LOS ANGELES — USC coach Steve Sarkisian regrets asking athletic director Pat Haden to come down to the field at Stanford Stadium on Saturday for what turned into a confrontation with game officials.

Haden also issued a statement of apology Sunday night for the weird moment between the third and fourth quarters of No. 9 USC’s 13-10 victory over No. 15 Stanford.

A day after asking AD Pat Haden to come to the field during Saturday’s game to consult with the officials, USC coach Steve Sarkisian said, “I regret putting Pat in that situation.”
Haden said he will stay off USC’s sideline for the next two games, and Sarkisian said he shouldn’t have summoned his boss down from the press box during a dispute with officials.

“It was just a spur-of-the-moment, gut feeling,” Sarkisian said. “Quite honestly, looking back at it now, I regret putting Pat in that situation.”

Haden jogged onto the field after getting a text from a member of the USC staff on the sideline. The Trojans had just been hit with 35 yards in penalties on three straight plays, with Sarkisian getting whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct and star linebacker Hayes Pullard getting ejected for targeting the head of Stanford’s Ty Montgomery on a punt return.

Haden ended up in an animated discussion with the officiating crew while Sarkisian sought clarification of the calls. Sarkisian wishes he hadn’t put Haden in a potentially embarrassing situation.

“It’s my job to manage the game,” Sarkisian said. “Pat’s job is not to manage the game and manage the officials. That’s my job to do.”

Haden is a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee, which chooses and seeds the teams that will play for the national championship. He is one of five active athletic directors on the ostensibly impartial 13-member committee.

The College Football Playoff does not send its committee members to games, so Haden was acting in his role as the school’s athletic director, but his involvement in the game raised an already hot topic about bias from the 13 committee members. Haden is recused from voting for USC, but not for Stanford.

Haden apologized to Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, the officials, Stanford and fans “for any distraction I might have caused.”

“In retrospect, I should not have approached the game officials,” Haden said. “I should have waited until after the game and gone through the appropriate channels.”

Haden vowed to stay off the sideline at Saturday’s road game at Boston College and USC’s home game against Oregon State on Sept. 27.

During the game, Haden told a sideline reporter that Sarkisian felt the penalty against him was unfair. After the game, Sarkisian said the call against him had been correct for leaving the coaching area, although he didn’t understand why the officials had interpreted an elastic rule quite so literally.

Asked during the game if he was concerned about the appearance created by a member of the selection committee on the field engaging the officials, Haden shook his head and said, “I’m the athletic director of my team as well.” There is no rule in the playoff that prevents him from speaking with officials on behalf of his school during a game.

Sarkisian and Haden didn’t affect a remarkable victory for the Trojans (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who moved up five spots in the AP Top 25 after knocking off the two-time defending Pac-12 champions on the road in just Sarkisian’s second game in charge.

USC isn’t sure whether Pullard will be suspended for the first half of the Trojans’ game at Boston College for his targeting penalty. If Pullard receives a suspension, USC could appeal it, Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian didn’t let the latest strangeness in an already bizarre season get in the way of the Trojans’ excitement over an impressive win. Sarkisian and Haden celebrated together on the field after the final whistle while their players conducted the USC band in a corner of Stanford Stadium.

“I was just happy we won,” Sarkisian said. “Thankful to Pat that he gave me this opportunity, and happy we got a good win on the road against a really good team.”

Information from’s Heather Dinich and The Associated Press was used in this report.


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