USC needs to get out of the Stone Age when hiring its next athletic director
It's time for the Trojans to stop relying on former players if it wants to fix its athletic department
There's a way to fix USC's athletic administration. There's been a way to fix USC's athletic administration for at least the last quarter-century.
Stop pulling out the rosters of John McKay's best teams and hire someone qualified who has, you know, the requisite experience to be athletic director.
In the past, USC has done their darndest to elevate college football color analysts to oversee a multi-million dollar business enterprise. You know their names: Mike Garrett, Pat Haden, Lynn Swann.
In a city awash in the celebrity culture, USC seemed enamored with the celebu-AD. Another one bit the dust Monday when USC president Carol Folt announced Swann had resigned after three seasons on the job.
Swann's departure seemed more like the beginning of a purge given that Folt is new and USC as a school is enduring scandal on several fronts. But we can argue semantics later.
No matter what happens in football -- and things look much better for Clay Helton right now -- Swann couldn't be trusted to hire the next football coach whether that need arises in 2020 or beyond.
A conspiracy theorist might suggest USC will hire whoever Urban Meyer wants it to. But Monday's move did send a deeper message.
Folt considers athletics a priority in rebuilding the school's reputation. The university needs a return on its $315 million investment in renovating the Los Angeles Coliseum. USC's name was dragged through the FBI college basketball scandal. The damage to the USC brand overall cannot be understated.
Last October, the school paid $215 million to the alleged victims of a former USC gynecologist who had reportedly abused patients for years.
During the height of the academic admissions scandal that involved athletics, Swann was at an East Coast card show signing autographs.
"The program is unraveling. … If you're Lynn Swann, how does [going to a card show] gain additional credibility for USC?" former player Riki Ellison told the Los Angeles Times.
To get USC athletics pointed in the right direction, USC needs to hire someone qualified oversee the athletics.
To be fair: Haden graduated magna cum laude and was a Rhodes Scholar. He was an experienced businessman in a private equity firm and a lawyer to boot. But he was admonished by the Pac-12 for running down to the sidelines to support Steve Sarkisian on an official's call. Sarkisian's embarrassing departure also happened under Haden's watch.
I can give Folt a list of big-time names, but they're in such good jobs right now that they'd probably only take the call to offer advice: Greg Byrne at Alabama, Chris Del Conte at Texas, Scott Stricklin at Florida for starters.
Simple solution: The search should begin and end with USC senior associate AD and COO Steve Lopes. That's who USC passed over three years ago when Swann was hired. Lopes has been more than a loyal soldier as he's been with the Trojans for decades.
To get this right, USC officials also have to stiff-arm the goo-goo eyed, monied boosters who have influenced these searches in the past. From the beginning, Swann was more guest host than athletic administrator. He was an all-time great for the Trojans who caught passes for the Steelers and later was a network sideline reporter. He even ran for governor in Pennsylvania in 2006. That somehow qualified him to snag a top 10 AD job at his alma mater.
The days of the glad-handing AD awash in Crest Strips are gone. Now, they've got business degrees, graduate degrees. They're in tune with the latest trends in marketing. They have to fundraise like mad men (and women).
They have to make the absolute best hires at the most critical coaching positions.
McKay himself was USC AD from 1972-75, during which Swann and Haden played for him. Those days are long gone in college athletics.
USC's is one of the best and most unique jobs in America. It needs an innovator like Desiree Reed-Francois at UNLV, Jennifer Cohen at Washington, Ray Anderson at Arizona State or Ross Bjork, who just took over at Texas A&M.
Ah, but what do I know? I've never been a sideline reporter.
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