Lynn Swann Resigns as U.S.C.’s Athletic Director
- by NewYorkTimes
- Sept. 10, 2019
Lynn Swann, the athletic director at the University of Southern California since 2016, abruptly resigned on Monday amid turbulence in the football program, two F.B.I. investigations targeting the athletic department and questions about whether Swann’s connections to the school’s biggest donor had landed him the job, for which he had no previous experience.
Swann’s resignation was announced by the new university president, Carol L. Folt, who said that while U.S.C. conducts a nationwide search for a replacement, the job would be filled on an interim basis by Dave Roberts, a university administrator who is also the vice chairman of the N.C.A.A.’s committee on infractions.
Swann, 67, who was a star receiver for U.S.C. and the Pittsburgh Steelers, had a rocky three-year tenure as the athletic director that included the decision to give the football coach Clay Helton a lengthy contract extension before last season, which ended with a 5-7 record, and concerns about Swann’s responsibility in the scandals that led to the federal investigations. A former assistant basketball coach, Tony Bland, pleaded guilty in a federal bribery case, and four people associated with U.S.C. athletics have been implicated in the nationwide college admissions scandal, a scheme that began in 2014 but continued under Swann’s watch.
The Los Angeles Times last week published an article raising questions about whether Swann — whose résumé beyond his playing career was built largely on his work as a college football television analyst and an unsuccessful run for governor of Pennsylvania — had been hired by the previous university president, C.L. Max Nikias, because of his close relationship with U.S.C.’s biggest donor.
The donor, B. Wayne Hughes, is the founder of Public Storage. He had given more than $350 million to U.S.C., most of it anonymously, The Los Angeles Times reported, and served as a mentor to Swann when he played on the Trojans’ undefeated 1972 national championship team.
Folt said the 11-person search committee for Swann’s replacement would be led by a trustee, Suzanne Nora Johnson, and would include administrators, faculty members, other trustees and two student athletes.
The next athletic director — or perhaps Roberts — may soon have to decide whether to retain Helton, who is signed through 2023.
The Trojans’ football team is off to a 2-0 start, after Saturday’s 45-20 win over Stanford, which came one week after starting quarterback J.T. Daniels was lost for the season with a knee injury. But the Trojans may need to regularly play as well as they did against Stanford to save Helton’s job.
U.S.C. recently completed a $315 million renovation of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, its home stadium, and an enthusiastic fan base will be necessary to fill the seats and luxury suites to help pay the bill.
In an interview two weeks ago, Swann struck a supportive tone toward Helton. He also sounded hopeful about his job status despite a continuing internal investigation into the admissions case — which involved a senior administrator in the athletic department — and the arrival of Folt as president as the university was reeling from the scandals.
“Carol’s certainly coming in with an agenda and what she wants to get done,” Swann said. “That explanation will grow and refine itself over a period of time. Everyone — every dean, every department — is adjusting to that new leadership.”