Trojans Blow It Again; Pac-12's Clock Ticking; Colorado's Transfer Epidemic
As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve never been a big fan of the University of Southern California.
It stems from my days as an undergraduate at Stanford, when USC used to beat us at everything and we had to watch that stupid horse cavort and listen to that annoying fight song ad nauseum.
Finally, in 1970, Jim Plunkett and company broke through and beat SC en route to a historic win over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. A few years later, Rich Kelley engineered the “Maples Miracle,” when Stanford stunned two of the top basketball teams in the country, USC and UCLA. By the 1980s, we were beating the Trojans regularly in baseball, tennis and swimming, too.
So, as the years went by, my distaste subsided. My best friend went to SC and he turned out okay, so I figured the place couldn’t be all bad. I became friends with Trojan alum Ronnie Lott, one of the great people in all of sports, and we had a good experience when we invited Pete Carroll's Trojans to the 2009 Emerald Bowl.
But it couldn’t last.
The once-proud USC Athletic Department has been decimated over the last two decades by cronyism, incompetence and corruption. A series of bad Athletic Directors and football coaches, major sanctions for providing improper benefits to football star Reggie Bush and illegal payments to basketball recruits, plus heavy involvement in the national "Varsity Blues" admissions scandal, have brought failure and disgrace to Heritage Hall.
After Caroll's departure for the NFL, the Trojans' football program floundered. They fired a controversial head football coach, Lane Kiffin, on the airport tarmac in the wee hours after an embarrassing road loss, canned his successor, Steve Sarkisian, after a drunken performance at a booster event, and struggled with mediocrity under Clay Helton.
So when Athletic Director Lynn Swann was forced to resign--following in the footsteps of two other failed Trojan celebrity ADs, Mike Garrett and Pat Haden--fans and alums prayed new president Carol Folt would hire an experienced, professional, non-alum as AD.
Three and a half years ago, she proudly introduced her new AD, Mike Bohn, pledging to end the department's dysfunction, revive the stagnant football program, and end the era of embarrassing scandals and infractions.
"He demands at all times the highest level of integrity not only of himself, but of everyone who works for him," Folt said at Bohn's press conference. Until recently, on the surface, the hire looked pretty good. Bohn engineered the hiring of one of the top coaches in college football, Lincoln Riley, and helped steer his program into the much greener pastures of the Big Ten Conference.
Then suddenly, last week, he was pushed out as AD, effective immediately, one day after a critical piece in the Los Angeles Times, amidst investigations into a "toxic environment" and allegations of inappropriate comments about female colleagues, plus reports of "unwanted physical contact with women" and racially insensitive comments at his previous job as AD at Cincinnati.
His behavior, both at Cincinnati and his earlier stop at Colorado, reportedly contributed to "a workplace that was hostile, anxious and toxic for women."
So instead of, finally, hiring a competent and experienced AD, the Trojans' string of disasters continued with another self-inflicted wound.
Perhaps the biggest question one must ask is how a school like SC, with a high national profile, virtually unlimited resources and the support of a respected search firm, Turnkey, could blow it so badly.
Especially when any number of people at Cincinnati and Boulder could've told them about Bohn's unsavory past. In fact, Cincinnati's Office of Equal Opportunity and Access and Office of Gender, Equity & Inclusion had begun two internal investigations of Bohn shortly before he slid out the door for a career life preserver in Southern California.
Now it's the USC Athletic Department that is in desperate need of a life preserver.
Pac-12 Window Closing: The long-delayed media rights deal that the Pac-12 has been chasing for the past year suddenly has a real deadline.
If the conference wants to add San Diego State to help compensate for the loss of USC and UCLA next year, it needs to make a move by June 30. That's the day the Aztecs must notify the Mountain West of its intention to depart for another conference in 2024. If they wait any longer, their $17M exit fee will double to $34M, and AD John Wicker has made it clear that the school can't afford to pay that much.
So if the Pac-12 wants to expand by adding San Diego State, it needs to close a deal in the next month. Otherwise, the Aztecs will in all likelihood go to the Big 12.
Prime Transfer: Colorado head coach Deion Sanders picked up another transfer over the weekend. His son, Shilo, transferred in from Jackson State, joining brother Shedeur, who had done so earlier.
With the addition of Shilo, Colorado has now recruited 46 transfers for its 2023 team. Eight of those players previously played for Coach Prime at Jackson State.
Back in April, 43 players departed the program and entered the transfer portal. Based on known commitments, Colorado is now back up to 79 scholarship players.
And all of them transferred in for the education.