends and that’s where my focus is and will remain.”
Sarkisian sued USC in December 2015, two months after he was fired by the university. Sarkisian, who was USC head football coach from December 2013 until October 2015, alleged breach of contract, discrimination based on disability, failure to accommodate him for his disability and retaliation.
The suit claimed the university “kicked him to the curb” instead of supporting Sarkisian “when he needed its help the most.” The suit contended that USC owed Sarkisian at least $12.6 million under his coaching contract and a marketing agreement.
At the time, USC officials decried the lawsuit, saying Sarkisian “repeatedly denied to university officials that he had a problem with alcohol, never asked for time off to get help and resisted university efforts to provide him with help.”
He was fired one day after being placed on indefinite leave amid rumors of continuing troubles with alcohol. Sarkisian’s struggles became public during USC’s annual “Salute to Troy” preseason pep rally on Aug. 22, 2015, when the seemingly intoxicated coach slurred his words during a speech to the crowd, criticized several opposing teams and used an expletive before uttering the USC rally call, “Fight On.”
Sarkisian later apologized, blaming the incident on a mixture of alcohol and medication.
Reports also circulated that year that Sarkisian may have been under the influence of alcohol during the Trojans’ game against Arizona State University, and he allegedly appeared intoxicated during team meetings following a loss to the University of Washington.
Sarkisian was replaced by Clay Helton, who remains the team’s head coach.