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USC places football coach Steve Sarkisian on leave; names interim coach

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Head coach Steve Sarkisian of the USC Trojans. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES — University of Southern California head coach Steve Sarkisian is taking an indefinite leave of absence, Athletic Direector Pat Haden announced Sunday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Sarkisian did not show up to the Trojans’ practice.

“I called Steve and talked to him,” Haden told reporters after the team finished its workout. “It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence.”

Haden did not specify what led to the determination that he was not fit to continue coaching, only responding to the reporter’s question by saying, “It was apparent.”

USC is 3-2 this season after an embarrassing incident involving Sarkisian at a pep rally in August. At the “Salute to Troy” kickoff event, where he slurred words, used an expletive, and told the crowd of athletic supporters that several opponents “sucked.” He apologized the following day.

Clay Helton will be taking over as interim coach for the second time.

“We’ve been in this exact position before with Coach Helton,” an anonymous player told the Times. “The locker room mood is shocked, obviously. But the locker room is focused on what we can kind of make this season into. Like the older guys were saying, this season could be a complete disaster, or turn into an epic run like we had in 2013.”

Sarkisian left as coach at the University of Washington to take the job at USC.

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