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Head Husky Football Coach Sark Leaves for USC

“Bark for Sark” T-shirts are no longer for sale, not that it matters.

Steve Sarkisian, the 39-year-old head coach for the University of Washington Huskies – and the man who inspired those shirts – is leaving for the University of Southern California. 

According to statements from both universities, his duties with the USC Trojans begin immediately. He was removed from the coach roster by Monday early evening.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Sarkisian, who hails from Southern California and who spent seven years as an assistant at USC under the infamous (and somewhat legendary) Pete Carroll, including two seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator.

He spent the last five years as head coach at the University of Washington, compiling a record of 34 to 29.

Sarkisian earned $2.74 million in 2012, according to Washington state’s Office of Financial Management, a significant bump from the $1.98 million he was earning in 2010.

How much he will earn at USC may not be revealed, as it’s a private school.

Sarkisian is the first Washington coach to voluntarily leave for another position since Darrell Royal in 1956, when he departed for Texas.

Scott Woodward, athletic director at the UW, thanked Sarkisian in a statement on Monday for his five years and said the search for his replacement is already underway.

"Steve has led the rebuilding of our program to new heights and we are in a much better position than when he arrived,” Woodward said.

At USC, Sarkisian replaces interim coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron was standing in for Lane Kiffin, another assistant during the Carroll era, who was fired at the airport five games into the season.

USC athletic director Pat Haden said USC interviewed five coaches during the regular season for the job.

"We kept coming back to Sark," Haden told The Associated Press. "He is the only one who was offered the job. I believe in my gut that he is the right coach for USC at this time. He embodies many of the qualities for which we looked. He is an innovative coach who recruits well and develops players.”

USC players took to Twitter to express how they felt.

"Words can't explain how I'm feeling right now....just lost a father. Way more than a coach," tweeted USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who was named to the all-Pac-12 first team Monday. Orgeron recruited Williams out of his native Florida.

"I'm on board Sark was very close to getting me to come with him to U Dub," USC freshman tailback Justin Davis tweeted.

Washington quarterback Keith Price, of Compton, Calif., told the AP it was “business decision.”

"I'm not mad at him. His family is first,” Price said. “It would have been nice to get another game with him — my last game. But things happen. We have to move on. Whoever our coach is going to be for the bowl game, we're going to play hard. There's still a lot to accomplish this season."

Sarkisian is a Torrance native and a former quarterback for Brigham Young University who briefly played baseball at USC before three separate stints as an assistant coach. Although he had moderate success at Washington, his ties to his home state run deep: He has been an impressive recruiter in California, luring dozens of talented players to Seattle from high schools within a short drive of USC's campus.

Sarkisian arrived in Seattle planning to help Washington return to the elite of the Pac-12. The Huskies at least got back to respectability, but their attempts at finally joining the upper echelon of the conference this season were turned back in losses to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State.

Sarkisian also never defeated the Ducks in his tenure, an issue that stuck with Washington fans tired of getting beaten up by their neighbors to the south.

Reporting by AP sports writer Greg Beacham with contributions from AP college football writer Ralph D. Russo, AP sports writer Tim Booth and KUOW's Isolde Raftery.