USC AD Lynn Swann defends his decision to sign autographs for money at a memorabilia show

The Los Angeles Times published a scathing article on Monday afternoon about USC athletic director Lynn Swann's weekend in Chantilly, Virginia, where he was featured as a memorabilia show that charged collectors money for Swann's autograph. Tuesday afternoon, Swann defended his actions in a statement released by the school.

"The article would have you believe that I traveled to sign autographs with no concern for what is going on at USC," Swann said. "Nothing could be further from the truth.  While on this brief weekend trip back East, I was constantly connected with people at our university.  Also, as a matter of principle, I live up to my commitments and contractual obligations.  I signed a contract months ago to appear at the event, well before news broke of what is going on at USC now.  Not showing up would have been a breach of contract."

In addition to his current role as USC's athletic director, Swann was a wide receiver on the Trojans 1972 national championship team and a unanimous All-American in 1973. He was joined at the memorabilia show by several other high-profile athletes, including fellow Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees Randy Moss and Emmitt Smith.

Former USC linebacker Riki Ellison, who played on the 1978 USC national title-winning team, sounded off on Swann's appearance at the show in the story from the Los Angeles Times.

"I couldn't believe it," said Ellison. "Lynn's a good guy, but isn't his salary in the millions? Why does he need to do this? It's just embarrassing."

The Times reported that fans paid either $220 or $250 per autograph, and $50 more for special phrases in addition to his signature. The report also states that booking websites suggest that Swann's appearance fee ranges from $20,000 to $50,000 per event, but that any appearance fee he received for this appearance is unknown at this time.

The trip came the same weekend that the Trojans football team was holding a scrimmage. Swann, of course, chose to retain coach Clay Helton after the Trojans wen't 5-7 in 2018. The football program struggling is just one crisis engulfing the athletic department at this time. The basketball team missed the NCAA Tournament despite playing in the downtrodden Pac-12, and a senior staffer in the athletic department was recently fired after playing a significant role in the college admissions scandal where athletics admission standards were used to help children of high-profile celebrities gain admittance to the school.

"The most important thing for all of us in USC athletics as we move forward during this challenging time is to serve our student-athletes," Swann said. "USC will continue to learn, change and be better. We are diligently working to identify and solve the problems and prevent them from happening again."

While Swann's appearance has raised eyebrows, he did his best to calm a wave of criticism that is building during this string of bad news for the USC athletic department.

"There will always be disagreement on decisions I make as the athletic director," he wrote. "I understand and I can live with that. I will make decisions that will help our student-athletes succeed and make all of us better. I do not make decisions in a vacuum without input from others. I do not make decisions without weighing multiple factors. As I have always done, I will do my best for this organization."

If the fate of the major Trojans athletic teams doesn't turn around soon, Swann's best might not be good enough.

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, analyst for CBS Sports HQ and host for the SiriusXM college... Full Bio

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