"He embodies many of the qualities for which we looked," Haden said. "He is an innovative coach who recruits well and develops players. He is a proven and successful leader. He connects with people. He has energy and passion. He knows how to build a program and create a culture that we value. He is committed to academic success and rules compliance. And he understands the heritage and tradition of USC."
Leinart on Monday praised the hire on Twitter.
I think Sark is a great hire. I was with him for 4 of my 5 years at USC. Great recruiter, motivator and teacher! Really happy for him #sc— Matt Leinart (@MattLeinartQB) December 2, 2013
USC freshman tailback Justin Davis also wrote on his Twitter account that he approved of the decision to hire Sarkisian.
I'm on board Sark was very close to getting me to come with him to U Dub— Justin Davis (@JD_22bsm) December 2, 2013
Washington freshman quarterback Troy Williams, a Los Angeles native, expressed his displeasure with the move, writing: "Don't ever commit cus of a coach. Faker then a 3 dollar bill." The tweet was later deleted.
After going 5-7 in his first season, Sarkisian took the Huskies to a bowl game each of the next four seasons, but they were stuck on seven wins for three years. The Huskies finished this regular season 8-4, with a victory over Washington State in last Friday's Apple Cup.
Sarkisian said after Friday's victory that he was thankful he no longer had to answer questions about the seven-win barrier.
"We're a better team today that we were a year ago, and a year ago we were a better team than a year before that," Sarkisian said. "Sometimes games go the way they go and you don't get the call or you don't get the catch or you make the one bad call as a coach. But that doesn't mean you're not a good football team or you aren't a better team than you were a year before."
Sarkisian was in the middle of a contract that runs through 2015 and paid him about $2.25 million per year before jumping to $2.85 million in the final season.
Washington quarterback Keith Price said Sarkisian told the Huskies his choice to leave was "a 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. To finish (with) nine wins would be huge for the program. For this team. So that's our next goal."
Sarkisian never beat Oregon in his tenure, an issue that stuck with Washington fans tired of getting beaten up by their neighbors to the south.
Sarkisian is the first Washington coach to voluntarily leave for another position since Darrell Royal in 1956 when he departed for Texas. Royal was at Washington for one season.