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#pounditTuesday, August 11, 2020

Is this the reason why Lynn Swann suddenly resigned as USC AD?

Lynn Swann’s sudden resignation as USC’s athletic director on Monday caught many people by surprise. After all, Swann managed to hang onto the gig for 3.5 years despite being terrible at it, by most accounts.

So why did he resign from his position? What was the impetus? It may have been the result of Swann being exposed as hired despite his lack of qualifications due to cronyism from the school’s biggest donor.

The Los Angeles Times’ Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton published a lengthy exposé on Sept. 5 on billionaire B. Wayne Hughes Sr., the founder of Public Storage. The Times said Hughes had donated around $400 million to USC, mostly anonymously. They reported Hughes donated $360 million to the school from 2010-2015. His donations reportedly have been focused on the athletic department.

Hughes attended USC and was close with many of the Trojans’ football players, such as OJ Simpson, Al Cowlings, and Swann.

When Pat Haden stepped down as USC’s athletic director in April 2016, the school reportedly retained a search firm to help identify candidates. They whittled down a list of 200 to around seven candidates, according to the LA Times.

From the Times:

Multiple rounds of interviews winnowed 200 prospects to about seven finalists. One person knowledgeable about the search process said Hughes indicated to (Former USC president Max) Nikias that he preferred Swann for the job. Hughes’ attorney said it would be “wholly inaccurate” to say he had lobbied Nikias to appoint Swann.

Swann had never run an athletic program, let alone worked at a university, and he had scant management experience beyond serving on the boards of companies and charities. USC’s athletic director would oversee a budget of $100 million, 21 varsity teams and at least 650 student-athletes.

Some of Swann’s moves included announcing he was keeping Clay Helton despite fans calling for the football coach’s job; banning the USC Song Girls from performing at basketball games; and generally being absent amid a school scandal.

Swann kept the job despite all that. But two business days after the LA Times exposed Swann’s relationship with Hughes, and a quote in the story said Hughes might be the most powerful figure at USC — more powerful than the school president — Swann resigned. Perhaps USC believed that they needed to flex some muscle to show who’s in charge after new president Carol Folt had her power called into question. She may have called for Swann to resign, which he did. And perhaps USC felt comfortable firing Swann because they’ve already gotten so much money from Hughes in donations from 2010-2015.

There is a saying in journalism — also popularized by “All the President’s Men” — to “follow the money.” In this case one need only follow Hughes’ money and relationships to understand how Swann got the job and why he remained in it until recently.

H/T Sports by Brooks

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