June 13, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

A Primer on USC’s New Athletic Director Lynn Swann

Lynn Swann is an NFL Hall of Famer, former WR for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and USC's new athletic director. (Twitter/@Lynn88Swann)
Lynn Swann is an NFL Hall of Famer, former WR for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and USC’s new athletic director. (Twitter/@Lynn88Swann)

USC’s incoming athletic director Lynn Swann said today he is honored to be returning to his alma mater, but he stressed he is not planning to make wide-scale changes in the athletics department.

Most notably, Swann said he fully supports football coach Clay Helton, who was given the job last fall following the mid-season firing of Steve Sarkisian.

“I am not here to clean house or to make overwhelming changes on the coaching staff or the staff here,” Swann told reporters during a campus news conference. “I think there’s a great team in place, and we’re going to move this forward. I have enjoyed over the years watching the USC football team and all of the sports teams win championships. I love the fact that we just got women’s beach volleyball and we already have a championship there.

“I had an opportunity today to meet Clay, and I think he’s going to do an outstanding job as the head coach of our football team, and he has 100 percent of my support to make that happen.”

Swann, 64, was announced Wednesday as the successor for the retiring Pat Haden, who will step down at the end of June.

Swann was an All-American wide receiver at USC and helped lead the Trojans to an undefeated national championship season in 1972. As a pro, Swann won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and was MVP of Super Bowl X.

“To his new role, Lynn Swann will bring the heart and soul of a Trojan,” USC president C.L. Max Nikias said in making the announcement. “He shares our profound dedication to combining academic excellence with athletic excellence.”

Swann earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from USC.

Speaking to reporters today, Swann said he and his wife will spend the next few months relocating to California. His son will be attending the university beginning this fall.

“It’s a privilege for me to be here,” Swann said. “It’s an honor certainly to be back at my alma mater as the incoming athletic director. There are a lot of things in my life that I think I planned for — this was not necessarily one of them. But it’s one of those great unexpected outcomes I think that I’m looking forward to and I think I’ve been building for for a long period of time.”

Swann retired from the NFL following the 1982 season and began working as a broadcaster with ABC Sports, with assignments including several Olympic Games, college football, the Kentucky Derby and “Monday Night Football.”

Swann is a member of both the college and pro football halls of fame.

He was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002 as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, on which he served until 2005. Swann was the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania in 2006, losing to incumbent Democrat Ed Rendell.

Haden announced in February that he would retire at the end of June. He is expected to remain with the university for another year to help guide the renovation of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haden became USC’s athletic director in 2010.

Haden came under criticism late last year over his handling of the suspension and ultimate firing of Sarkisian, who was ousted amid a battle with alcohol use.

Haden did not immediately fire Sarkisian, opting to keep him on despite a public melt-down in which the coach slurred his words and used profanity during an apparently drunken speech at a pre-season pep rally.

Sarkisian later blamed his behavior on a mix of alcohol and prescription drugs. Haden publicly rebuked the coach, but allowed him to keep his job. But concerns about his behavior persisted, prompting Haden to place Sarkisian on indefinite leave in October. Haden fired him the next day.

As part of Wedneday’s announcement, Nikias again thanked Haden for his leadership of the department.

“The Trojan family will be forever grateful to Pat for stewarding USC athletics through some of its most challenging times,” he said.

Nikias introduced Swann to the media today, calling him a “champion” who will “bring the heart and soul of a Trojan” to the job.

“Lynn’s life and career after he left USC stands as a testament to his talent and his character, both as an athlete and a highly effective civic and corporate leader,” he said.

Nikias noted that he received hundreds of messages during the search process, including a full page letter asking that President Barack Obama be appointed athletic director.

But Nikias said he “couldn’t be more thrilled” with the hiring of Swann.

Swann said he was motivated by USC students to take the job.

“I think our young people need to be inspired,” he said. “I think they need to be given a path that will give them the tools to reach whatever it is they want to accomplish. It’s great to have a dream, more important, to have the tools to make that dream come true.”

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