Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Oct 2015

USC Fires Steve Sarkisian

At first, USC was going to let Steve Sarkisian get his life together and get over his alcohol addiction, but apparently the problem is too big for that. So USC fired Sarkisian today. There's plenty that can be said about the man's personal battle, but from a football standpoint this also opens up one of the top jobs in college football -- and one that's particularly enticing to NFL coaches who might be looking to go back to the college game. Let the Chip Kelly speculation begin.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 12 Oct 2015

62 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2015, 1:31pm by fest201620


by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/12/2015 - 6:40pm

While I certainly understand firing someone for poor performance, the way this was handled leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, you know? Maybe he'd been offered multiple opportunities to rehab and blew them off, but this coming a few days after him pretty much publicly being sent for treatment seems kind of icky.

by duh :: Mon, 10/12/2015 - 6:58pm

If he was drunk during games /practices, as has been alleged, it may be that it violated university policy (drunk while with minors / students kind of thing)leaving them no choice. I do agree it is all very ugly.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/12/2015 - 10:09pm

I can understand the sentiment, but what seems a lot more icky to me is taking 4.2 million dollars, and then being drunk while you are supposed to be earning your pay. If Pat Haden really cared about this guy, he would have fired him in August, after his stand up act in front of the boosters. Addicts need to confront the damage that their behavior inflicts, and losing a great job significantly increases the odds of that happening. If Sarkisian gets sober, odds are he'll have decades of a great life to look forward to. Getting fired actually gives him a better chance of enjoying that.

Frankly, Haden's performance here is inexcusable as well. If he didn't have a contract written which gave him broad leeway to fire Sarkisian for coduct like Sarkisian exhibited in August, that's on Haden. If the contract had such language, and he didn't take extremely stern measures after that event, even if short of firing, that's on Haden. If Haden didn't thoroughly investigate Sarkisian's history after the August event (we'll ignore the fact that it should have been done pre-hire for now), and obtain full understanding of the depth of this this guy's addiction, that's on Haden. I'd wager a large amoung of money that between that August evening, and yesterday, Sarkisian has gotten behind the steering wheel while being very drunk. A steering wheel being paid for by USC.

Haden has to go as well, it seems obvious to me. This is just a monumental f*ck-up. How they trust him to hire the next guy seems inexplicable.

by Independent George :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:18am

I don't follow NCAA football at all, so I don't know anything about the events you're referencing, but I agree with you completely.

This is honestly a rather painful subject for me - and, statistically, I would guess I'm not alone in this - but addicts don't like confront reality. They want to continue doing their job believing nothing is amiss, and they can go on as they were, regardless of the evidence showing otherwise. They will not stop until they are forced to.

If Sarkisian was off the wagon in August, there is no way he was going to remain sober during the season. Prolonging the misery was only ever going to make things worse for everybody. If I were a parent of one of the players, I'd be out for blood right now - not because of Sarkisian, but because of Haden.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 11:15am

Anybody who drives where Sarkisian drives should be out for Haden's blood. It sounds as if Sarkisian is pretty close to being a blackout drunk (it's being reported that in response to the win over Notre Dame last year, he "celebrated" by drinking 750 ml of tequila), and those are the guys who are really dangerous. For all the effort sometimes made to catch peole who might blow a .009, the real killers are the drunks who routinely drive after getting flat out hammered. That's the addict who gets on the freeway via the exit ramp, and hits a van with 8 people in it, head on, at a combined 140 miles per hour. For Haden to observe what he observed in August, and not get to the bottom of it really quickly, and take severe measures in response, is just inexcusable.

(edit) BTW, what Haden observed in August was an obviously heavily intoxicated Sarkisian standing up in front of an audience of the program's most important boosters, along with players, assistant coaches, and families, at USC annual pre-season dinner, and go into an expletive-laden rant.

by johonny :: Mon, 10/12/2015 - 7:22pm

I hear Joe Philbin is available.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 10/12/2015 - 8:34pm

Chip Kelly may be available soon enough

by FrenchEagles :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 4:15am

Are some people seriously considering that Chip Kelly may want to leave an NFL position where he has complete power to come back to college football? I really don't understand why these college rumors start with Kelly each time a college position is opened.

By the way, Chip would have to go for a 2-14 season to be fired by Lurie, the owner loves too much his coach and can be very patient with a coach he likes (see Andy Reid).

by Charles Jake :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:16am

It's not completely unthinkable. Spurrier, Saban, and Petrino (*snicker*) all went back. And even with final say over the roster, he'd probably still have more "power" as a big name college coach simply because the dynamic with the players is different.

An object at rest cannot be stopped.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:29am

I don't know about Saban in Miami, but neither Spurrier or Petrino had the level of control in the NFL that Kelly does with the Eagles. I was not surprised that Spurrier went to the NFL, but I was surprised that he decided to put up with Snyder in order to make the move. I think that indicates what is not good about college coaching, at least for some guys; the interaction with boosters, and making sales pitches to high schoolers.

by Drunkmonkey :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 11:52am

Saban recently said that if he had been allowed to sign Drew Brees instead of letting him go to the Saints, he might still be in Miami. I think that just shows how much control he didn't have, and I really think that may be exactly why he left when he did.

by Independent George :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:24am

Because he doesn't have anything close to complete power - and that's the problem.

Professional players are just that - professionals who demand salaries and have market value outside his ability to control, and cannot be treated like the indentured servants college players are.

He doesn't have a compliant local media that will bend over backwards for him to ensure continued access.

He doesn't get to schedule his own opponents.

In short, he doesn't get the many advantages that make the college-pro transition even harder for coaches than for players.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:45am

Yeah, the downside to the NFL for head coaches, versus college coaching at a place conducive to success, entails the following, in order. 1)You don't get to take the field 50%-75% of the time (or more) against an opponent with a huge deficit of talent, relative to your roster, and with a significant disadvantage in obtaining talent. 2. You actually have to competently manage human beings who have autonomous power. It isn't at the level of the NBA or major league baseball ( both of which which require gigantic interpersonal skills), but it is a factor which is almost competely absent from college ball. 3. You have an owner who cannot be intimidated, and may be an incomptent boob with regard to football, or life in general. 4. You don't have the ability to intimidate local media and government. 5. Because of 1., and the lack of NCAA rules, you have to work a lot harder, 12 months a year.

There's a reason Jimmy Johnson, who climbed the summit at both levels, said college coaching was a helluva lot more enjoyable.

by Southern Philly :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 1:12pm

"There's a reason Jimmy Johnson, who climbed the summit at both levels, said college coaching was a helluva lot more enjoyable."

That's great for Jimmy Johnson, but Chip Kelly doesn't share that sentiment.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 1:31pm

Not yet. Jimmy probably didn't share that sentiment in his 3rd year in the NFL, either.

by Southern Philly :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 1:55pm

Not yet is key though, because USC won't be hiring him a year from now.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:02pm

I tend to agree, especially with the Eagles schedule this year. If Bradford suffers a complete collpse, however, the owner may start to have enough doubt about his coach to make it a possibility.

by Southern Philly :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:21pm

That's simply not happening.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:33pm

What, it is simply impossible for Bradford to be completely lousy, or it is simply impossible for Lurie to think, no matter how poorly Bradford plays, that Kelly's judgement with regard to NFL roster construction is sub-opitmal in important ways?

by Southern Philly :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:36pm

Lurie is not firing him after this season.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:44pm

Oh, that's the way I'd bet, for sure. To imply something like this is imossible, however, is a mistake. Nothing with regard to human decision-making is impossible, and firing Kelly is not the only way Kelly ends up not coaching the Eagles. If Bradford is bad enough to put the Eagles in last place, then maybe Lurie decides he's given Kelly too much unchecked power, and tries to delegate some to another executive, and Kelly finds it intolerable.

There is a huge, huge, huge, gap between "very unlikely" and "impossible".

by Alternator :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 4:02pm

For better or for worse, Lurie has shown a history of great loyalty to coaches who've done good things in the past; witness Andy Reid. Unless Kelly is caught in bed with an underage goat that is not his wife, he's probably safe this year.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 4:11pm

Like I said, I agree.

by Roscoe :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 5:16pm

One more important advantage to coaching a big time college program over the NFL. The NFL is designed for teams to go 8 and 8, fans want a lot more, so a lot of coaches are perpetually on the hot seat. Look down the list of NFL coaches and see how many of them were hired in just the last couple of years.

OTOH, a coach of a big time program in a good recruiting area (yes, that is mostly redundant) can pretty much stay there forever if they are moderately competent. They will always win most of their games, and have a shot at national contention often enough to keep the fans satisfied. So guys like Saban, Les Miles, Urban Meyers, Dantonio, Harbaugh, and Mora pretty much have a job for life, if they want it.

by Kal :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 4:15pm

Except all of that would be true for Kelly at USC as well.

Compliant media? Come on. The USC media was brutal to both Kiffin and Sark, and the media with Oregon was pretty bad too, even when Kelly was winning.

Scheduling opponents? Schedules are worked out 10 years in advance in college. Kelly had nothing to do with that, anyway; that was an AD decision.

The big deal to me is that Kelly hated everything about college football other than the actual coaching. He hated recruiting, and was famously bad at it. He hated boosters. He didn't like dealing with media (still doesn't). He hated that he had to manage these kids academic lives. Why he'd want to go back to college to deal with this is insane, especially at USC where if anything the things he hates (boosters, academics, media) are significantly worse than they were at Oregon.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 4:54pm

No, schedules are not made out 10 years in advance in college. They are made out very conditionally, and then change with some frequency. Usually, about 2-4 years out is pretty set in stone, but even then you'll see changes sometimes. At the right schools, yu still have the comforting knowledge that at least half your opponents won't even come close to your talent level, and have little chance of ever doing so.

I would agree that USC is a different college job, it being right in the middle of the 2nd largest media market in the country. Why would he want to go back? For the same reason Saban did. It's kind of nice starting the year with half your games won, with near 100% certainty, esecially if you get a taste of 7-9 in the NFL, even if you did a petty good job.

by Kal :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 9:23pm

USC is much more constrained in scheduling. They have 9 games decided right off the bat, plus Norte dame, plus high profile fbs teams they have never backed out of. Their schedule is currently set through 2021. And the coach has zero say.

Saban loved college. Kelly never did. Kelly loves football.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:38pm

Andy Reid was a good coach, though.

by bigpoppapump :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 7:00am

"Addicts need to confront the damage that their behavior inflicts, and losing a great job significantly increases the odds of that happening. If Sarkisian gets sober, odds are he'll have decades of a great life to look forward to. Getting fired actually gives him a better chance of enjoying that."

Is there a link to the research you're citing here?

Thanks in advance.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 9:37am

You think Sarkisian lacks the cognitive function needed to understand that getting fired was bad, and that his addiction is what led to him getting fired?

by PirateFreedom :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 9:39am

I too am curious if you have anything beyond common sense and anecdote to support "losing a great job significantly increases the odds of that happening"

I'm not arguing that Sarkinson is an idiot, I'm wondering if there is any epidemiological type data supporting the effectiveness of firing people to help them.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:12am

Google "operant conditioning".

by PirateFreedom :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:45pm

google "answer the question"

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:56pm

No, I am not gong to take the time to cite the specific academic journals which have published data with regard to operant conditioning. Have a nice day.

by PirateFreedom :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 7:06am

The claim I was curious about seems to have been a paraphrase of your actual words.
Your actual words don't seem to make the exact claim I was inquiring about and I apologize for not going back to your original words before making that inquiry.

by Independent George :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:32am

I don't have any stats on the specific scenario you're describing, but when you send someone to rehab, they always tell you to expect them to backslide, and to do your best to keep them from being in a position to hurt anyone if/when they do. Less than 10% of people coming out of rehab will go six months without a relapse. And that's the best-case scenario - people with family and friends looking out for them (and who could afford to send them to a reputable private facility), and who don't have the pressures associated with a Pac-10 coaching gig.

The chances of Sarkinson getting sober now is less than 10%, but the chances of it happening without being fired was precisely zero.

by PirateFreedom :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:54pm

My company has had some success not firing people in similar circumstances but rather forcing them into treatment. If a guy is fired than that lever is gone.

I would actually like to see some good data supporting the humanitarian case for firing people.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 4:10pm

Head coach of a major football program really isn't a position where forced treatment is a possibility which does not significantly damage the organization's chances of accomplishing it's mission, and the head coach in this matter does not have a track record which it makes it worthwhile for the organization to take that chance. Your company isn't being compassionate, or if they are, it is a secondary effect. They have decided that their policy is good for business. However, they aren't in the business of attracting the rarerest of rare talents among the nation's 18 year olds, with 25 of the nation's other best salesmen to such talents, in constant, cuththroat, competition. Sarkisian was likely jobless the moment a highly sought after recruit tweeted he was decommitting from USC.

If the opportunity to still have a football coachung career isn't a good enough incentive for Sarkisian to accept the treatment available to him today, then it is hard to imagine what professional incentive would have been sufficient.

by bigpoppapump :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:29am

No, I don't have an opinion on his mental faculty.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:48am

Well, assuming his mental faculties are at least at the level of a mollusk, negative stimuli will increase the chances of decreasing the behavior which is perceived to be producing the negative stimuli.

by bigpoppapump :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:54am

Yeah, the sentiment "at least the firing might be a wake up call" is something most people will agree with. I guess it was the overweening tone which led to the confusion that there was some definitive, one-size-fits-all diagnosis for the world's "addicts".

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 11:19am

What is "overweening" about noting that when an organisim is engaging in activity which is suboptimal, introducing negative stimuli increases the chances that the suboptimal activity will cease?

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 11:30am

Conditioning requires an almost immediate application of stimuli. Firing a guy while he's in rehab and sober (for the minute) isn't conditioning him to not drink.

Proper application of conditioning would be to fire the guy while he was wasted on stage.

That being said, he needed to be fired and hit rock bottom.

by Independent George :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 11:55am

But isn't Will arguing that he should have been fired while he was wasted on the stage, and not while he's in rehab and sober (for the moment)?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 12:00pm

Employment law being what it is (and it is largely good that it is the way it is in this regard) precludes maximizing immediacy, but immediacy doesn't need to be maximized for punishment to have some value, even if not maximum value. The next day is pretty immediate, if the message is transmitted immdiately that punishment is a likely outcome.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:43pm

Addicts are, presumably, not Pavlov's dogs. I'm far from certain that the firing will be good for either Sarkisian or USC (which had improved as a program during his tenure no matter how much alcohol he consumed).

Addicts are people, and every one of them has a different experience and spouting self-help language is not going to help all of them. Heck, trying to stop drinking may not help all of them.

I'm not an expert, but I find the pontificating that goes on whenever someone famous has a few too many to be a bit precious. Sarkisian is fairly obviously out of control, and Haden probably knows more than we do about him. Haden may even have learned more between "leave of absence" and "You're Fired."

We should not presume that we know what is best for USC or Sarkisian based on a few after school specials and paragraph-long news snippets.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 3:53pm

Of course, I specifically implied it wasn't certain, so you are debating the accuracy of an assertion I didn't make. Having a head coach who drinks a bottle of tequila in response to winning a game is bad for USC's business model, period, because the liability exposure is simply intolerable. That's not "pontificating". That's "accounting".

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 6:45pm

My post was not meant to target you specifically. Obviously, liability issues are important, although lots of people drink lots of tequila without causing any.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 11:55am

Firing him, or suspending him. the morning after a drunken rant, or when he shows up for work drunk, is pretty immediate. "Immediate" and "not immediate" does not have a bright line with regard to adult humans. I agree that the longer the interval between the unwanted behavior, and the punishment, the smaller the chance the unwanted behavior will disappear.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 6:57pm

Will, you can spout off all you want about "operant conditioning" and addiction but you obviously know nothing about either. Operant conditioning (or what you are arguing for, which is really closer to classical conditioning) is only effective if there are repeated instances of stimulus and response. Firing someone from a job does not induce conditioning because it only happens once (per job). Being fired could be a "wake-up call" for Sarkisian, or it could reinforce his downward spiral into guilt, depression, and ongoing substance abuse.

In general, firing an addict from their job is a really poor way of preventing them from further relapse, because it turns out that when one is trying to stay away from substance abuse, having entire days of unstructured time for an indefinite period (aka being unemployed) isn't helpful. In other words, sitting on your ass at home all day for weeks on end is the worst place for an addict to be. Meanwhile, having a job provides a daily routine, responsibilities, social interaction, a sense of worth, plus in a very literal sense it keeps you busy, and it makes you tired so you sleep when you are supposed to. Now, I'm not necessarily saying Sarkisian shouldn't have been fired- every individual situation is unique, and maybe it was the best thing to do in this case. But please take your blanket statements about "operant conditioning" and your ignorant sanctimony about addiction and recovery elsewhere.

And since some people above asked for sources, here are some links:

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 7:06pm

After Steve Sarkisian completes treatment, he'll only be sitting on his ass if that is what he wants to do. He's been the head coach of USC, with the number 1 ranked recruiting class in the nation. If he wants a job, in any number of capacities, he'll have one in 5 minutes. You are spouting off stuff that is completely, absolutely, at odds with observable reality.

If you are saying children usually need to touch a hot stove more than once, which is, yes, an example of operant conditioning, in order to avoid the exprience further, well, we'll have to disagree.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 8:05pm

What did I say that is at odds with observable reality? I never said he won't be able to get a job after treatment. I didn't even say I disagreed with his firing. All I said is the idea that firing an employee in response to relapse is not necessarily an effective response in most cases, and Sarkisian's sobriety might be better served by remaining employed rather than being unemployed. It's not so cut and dried.

As for a child touching a hot stove, well I'm glad you took the time to read the Wikipedia article on Operant conditioning, but you still clearly don't understand it. Yes, a child touching a hot stove will learn to avoid it after one touch. That's a very powerful and immediate positive punishment. But your point about Sarkisian's job prospects undermines your point about conditioning. If it's so easy for him to get another job, then the loss of his current job isn't all that effective as conditioning, because it's a negative punishment which deprives him of something he can easily restore. The "child touching a hot stove" parallel would be punishing a child for poking a stick into a campfire by taking away the stick. He can get another stick. And as proof, we've seen many, many college coaches fired for NCAA infractions who proved to be repeat offenders because being fired from a job when you can easily get another job just isn't very good conditioning.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/13/2015 - 9:33pm

Lemme get this straight. You referenced a circumstance, an addict being unable to obtain the structural benefit of highly compensated, highly relevant, employment, as a result of being fired from his present job, due to his behavior while in a state of intoxication. This circumstance has absolutely zero, none, nada, applicability to the situation we are discussing, and this is evidence of my "spouting off" about things which I am ignorant of? Huh? Excuse me, but what the hell are you talking about? Might it occur to you that if we were discussing a different situation, where the addict would be reduced to a state of involuntary unemployment,that would be a factor in my assertion that firing the addict provided the best chance of getting sober? Let me help you out. Rob Gronkowski, getting hit really, really, hard by a Green Bay Packer, as Gronkowski firmly clutches a pass from Tom Brady, in an end zone, at some point in February, 2016, would hugely increase the chance of Rob Gronkowski having an excellent February 2016. If I get get hit really, really, hard by a Green Bay Packer, at some point in February, 2016, I can assure you that my February 2016 is going to suck. Thus ends today's logic lesson.

I am glad you acknowledge that you were inaccurate when you asserted that negative operant conditioning requires repeated exposure to the negatve outcome, even if you chose to make that acknowledgement in a somewhat pointlessly snarky manner. I never stated that such conditioning, especially as it relates to addiction and employment, is foolproof, of course, and freely acknowledge that it very often doesn't work. Most attempts, of every description and kind, to modify the addict's addictive behavior, fail. If you need the testimonials from addicts for whom it did work, however, with the first firing, I'd be happy to spout them off to you.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 2:10pm

You still don't understand conditioning. The word "negative" when used in reference to conditioning doesn't mean aversive. It means the removal of a stimulus, which may be either desirable or aversive. While in some unusual cases conditioning can set in after just a single instance, those cases always involve a powerful positive punishment (or negative reward, but that's basically limited to torture i.e. removal of a painful stimulus). You can't induce conditioning through a single instance of negative punishment, which mean removal of a desirable stimulus. This is why most addicts don't immediately turn their lives around after getting fired, a shocking revelation I'm sure.

As to offer to find testimonials, I'm sure you easily could but I'm not interested in reading cherry-picked anecdotes. The point is that (as I have already linked above) the research implies that addicts who are employed are likely better able to maintain sobriety than those who are unemployed, your misguided ravings about conditioning notwithstanding.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 3:24pm

Yes, I understand. You wish to dismiss those instances where the painful experience of losing a job conditioned a person to not engage in the behavior again, because you want to win an argument. Most addicts don't turn their lives around at all, no matter what is tried, so the fact that getting fired doesn't produce the desired effect most of the time tells us exactly nothing, with regard to the loss of a job, relative to other approaches to getting people to stop intoxicating themselves. Do you undertand this? Letting people keep their jobs, while using their employment status as a "lever" (as you put it) to alter their behavior, doesn't work with most addicts, either.

The research you are raving about no applicability to this matter, because we are not talking about someone who will be unemployed, unless he consciously decides that he does not want to be employed. If that is the case, it would not have a made any difference if Sarkisian had been fired, because guess what? A person who doesn't to be employed quits his job. Read carefully. The set known as "Steve Sarkisian, unemployed person" does not exist, unless Steve Sarkisian wants to be unemployed. Yes, a person losing the structure of employment, unable to to find suitable work, may well be a hindrance to maintaining sobriety. That doesn't apply here.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 6:50pm

1. I never used the word "lever" (or the concept of using employment as a lever), that was someone else..
(2. This is a tangent, but I'm well aware that most addicts are not able to achieve sobriety through a single treatment episode, although if they live long enough most addicts do eventually stop using drugs, whether due to the accumulated effects of multiple treatment episodes, or hitting "rock bottom," or lifestyle changes associated with aging, or a combination thereof, or due to other mysterious forces collectively classified as "spontaneous remission." That's just for clarification, but it's not the point of what I'm saying.)
3. Yes, I am dismissing anecdotal instances where a person being fired caused them to stop using drugs, because especially on this of all websites, I care about hard data not anecdotes. I cited research above to indicate that in general firing a person from their job is likely counterproductive if the goal is achieving sobriety. You responded that you can provide anecdotes where it worked sometimes. So what? If letting someone keep their job is more likely to lead to sobriety than firing them is, then what relevance is it that some people who lost their jobs benefited from being fired? Especially when you acknowledge that neither strategy works most of the time anyway.
4. Now all that being said, in Sarkisian's specific case I personally would lean toward saying that firing him is more likely to lead to sobriety than allowing him to remain in his job, due to the unique power and authority inherent in being a big-time college head coach which prevented him from facing any real consequences for his actions (as well as other factors such as the intense work and travel schedules which interfere with healthy daily routines). But I would certainly not attribute any anticipated improvement to "conditioning" from a single instance of punishment. That's ridiculous. If Sarkisian does benefit from losing his job, it will be because he was removed from an enabling environment where his addiction-related behaviors were overlooked or excused and he was never meaningfully held accountable for his actions. (Consider the counterfactual where Hayden asks Sarkisian to take a leave of absence but lets him retain his job in the interim. They could even keep it secret, let everyone think it was Sarkisian's idea. That's is far less of a dramatic punishment, and far less possibility of effective conditioning. Are you seriously going to argue that Sarkisian would be significantly less likely to achieve sobriety in this hypothetical scenario than he will be in real life, having been fired?)

by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 10:00pm

"So what?"? Well, because we are discussing an individual here, named Steve Sarkisian, not someone called "in general". Furthmeore, I never stated that being fired would be the "cause" of sobriety, or the "single instance" of punishment would suffice, so it is pointless to tell me that you are dismissing such anecdotes. In fact I specifically implied otherwise, several times, by saying that treatment would also be a factor which would increase the chance of success.

I said,in my first post, that getting fired from a "great job", meaning a job like Sarkisian's, greatly increases the chances of the addict getting a full understanding of the damage the addiction was causing, and that such a understanding is critical to achieving sobriety. This statement has the virtue of total, 100%, absolute, accuracy. Your response to that this 100% accurate statement was to say I was spouting off about things which I was ignorant of, while later conceding, that, well, yes, firing Sarkisian makes a helluva lot of sense, because his position as head coch at USC is such that facing consequences is problematic. Not for the first time in this interaction, I am forced to say, in an effort to grasp your use of language, "Huh?".

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 11:02pm

1. You claim you never stated that being fired would be the "cause" of sobriety, or the "single instance" of punishment would suffice, but you did say that being fired would serve as effective conditioning against drug use and used the example of a child touching a hot stove as effective conditioning after a single instance. So which is it- is being fired like touching a hot stove or isn't it?

2. In your first post you said, "Addicts need to confront the damage that their behavior inflicts, and losing a great job significantly increases the odds of that happening. If Sarkisian gets sober, odds are he'll have decades of a great life to look forward to. Getting fired actually gives him a better chance of enjoying that." I agree that confronting the damage an addict's behavior inflicts is an important step in recovery, but your comment about how losing a great job significantly increases the odds of that happening is contradicted by your later assertion that Sarkisian can easily get another job anytime he wants. So which is it- does being fired force Sarkisian to confront his damaging behavior, or can he easily get another job? Or are both somehow true? Because being a professional substance abuse counselor, I can assure you that addicts are extremely good at finding ways to avoid having to confront the damage their behavior inflicts. In an addict's mind getting fired is usually someone else's fault. Sarkisian probably thinks he just got railroaded after already having an agreement to take a leave of absence. He's probably angrier at Hayden than he is at himself. And being able to get another job easily is not going help with that.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/14/2015 - 11:31pm

It is very puzzling to me that you cannot grasp that losing a great job might be a very, very, painful experience, even if the person fired is able to get another very good job, and thus you think that there is some contradiction in saying that a very employable person can have his chances of achieving sobriety significantly increased by losing that great job, by facing the damage that his addcition has caused. I honestly don't undestand your use of logic, and your grasp of sets, that you seem to have errantly concluded are mutually exclusive.

Yes, addicts tend to lie to themselves with great frequency and energy, which is why they tend to stay addicted, no matter what course is pursued, but that doesn't disprove the assertion (which you actually have agreed with, all your very, very, bizarre potestations aside) that losing a great job like Sarkisian's will significantly increase the chance that Sarkisian will confront the damage his behavior has caused, and thus increase the chance that he will stop intoxicating himself. Again, I honestly don't understand how you are employing language, or your logical processes.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 10:03am

It's very puzzling how you continue to argue and continue to insult people when you clearly don't understand conditioning and the requirements thereof.

You have an impressive ability to argue - but we're not in court here - it's ok to admit that you're wrong. You don't have to keep doubling down, and you don't have to be an ass about it.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 1:37pm

If you can diagram the following sentences, and explain how....

" Addicts need to confront the damage that their behavior inflicts, and losing a great job significantly increases the odds of that happening. If Sarkisian gets sober, odds are he'll have decades of a great life to look forward to. Getting fired actually gives him a better chance of enjoying that."

....differs significantly in meaning from....

"Now all that being said, in Sarkisian's specific case I personally would lean toward saying that firing him is more likely to lead to sobriety than allowing him to remain in his job, due to the unique power and authority inherent in being a big-time college head coach which prevented him from facing any real consequences for his actions (as well as other factors such as the intense work and travel schedules which interfere with healthy daily routines)."

.....please, by all means, do so. No, we aren't in a courtroom. However, even outside of court, words have meaning. My intitial statement is really close in meaning to what the person, who adopted an insulting tone with me, in his first post (are you also so lacking in knowledge of human interaction, that you expect the decision to adopt such an insulting tone won't be answered in kind? Really?), eventually, after many posts, said was his position, with regard to the situation being discussed in this thread. He agreed with my initial position the entire time, and yet decided to adopt an insuting tone with me, in his initial post, rather that simply say, "Golly, I kind of agree with what you wrote in your first post, but would differ with you, with regard to how you employed the term "conditioning".

Yes, it is ok to admit that you are wrong. Are you willing to do so?