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Bobby Curran

It’s A New Day For College ADs

New USC football coach Steve Sarkisian (center) with wife Stephanie and USC USC president C. L. Max Nikias during a news conference last Tuesday announcing his hiring | AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

New USC football coach Steve Sarkisian (center) with wife Stephanie and USC USC president C. L. Max Nikias during a news conference last Tuesday announcing his hiring | AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

After USC athletics director Pat Haden left a press conference announcing former Washington coach Steve Sarkasian as the new Trojan coach, Haden was asked by a reporter how he was holding up. Haden replied, “I’ve had better days.” Not what you’d expect from someone fresh off deciding on the future leader of one of the nation’s most prestigious programs. It’s reported that Haden’s first two choices turned down the job, and interim coach Ed Orgeron, who led the Trojans to a 6-2 record after Lane Kiffin’s firing, flat refused Haden’s offer to stay on as one of the highest paid assistants in the land. So miffed was Orgeron at being passed over that he resigned immediately, forgoing the chance to lead USC into a bowl game. Then there was an extremely unhappy football team to deal with who were openly rooting for Orgeron to get the job and who were talking work stoppage.

Athletic directorships sure aren’t what they used to be. At Texas A&M, athletics director Eric Hyman watched football coach Kevin Sumlin parlay USC’s interest into a six-year extension with the Aggies. On the day Sarkisian was hired, crosstown rival UCLA coach Jim Mora Jr. apparently gave his athletic director Dan Guerrero a list of demands and 24 hours to respond or he was leaving for the Washington job. The response was made, and Mora signed on for six more years also.

Could be worse, though. At UH, athletics director Ben Jay cracked three vertebrae and damaged a kidney trying to break up a Stan Sheriff Arena fight. Once upon a time, athletic directors were mostly retired coaches cruising into retirement on the golf tournament and cocktail party circuit. Now they tend to be business types responsible for hiring coaches, policing athletes, fundraising, strategic planning and courting politicians and boosters. It is a job that almost never is noticed until things go wrong. Shifting conference affiliations, television and radio contracts and the constant hunt for more revenues to build better facilities are sort of constant companions. And if football or basketball doesn’t produce enough winners and money, guess whose fault it is? It’s enough to make someone want to move to upper campus. * Lo and behold, the NCAA women’s volleyball selection committee decided to grant UH a host role for the first two rounds. UH has had higher-ranked teams sent on the road, but why quibble when it means it’s very likely that UH fans will get to see Emily Hartong two more times at the arena? Hartong will go down as one of the all-time great Wahine volleyballers, and as great a player as she is, Hartong is a terrific student and a no-drama, low-maintenance young woman. In all the years around UH volleyball, I’ve never heard Shoji hand out this compliment: “She’s the kind of girl you wish your sons would marry.”

Emily Hartong will be a very difficult player – and person – to replace.

bobbyc@hawaii.rr.com

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