Former USC Linebacker Calls for Pat Haden’s Resignation


Former USC linebacker Riki Ellison called for athletic director Pat Haden to step down in a lengthy essay posted to the Trojan Football Alumni Club Facebook page Thursday, citing the failed vetting of Steve Sarkisian and poor management of the athletic department.

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“Pat Haden’s failed leadership is severely damaging the future of the USC football program to recruit the best players and the hiring of a great head coach, his incompetency in leadership is negligent to the current and past football student athletes experiences at USC and his unaccountable leadership has tarnished the global/national public perception of the University of Southern California,” Ellison, who played for USC in the late 1970s, opined in the more than 3,000 word indictment of Haden.

In it, Ellison accused Haden of failing to heed warnings about Steve Sarkisian’s character. The former linebacker took it further than the national criticism for Haden from the media which has piled up since the head coach’s firing due to alcohol abuse by contradicting Haden’s accounts of the vetting process.

Though Haden indicated that no one USC spoke to at Washington raised any red flags about Sarkisian, Ellison claimed to raised one himself.

“I met with a member of the Board of Regents for the University of Washington several times prior to the hiring of Sark, he made it very clear that they had issues with his character at the role of their head coach,” Ellison said. “I provided that direct assessment to the USC Athletic Department several times as a concerned alumnus prior to them offering the job to Sark, it was ignored.”

Furthermore, Ellison alleged that had Haden sought the opinion of former players who worked under Sarkisian at USC, including his son Rhett who played for USC from 2007 through 2011, he would have received less-than-stellar reviews.

“Most of the players had little or no respect for Sark in his offensive coordinator position in the lack of character he displayed along with the way he treated them,” Ellison claimed.

It should be noted, Ellison’s opinion in that regard could be countered by a glowing assessment of Sarkisian as a coach and a mentor by former Washington linebacker Victor Aiyewa.

With regards to the hiring of Sarkisian, Ellison was also critical of Haden’s zeroing in on Sarkisian to the exclusion of other qualified candidates. He said that he spoke to Chris Petersen, now the head coach of Washington and was told that despite being interviewed there was a sense that Sarkisian had already been decided on. Ellison also claimed that Jack Del Rio indicated to him that he would have taken the USC job had it been offered.

Another major criticism Ellison lobbed at Haden was the perception that the athletic director made a point of cutting off ex-players’ access to the football program despite no NCAA mandate to do so.

“[Haden] has purposely established a tremendous gap of disassociation between USC ex-players and the university itself, those same players that built the USC football program and the successes it has had,” said Ellison.

Ellison was also critical of USC’s practice policies under Haden, including finger print scanners at Trojan athletic facilities and security checks — including policing and confiscation of cell phones of family members who came to watch practice.

“We went from a century of open door locker room Trojan Family trust that instilled our culture to a cold behemoth NFL type facility,” Ellison said.

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Other accusations Ellison made against Haden include gloating about student-athlete graduation rates which, according to Ellison, don’t reflect the true picture of academics surrounding the Trojan team. Ellison claimed that the NFL’s Head of Player Development Troy Vincent told him that USC has one of the lowest graduation rates in all of the NCAA for African American football scholarship athletes.

Furthermore, Ellison argued that Haden does not have the experience or skills to successfully run USC’s athletic department, calling Haden’s relationship with USC president Max Nikias a “dysfunctional environment,” because Nikias used to answer to Haden as a trustee and now does not know how to managed the reversed roles.

“No fundraising capability to provide endowments and buildings to USC can replace the experiences of 6 years being subjected to the incompetence and toxic leadership of Pat Haden,” Ellison said. “It beyond the time, decency, reasonability for the President of the University of Southern California to make the right decision.

“Pat Haden must step down.”