As much as USC coach Steve Sarkisian and Stanford coach David Shaw would like to downplay their very public back-and-forth last season stemming from Sarkisian’s accusation that Stanford faked injuries, there is no avoiding the lingering effects.
Former Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner -- one of two players Sarkisian accused of faking injuries -- made that clear with a not-so-subtle joke on Twitter in the aftermath of the Josh Shaw fake-hero saga.
At least sarkisian won't have to wait until the games are played to start calling people out for faking injuries this year
— Ben Gardner (@BennyG49) August 27, 2014
Clearly some tension remains.
Moments after Stanford's 31-28 win went final, Sarkisian told KJR 950-am in Seattle: "Their defensive line coach [Randy Hart] was telling them to sit down. I guess that's how we play here at Stanford, so we'll have to prepare for that next time."
Next time is this week.
When contacted by ESPN.com, Gardner said, more than anything, he was surprised by Sarkisian’s comments.
“Obviously, all of this is in the past, but we always pride ourselves at Stanford in doing things the right way and we try speak positively about our opponents and give credit where credit is due,” he said. “It was disappointing. To call out senior captains, guys like had been there a long time, and our coaches ... I felt like he was questioning our character and our integrity without really the background knowledge about us.”
The shoulder injury he suffered against the Huskies didn’t immediately hold Gardner out of any games, but it progressively got worse and eventually required season-ending surgery. Despite missing the final six games of the season, Gardner was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He'll miss this season, too, after dislocating his shoulder twice in training camp, which also required season-ending surgery.
To their credit, Shaw and Sarkisian have both seemingly moved on.
"We never talked about it again. It was over. It was in the past," Shaw said Tuesday. "[Sarkisian] and I sat together at lunch and breakfast a couple times and talked about a bunch of other things. Our wives are getting to become good friends; they know each other well. There’s no animosity whatsoever."
When asked if he and Shaw had patched things up, Sarkisian echoed what Shaw said.
"I think, first of all, I have a great deal of respect for David as a coach and as a person," Sarkisian said. "We had a disagreement in the heat of the moment and I think both of us have moved on. We’ve seen each other on different occasions since then. We were in Hawaii together at an event. We haven’t spoken on it and I think our relationship is fine. We’ve moved on."
Kickoff for Saturday's matchup between No. 14 USC at No. 13 Stanford is set for 3:30 p.m., ET on ABC.