Steve Sarkisian is emphasizing it's business usual in his final days as both offensive coordinator of Alabama's No. 1-scoring offense and incoming head coach of one of college football's most tradition-rich programs, Texas.
Seems free time likely is sparse, but Sarkisian is spending a “normal game week” preparing the top-ranked Tide (12-0) for No. 3 Ohio State (7-0) in Monday's College Football Playoffs title game while also continuing to assemble his first Longhorns staff.
“Quite honestly, my week for me would be a normal game week as if I hadn't taken the Texas job,” Sarkisian said Wednesday in a CFP Zoom session. “My focus is on the game. I'm prepping for the ballgame. Any of the spare time that I do have, that's getting my attention for the job at Texas, whether that's staffing or recruiting, things of that nature.
“But I would say my week has been as normal as it could be, and has been, of game planning and prepping for the ballgame.”
Sarkisian has a number of potential options to fill his defensive coordinator role, and he's also systematically piecing together the offensive and special teams components of his Texas staff since formally accepting the Longhorns' job last Saturday.
Yet the former Washington and University of Southern California head coach is emphasizing his primary commitment is to finishing the job with Tide coach Nick Saban to capture this championships.
“Clearly, I'm excited about the opportunity at Texas,” Sarkisian said. “It's a tremendous one for me. Looking forward to getting started there. But like the commitment I made to Coach Saban two years ago is the same commitment I've made to these players, and that's focusing on this game, giving this game the attention that it deserves so our players have an opportunity to go out and play to the best of their abilities. That's what we've always preached here, is to put our players in the best position to be successful on the field and off the field, and this week has been no different.”
Wrapping up his second stint as a Saban assistant, Sarkisian also is trying to soak up his final few days around Saban, whom he terms college football's best coach, and maintaining his role in the Alabama program.
“I think it's a two-way street; clearly, Coach Saban offers guys like myself an opportunity to come into his program, learn, develop as coaches,” Sarkisian said. “But I think it's a two-way street in that I think when you come in like a guy like myself, I think you need to come in understanding what your role is.
“I think you need to come in -- I don't want to call it necessarily humble -- but I do think there's a piece of humility that has to come into this. This is the greatest college football coach of all time, and recognize the space that you're in, regardless if you'd been a head coach for seven years, and there's been a variety of us that have come and gone through here. But he's a tremendous mentor, and if you allow yourself to be mentored, I think you gain even more out of this experience.”
Now finishing his third full season on Saban's staff, his second as the play-caller and on the verge of being the Tide play-caller in a national title game for the second time, Sarkisian believes he is ready to take with him to Texas he's learned from Alabama.
“That's all I tried to do in my time here,” Sarkisian said, “whether it was my year here in 2016 as an analyst or the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator, is, one, coach the kids and do the best job I could do coaching the kids.
“Two, really try to be a sponge with him and why he goes about what he does, some of the decisions he makes, so that if you ever get the opportunity like I'm getting now that hopefully you can take some of these things with you to be a better coach down the road.”