Lynn Swann will most likely be fondly remembered for his on-the-field exploits, but his reputation as a man overseeing all things USC Trojans sports is going to take a hit.
On Monday, after three years of wayward leadership, Swann stepped down from his position as USC’s athletic director, essentially abandoning Dodge before Dodge abandoned him.
USC president Carol Folt more than implied as much when the news broke, telling the Los Angeles Times: “He felt that this was the professional thing to do, to resign and allow me to build my team. That really is the gist of it.”
Dave Roberts will serve as the interim athletic director until Folt establishes whoever will be involved with the sports programs moving forward.
Those within the USC bubble are likely frustrated, still dealing with their basketball program forever whispered to be connected to the NCAA/FBI/sneaker debacle that’s essentially led to nowhere but distractions, as well as a once proud football program on its fourth different head coach since Pete Carroll left for the NFL in 2009.
Oddly enough, the USC football team is off to a 2-0 start to the season, providing hope to the hopeless; though the resignation of an athletic director after the school’s biggest sport is off to a stellar start is likely to create a downtrodden overall atmosphere.
From an outsider’s perspective, USC’s national relevance is waning. Obviously, a historically proud program like the Trojans have with their football can quickly rejoin every relevant talking head show, in a positive way, with one or two excellent runs.
Honestly, even without that, as storied sports programs are forever given long, unwieldy benefit of the doubts by those who talk about them. After all, even Touchdown Jesus was able to survive cycle after cycle after cycle of Notre Dame having its echoes stirred, only to find out the sleeping giant was actually in a coma. Then, however, Brian Kelly – baggage aside – came in and the Irish have remained a national talking point since; although one could argue the brand was so strong it never actually went away.
A redundant point. Eh, let’s digress.
Perception matters, much as it does in nearly every walk of life, in college sports. Following Lynn Swann letting the world know he was no longer USC’s athletic director, Folt – in a presumed gesture of good faith toward USC students and alum – didn’t exactly instill great trust into those who need her to steer the ship in a steadier, more consistently successful direction.
“The position (athletic director) will be filled with an experienced and accomplished individual,” part of Folt’s statement read. “I encourage you to share your thoughts and recommendations to the committee via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Nothing should make a fan base more thrilled than being promised an experienced and accomplished future athletic director, then being asked to send some recommendations to the school by way of a less than subtle email address.
Again, to be fair, it’s obviously a good faith gesture by Folt, but these jokes won’t write themselves. Furthermore, one would feel safe in assuming USC has a short list of replacements already in mind.
With college football still in its infancy stage, while the college basketball season is looming, it will be interesting to see how long it takes the Trojans to fill the position. Jokes can be made about USC the last few years, primarily its football program’s decline and the college basketball counter forever embroiled in semi-controversy, but it’s still a job a majority of people in that field would love to have. Few schools can offer the resources, talent and weather the university can.
All of that being said, it’ll be an uneasy time for those yearning for USC’s glories of yesteryear. At least until Folt’s plan of establishing leadership is put into place. After that, it’ll be another waiting game. This time, though, it’ll be to see if Folt’s polite forcing of Swann out the door was worth it, or yet more mistakes made by those crucial to the sports programs behind the scenes.
Editor’s note: This column on the USC Trojans first appeared on Forbes, but has been republished under the original author’s name at CBBToday thanks to the publisher-contributor agreement.
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