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Washington's Sarkisian eyes Stanford, dismisses USC -- for now

The SportsXchange

SEATTLE, Wash. -- University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who worked at Southern California for seven years, is expected to be on the short list to replace former Trojans coach Lane Kiffin, who was fired over the weekend.

When asked about the possibility, Sarkisian said all the right things for the consumption of fans of the undefeated (4-0) and 15th-ranked Huskies. Their attention, and they hope his, is on this week's game against undefeated (4-0) and fifth-ranked Stanford in Palo Alto.

"I'm kind of glad you asked so we can get the giant elephant out of the room here," Sarkisian said, responding to reporters. "Probably should have addressed it myself."

Sarkisian worked at USC from 2001-03, again from 2005-08 and is a native of Torrance, Calif. Like other USC candidates who are currently employed elsewhere, he swore devotion to his current job, which he has done well enough to give the Huskies national recognition.

"This is an awesome place to be," Sarkisian said. "And I have never once and I will never comment on hypothetical scenarios. I know that's the world a lot of us in this room live in and that's (the media's) job to do and I understand that.

"But I've never done that in the four and a half years that I've been here and I won't do that. I have great respect for USC and the rich history and tradition that they have, but I'm proud to be the head football coach of the 15th-ranked team in America right now."

Sarkisian said he has not been contacted by USC about the opening, but these comments are coming from a man hired in secret at Washington. He missed Thanksgiving with his family in 2008 because he was on campus being interviewed for the head coaching job. Much of his family assumed he was simply working at USC.

And now it is only logical that his family, and others, wonder if he will be really working there again. Perhaps most conspicuous was what Sarkisian did not say. He did not say he wasn't interested in the USC job.

Universities use a variety of tactics to keep the interview process secretive. From hiring firms to conduct part of the discussion to housing a candidate under a pseudonym while in town, the hiring of a coach has become a process the NSA would seem to envy.

Sarkisian said he addressed the topic with the team Monday morning. He has told them throughout the season not to have any distractions. Now, he's trying to avoid being one himself while churned through the coaching rumor mill.

"Those kids are sitting at home in their dorms and their apartments and they're watching ESPN, too," Sarkisian said. "So, this is a great chance for us to show and prove that there are zero distractions. We're focused on the task at hand and the task is a big one this week and that's playing Stanford."

Oh, yeah, Stanford.

Washington travels to Palo Alto to take on the Cardinal Saturday. Last year, Washington upset Stanford 17-13 at CenturyLink Field.

"We're both different teams," Sarkisian said, meaning compared to last year. "We're new teams, have different personnel. I think the biggest thing we take out of last year's game is we know the personnel. We can talk about personnel but we're just so drastically different on both sides of the ball. We're just gathering information and now trying to apply it for the game plan."

So he is saying both teams have different personnel since they met last year, yet the biggest advantage he has is knowing the personnel. That probably makes sense on some level, or perhaps he was distracted, thinking about something else, at the time he said that.
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