Lynn Swann’s appointment at USC’s next athletic director is all about the money as Max Nikias hopes gambling on a legendary figure will pay off this time.
It goes without saying that USC loves it some USC.
The Trojan family likes to keep it within the family, even if there’s nothing on the resume that dictates said Trojan is the best man for the job.
Since Pat Haden announced his retirement plans earlier this year, USC has been on the hunt for a replacement. Haden is stepping down amid health issues and the never-ending demands of a Trojan fan base that wants championships now, not later.
Who else would know what it’s like to deal with the pressures of being a Trojan, other than a Trojan? At least that was the thought process when President Max Nikias decided to hire Lynn Swann, a former Trojan great much like Haden, to take over the reigns of the entire athletic department come July 1.
Swann attended USC and played receiver in the early 1970s and won a national championship under John McKay in 1972. He would then go on to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and won four Super Bowl titles. Swann would eventually be elected to both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The AD is a political position as much as it is an overseer of the success of the USC student athlete.
Once his playing career ended, Swann took to politics, with a failed gubernatorial bid in Pennsylvania and has publicly backed several Republican candidates including John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Needless to say, outside of football, Swann’s decision-making can be dissected. However, Rhode Scholar and smart businessman Haden wasn’t exactly perfect for the role of athletic director either. What was originally supposed to be a stop gap hire became a tenure that saw several mishandles of football coaches creating an embarrassing PR nightmare for a university that is built on the egos of the elite 1%.
Enter conservative Swann, who cannot only say “Look what I did as a player, but also look how I vote in elections.” That speaks to the Orange County booster who would like to keep his money away from the taxman. Why not put it into USC instead?
Haden’s regime was about righting the ship. Every other sport has flourished in that time frame, but as we all know, football is the only sport that has mattered at USC since day one. Why? Because for a lot of people around the country, football is the only sport that can keep their attention. It’s a game played once a week that you can bet on, where the regular season actually matters.
As the NBA and NHL playoffs are about to get underway, and March Madness just concluded, it’s easy to see why. How many teams can you fit into a playoff? The NFL has six in both conferences and college football just added a playoff that has four. However, there are only a handful of regular season games, where the other sports have too many to count. Baseball has how many games?
I’m not knocking other sports here; I’m just saying we’re living in the age of “right now.” Six months of a regular season loses its luster. If we thought the pressure of being an administrator at USC was tough now, wait until millennials become big time boosters.
Of course, that’s assuming the post CTE culture allows for the continuation of football or really any athletics at all, but that’s a discussion for a different time.
Basically I’m saying the Swann hire wasn’t about resume, it was about money. He’s a familiar face and a former player. His presence atop the athletic department makes a booster feel all warm and gooey, and willing to open their wallet to someone that believes the same way as they do. You see the AD is a political position as much as it is an overseer of the success of the USC student athlete.
Does Swann still have delusions of grandeur? Governor of California? Future President of the United States? Hard to say. His Steelers glory couldn’t get him over the hump in Pennsylvania, perhaps his Trojan glory past and present could get him over in California. After all, an Austrian-born action star got two terms. Imagine a Trojan great with a successful administrative career on his resume.
More from Reign of Troy
- Markese Stepp enters transfer portal intending to leave USC football
- USC football’s Alijah Vera-Tucker declares for NFL Draft
- USC football adds Xavion Alford as transfer from Texas
- USC Podcast: RoT Radio Ep. 396 on the Football Season’s Fallout
- Talanoa Hufanga named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, USC football with five first-teamers
We’ll see how it all pans out. Swann has to do what Haden couldn’t do, and that’s take USC back to the main event spotlight of college football.
That’s where Clay Helton, whom everyday looks more and more like a lame duck head coach, comes in.
He’s heading into the toughest schedule in the country with a brand new starting QB while a brand new head coach himself. That’s usually not a recipe for success.
With a new AD coming in, that’s usually a death nail by itself. Unlike Sarkisian or Kiffin, there’s no apologist backing Helton up. Swann will want to hit the ground running and look good while doing it.
After all, how many Republican apologists do you know?