Strange Days for Sarkisian, Roth

Yogi Roth knows Steve Sarkisian pretty well. In fact, Roth was in the room when Sarkisian was offered the Washington Head Coaching job, so it's a bit of an interesting twist that Roth will be the analyst for this weekend's Washington-Stanford game, with Sean Farnham calling the action and Samantha Steele providing sideline updates.

"I think it's going to be more strange for him than me," Sarkisian said with a smile this week. "I haven't heard him yet. I'm hoping he's not too hard on me. But he probably will be."

"I don't know if he remembers it, but when I first came on he told me that Washington is a program I would love to be a head coach at," Roth added. "They have a chance to win...the history and all those things that go along with it. And four or five years later, there it was happening - right in his office."

It's been a bit of a circuitous route for Roth too, as he's gone from walking on to the Pitt football program as a wide receiver, to working as a college football and basketball analyst for Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh, to moving west and going to graduate school at USC.

"I came to USC for grad school with the idea of working my way to be a GM in NFL," Roth said. And though he's not there quite yet, don't rule out a future in the professional ranks. He was all set to be Lane Kiffin's assistant quarterbacks coach in 2006 with the Oakland Raiders before being lured back to Troy.

The reason? Steve Sarkisian. While back in Los Angeles, Roth became Sark's right-hand man. "We would meet every day at 6 and jam on pass protections and route running and quarterback footwork," he said. "And we'd be there in his office, and I would be learning how to play the position, coach the position and all the intricacies behind it."

In 2007 and 2008, while he wasn't the quarterbacks coach in name, Roth might as well have been. "I could call the plays he would call before he called them," he said. Sarkisian would call the game; Roth would signal in the plays. It became more than just a deep level of trust between colleagues; a friendship developed between the two to the point where Sarkisian acknowledged this week that he was closer to Roth than anyone else at USC, including Pete Carroll.

"He's a really bright guy, really gets the game," Sarkisian said of Roth. "I'm happy for him. He's doing a lot of great things in his life."

During that fateful time in December of 2008 - when Sarkisian accepted the Washington 'gig', as Roth called it - he had some decisions he had to make. He'd never been a typical coach; he loved to do other things in his life. "I was young," he said. "I like to see the world. I'm young and I have the opportunity to do that right now."

Roth's grandparents are both survivors of the Holocaust. He's been a 'world traveler', to use his term. After the 2008 season, he spent a couple of months in South America, doing his part to spread the message of Carroll's "Win Forever" philosophy. He's also spent time in Israel, Australia and Bali. He clearly has plenty of interests outside the realm of college football.

But Sarkisian wanted Roth with him in Seattle. "I wanted him to come," Sarkisian said of Roth's invitation to become Washington's quarterbacks coach. "It was early on. I knew Yogi really well and I knew he knew the system really well."

"I was told I took the job before I had decided what I was going to do," Roth added with a chuckle. "It was a perfect scenario. They have a great quarterback (Jake Locker), so I probably would have gotten too much credit, to be honest. But at the end of the day I had to do what was best for me."

Roth eventually turned down the opportunity. "I looked at a lot of guys in the profession, and decided I wanted to try something else out," he said. "Coaching is an all-encompassing profession."

It was a hard decision to make, but he was happy, and Sarkisian didn't object. "There wasn't anyone happier for me," Roth said of Sarkisian. "He said, 'You're going to rip'."

Roth has decided to follow another passion; influencing kids through the celebration of college football, and more specificially the players and coaches. "I base it all on fact," he said of his style in the booth, which is a direct extension of what he learned from Carroll and Sarkisian at USC. "My job is to tell you why things happen, educate and celebrate the game. Football is a part of my life, and coaching people is part of my life. And if I could still stay in football and continue to learn the game and see it from another perspective...you don't ever want to shut out any doors.

"It's a really cool way of developing as a coach while not coaching."

Roth learned last Friday that Fox College Sports would be covering the Stanford-Washington game, and he was "jacked". Talking to Roth, it's easy to see why he got along so famously with Sarkisian. Both are high-energy, no-nonsense people that have a passion for what they do.

"He is such a great teacher, that's why it's no shock they are playing as well as they are," Roth said of Sark. The two talk at least a couple of times a week.

"Number one, I know the guy. He's a winner. And not in the sense of winning games, necessarily. He's a winner in life. He knows how to compete and to prepare. If you asked him what his philosophy as a coach versus as a player, it wouldn't change."

When you speak with Roth, it's easy to pick up a lot of insight as to why Sarkisian has tasted early success. He went to Seattle in the spring and watched Washington's practices. The biggest difference to him? The caliber of player. Other than that, he saw a lot of the same things they did at USC, but with a twist. "(Sark) is not trying to replicate SC," Roth said. "He's trying to bring what he's learned there and make it his own.

"His 'Expect to Win' mantra is true. What you believe in is naturally going to happen, and if you believe in it long enough, it forces you to prepare and play that way, to practice that way. And that's what's happened."

While earning his master's degree in communication management at USC, Roth wrote his thesis on the great coaches of the game and what made them great. His conclusion? Great coaches were great for two reasons; they were independent in their thinking and consistent in their approach.

Roth feels Sarkisian is absolutely cut from the same cloth. "He has answers," Roth said. "When you have guys that come from the NFL, they do a great job of exposing individual matchups. Sark can do that, but he doesn't get caught up in just that element of calling plays and game planning. He can see things three or four snaps in advance, like a point guard in basketball, when you see the pass before the pass that gets the assist.

"He has an incredible offensive mind. And he's innovative and he's fearless. As a football junkie, I'm just smiling from ear to ear when I'm watching those guys play ball, because they are playing their tails off."

And just like Sark, Roth is meticulous and ruthless in his preparation. "I'm preparing just like I'm coaching. It's almost like I never left. I'm not up at 6 in the office, but I might be up at 6 in the water. And I'm not in the office until 10 or 11 working, but I'm at home until 10 or 11 working."

Most likely the two will have dinner the night before the game, and it's a toss up as to who will be asking more questions. "I'm so jacked to get to Palo Alto," Roth said.

"I don't know where he'll be five years from now, but I will be talking to Sark."


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