Amid questions about the future of its head football coach and its connection to a college-admissions-cheating scandal, USC introduced Mike Bohn as its new athletic director Thursday, with university president Carol Folt highlighting his demand for “the highest level of integrity.”
Bohn had been the University of Cincinnati’s athletic director since 2014. He was also athletic director at University of Colorado from 2005 to 2013, San Diego State from 2003-05 and the University of Idaho from 1999-2003. He will succeed Lynn Swann, who abruptly resigned in September after three years overseeing one of the nation’s premier collegiate athletics programs.
“I will work tirelessly and relentlessly to make the Trojan family proud,” Bohn said at a mid-morning news conference. “And we’re going to build a championship program that you deserve. I’m committed to preparing student-athletes to be successful on and off the field of competition, but also our coaches and all the people that touch our athletes to ensure they truly have a world-class experience.”
Bohn is the first non-alumnus to be USC’s athletic director since Mike McGee, who had the job from 1984-93. Coincidentally, McGee was University of Cincinnati’s athletic director when he was hired by USC. Each of USC’s past three athletic directors had been Trojan football stars — Mike Garrett, Pat Haden and Swann.
Folt said she did not go into the search process planning to hire an “outsider” to lead the athletic department, but said her love of a candidate with “diversity and breadth of experience” naturally tilted the search toward a candidate from outside USC.
She hailed Bohn’s energy, and said he “demands at all times the highest level of integrity of himself but from everyone who works for him.”
“I’ve got four things that I expect for USC and that I am confident that Mike’s going to deliver: winning, competitive teams in all of our sports; and they’re going to be competing for national championships in all of our sports; and doing it with integrity on and off the field; and every day ensuring that the wellness and the success of our student athletes is at the heart of everything we do.”
Bohn is USC’s fourth athletic director since 2010.
Bohn’s first challenge will be to decide the fate of football coach Clay Helton. The Trojans dropped to 5-4 following Saturday’s 56-24 loss to Oregon after going 5-7 in 2018, their first season with a losing record since 2000.
Bohn told reporters it was “premature” for him to address questions about the future of any specific coaches, but said he was looking forward to meeting Helton. Asked about what he expects from the football program for the rest of the season, Bohn simply said he expects the team to compete like Trojans.
Bohn also takes over an athletics department with multiple figures connected to it who have been implicated in the nationwide college-admissions cheating scandal, in which well-heeled parents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to have their children admitted to elite universities, including USC, often by posing the students as athletic recruits in sports which they often never played.
Former women’s soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin and assistant coach Laura Janke, have pleaded guilty, with prosecutors saying the pair were paid about $350,000 to designate four students as soccer recruits “despite the fact that none of those children played competitive soccer.”
Senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and water polo coach Jovan Vavic were also charged in the case and fired from their jobs.
Bohn did not specifically address the scandal.
“My intent is to listen, to learn and to lead, in that order,” he said. “And ultimately my goal is to deliver a bold, creative and innovative vision for our program that will position USC at the forefront of the intercollegiate athletics landscape for the present and the future. We want to be the best at every single thing that we do.”
Folt noted that she and Bohn planned to attend Thursday night’s women’s volleyball match, and she encouraged people in attendance to meet the new athletic director.
Bohn vowed the highest level of support for athletes on all 21 USC teams.
“You will learn quickly, I am immensely passionate and energetic,” he said. “My passion and energy never take a day off. I am proud of that. I enjoy that.”
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