“Fight On to Vic-To-Ry…”

Mike Bohn is ready to join USC family, but decision on Clay Helton can wait

USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn speaks at his introductory news conference on Nov. 7. (Brian van der Brug / LA Times)

Ryan Kartje (LA Times)  —  Mike Bohn stood at the dais, an unfamiliar face in a place so profoundly predisposed to the familiar. He wasn’t a former USC football hero, nor had he won a Heisman Trophy. There were no statues or buildings or plaques which bared his name on campus.

Outside of the cardinal and gold tie he wore to his introductory news conference, there were no discernible ties between Bohn and the “Trojan Family” from which USC has hired its athletic directors for a quarter-century.

In a stark departure from the traditions which long dictated its direction, USC introduced Bohn as its athletic director on Thursday. He is the ninth ever to assume the role and first to lead the department without previous ties to the school since Mike McGee, who left in 1994 and was succeeded by three former football players.

But as he addressed a room full of administrators, alumni, and coaches, Bohn did his best to ingratiate himself into an institution otherwise leery of outsiders, hitting all the right notes. He talked about the magic of walking on campus and the “gleam” in the eyes of an athlete he met that morning.

As he spoke passionately about the tradition of USC and past glories of the athletic programs he’s now tasked with leading, his voice rose to a boom. “You like to talk about the Trojan family here, right?” Bohn said, gripping the podium as he spoke. “Well, it’s real. I feel it.”

A longtime administrator with deep experience leading athletic departments at Idaho, San Diego State, Colorado and, most recently, Cincinnati, Bohn is no stranger to stepping in as an outsider. He had no ties to any of those schools before taking the reins, and that “fresh perspective,” Bohn noted Thursday, could be “very, very powerful.”

That is the bet that new President Carol L. Folt is making in Bohn, as she attempts to usher in a new era at USC, where turmoil has been a constant visitor over the past decade. It was Bohn’s vast experience elsewhere, in stark contrast to some of USC’s past athletic directors, which gave her confidence that he is up to that task.

“He has real integrity,” Folt said. “He has run class acts and done it really well in some difficult situations.”

At USC, Bohn steps into a situation that will surely test that mettle. Not only will he be charged with restoring the reputation of a department scarred by recent scandals, but he’ll also soon have to assess the direction of USC’s flailing football program.

Bohn said that he’d yet to meet with coach Clay Helton, whose job, with three weeks remaining in the football season, is believed to be in jeopardy.

New USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn, left, chats with Rick Caruso, Chair of the USC Board of Trustees, center, following a news conference on Nov. 7. (Brian van der Brug / LA Times)

When asked if he anticipates making a coaching change, Bohn noted that any conversation about Helton or other coaches was “premature.”

“It’s important to win,” Bohn said. “You heard the president talking about winning. I’m not trying to add more pressure to him or the student-athletes that represent him, but we always want to finish strong. Good programs finish strong.”

Still, the specter of Helton’s status and the football program’s direction loomed over the proceedings Thursday, as speculation over a potential, high-profile replacement continued.

The conversation on Urban Meyer, the former Ohio State and Florida coach, isn’t likely to cease in the coming weeks, as prominent boosters continue to push for USC to passionately pursue him as Helton’s successor.

Bohn categorically denied a report that his hiring had been held up because of a disagreement about pursuing Meyer, who has three national titles to his name, but also a record of integrity questions in his past.

Later, when Folt was asked if Bohn had any limitations on a future search, she said, simply, “No.”

Any coaching decision, Bohn said, would not be made alone. As he inherits the stakes of that decision, though, his history of hiring coaches remains decidedly mixed.

His hiring of Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell at Cincinnati has proven to be a success. But over nine years at Colorado, Bohn hired and fired three coaches, while his last hire, Mike MacIntyre, lasted six seasons before his ouster.

In light of those failed football hires, Bohn was forced to resign in 2013. But where that history might cast doubt on his handling of a possible coaching search, Folt said it was how Bohn bounced back from that failure which impressed her.

“What I look for is the person,” Folt said. “You face disappointment. He talked about loving it there. What did he do? He turned around, took another place, and loved it. He took what he learned there and made it even more effective at Cincinnati. That’s the person I want, one that builds from mistakes.”

Atop a department in desperate need of a new direction, Bohn will have plenty of rebuilding to do. But on Thursday, as he was introduced, Bohn held up two fingers in the “Fight On” symbol in a nod to the tradition he was inheriting.

“I didn’t talk about coming in here and, ‘Let’s change this, let’s change that, let’s move this, let’s move that,’ ” Bohn said. “I think that’s why I introduced the concept of fight on to vic-to-ry. It’s more than fight on. It’s fight on to victory.”

latimes.com

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Jamaica
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We might as well lay back and wait until Bohn is ready to make whatever statement/move he decides to make. and concentrate on the remaining games. Our best shot at finding something about to happen will come from a sports reporter with an inside source. Then we can react?

HOF19
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Wise advice which most SC fans will not follow over the next 3-4 weeks ………. USC beat writers will not follow your advice over the next 3-4 weeks either .

Scipio
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Prior to the outbreak of WWII, Germany secretly built up its military forces in violation of the League of Nation’s prohibitions against re-militarization. The German Navy salivated at defeating the British on the high seas. At that time the British Navy controlled the seven seas and had been dominant for much of the past century. During this secret training and weaponization ( remember The Bismarck) German Naval officers saluted each other and spoke these words, “Der Tag” (the day). The day they would face the Brits and drive them from the seas. It didn’t work out that way as the… Read more »

Rushmore
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Bohn’s emphasis on fighting on to Victory is old school and refreshing after the Helton era of faith based football. That era can’t end too soon.

Steveg
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Read an interesting discussion on what Pittman will do with 3 meaningless games left and a nothing bowl to look forward to. Will he play? Then would St.Brown and Vaughns opt for the nfl draft and perhaps not play much either? I wonder how much this team really cares now, other than the young guys looking forward to a HC and staff change. Yes I know it sounds bad, and it is, but it is today’s reality.

Golden Trojan
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One part of the Urban Meyer due diligence is his health. He has been treated for a brain cyst and headaches associated with that. For the money SC would have to pay him they should an independent full scale medical eval on the guy.

Rock2112
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So now it’s not just bonehead Plaschke, Dylan Hernandez over at the ever-crappy LA Times is beating the drum telling Mike Bohn that he can’t hire Urban Meyer. I’m sorry, when did the LA Times take over for the BOT or as USC’s AD? I missed that. See, here’s the thing: If Mike Bohn looks a gift horse in the mouth and decides to stuff a carrot in and walk away, and then USC goes 5-7 over the next couple of seasons while trying to recover in recruiting and realizing that someone like James Franklin will be a slightly better… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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Rock, I wrote a piece a couple of days ago about this. There is a ton of money at stake. I will be a conspiracy theorist. Someone at The Times (or influencing it) does not want SC to have a high quality football team. Turning SC into Vanderbilt suits that group just fine. And, there a LOT of folks who will profit from such a switch. The bias at the Times is so strong that I cannot believe it is based on anything but a desire to keep SC mediocre in football, which goal has a TON of very willing… Read more »

fast fred
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Does this surprise you about the “El A times”?

ATL D.D.S.
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“El A Times”. That’s hilarious Fred!

Scipio
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After years of salutary neglect of USC football, the Times does seem to be suddenly beside itself with a possible new coach. One can’t help but wonder about the motive, but motives (short of a confession) are hard to attribute categorically.

alfa1
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Of course you’re going to hear that from Hernandez, what else would you expect from a worried RUIN GRAD…the LA times is infested with ‘8’ Clappers
He’s Plaschkes pet project, anti USC all the way!

Trojan96
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That liberal rag, called the “LA Times” is now just glorified toilet paper. They have no journalist integral qualities left.

RialtoTrojan
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I had a discussion with my brother, who in his younger days coached the East Valley Trojans peewee team. His view of firing coaches is inline with his experience as a head coach. “The head coach is playing with underclassmen and injured players. He should be given some leeway. ” This is hopefully not the mindset of the new administration. Playing peewee football with kids that have never played before versus at a school where students are placed on a team with merit is not even a close match. Yes there has been some bad luck this year, but it… Read more »

Golden Trojan
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Less talented, poorly conditioned and poorly coached teams tend to have a lot of injuries. Injuries like all the rest falls on the coach.

Steveg
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I still truly believe that most of our guys are in good condition, but they have failures because they over stress their bodies beyond what they are used to. Cupcake practices will do it every time.

Paul_Muad_dib
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I’d say some of those injuries allowed better underclassmen to actually see the field and get past Helton’s favorites.

Golden Trojan
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True, true, exposing another flaw with this coach, not developing depth at the expense of playing favorites, which in the end got them injured.

Steveg
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It sure exposed him didn’t it. Now everyone wonders what could have been. Toa and Darnold are the two glaring examples.

Steveg
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Rialto, the problem with your brothers viewpoint is that in PeeWee you take what you get. Some have no business being on the field. College recruits people that have the capacity to start, or why recruit them. Big difference. Some bad luck hits every team, we just carry on, and everything that is wrong with the USC football program can easily be laid at Heltons feet.

Scipio
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Every Christmas since I was a kid, there was always some big one thing I wanted. One year it was a bike, another year it was an electric train, another year it was a shotgun (OK I am from the South). As Christmas grew closer and I felt more confidant Santa was going to deliver on my wish (I wrote him a letter every year spelling out just what I wanted), I started thinking of other important but minor in comparison to the main thing that I also wanted. (I was into the “main thing” early in my life.) This… Read more »

usc50
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The problem with the Helton hire was he had no previous HC experience. This was a big red flag.
And it is showing during his tenure as the record gets worse and the recruiting goes way down.
And the reputation of the school is going down also.
It is time for a change to stop this bleeding.

Trojan5
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Bob Stoops & Dabo did not have HC experience before they took over at OK & Clemson. Would HC experience have helped CH? Possibly? Probably? My opinion is that the lack of HC experience did not doom CH as much as is inability to learn from his mistakes. He chose Max over Sam and that decision potentially cost the Trojans a shot at the CFB. His failure to recognize that Toa was failing at Center and making a change arguably cost the team a victory or two last year. To even the most casual observer the Trojans have not been… Read more »

Steveg
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Helton was not hired to lead USC to a national championship. We all know why he was hired, to end the chaos that preceded him. He should have been promoted to associate AD after his third year and a big gun brought in then. Problem was he had Darnold that made him look good, and an idiot AD over him.

Rock2112
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Uh-oh. Chase Young put on indefinite suspension at Ohio State for a potential major recruiting violation in 2018 (while Urban was still there). That could drop a hair in the soup.

Scipio
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Optics aren’t good for UM hire. Like to hear the details but the buck stops at the top, and if Meyer was there at the top its a problem, pure and simple.

Golden Trojan
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Young describes it as a small loan from a “friend” that he repaid to cover living expenses. Doesn’t sound huge or having connection to Meyer. They are trying to get out in front of it.

Golden Trojan
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And in 3 years it will be common for big college stars to get real money. But now he can’t even get a “small loan”.

Paul_Muad_dib
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How much do you wanna bet that information only came out because USC was close to offering Meyer the job?

Jamaica
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It’s good that the press keeps bringing up the poor decisions the USC administration made in hiring former jocks with no experience in administration work as ADs. Keep it coming so those still in the USC administration, with agendas, know they will be identified as poor judges of people. But of course, those with agendas don’t give a s**t what anyone else thinks as they think they know more than anyone else (Ivory White Tower). This new path (Bohn) is halfway to what we all hope will happen in getting USC football back on the right way and compete with… Read more »

Chris
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did anyone else get the coach O type of vibe from Mike Bohn press conference or was it just me? He is much more polished, as he should be, but he is not slick. He seems like he is the kind of guy who will just out work his challenges. He also seems like he is going to try and pull everyone in, from media to staff to student athletes. So far, I really like the guy and expect him to have success.

LawyerJohn
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Upon meeting with “Bones,” Coach Helton was giddy, saying how “awesome” Bones was. I can see how some misinterpret Helton’s overly optimistic world point-of-view as being a bit hypocritical, but I have come to believe that Helton’s philosophy is who he really is. So these personal attacks on him are plain mean and unfounded. The coaching attacks on him are a different story.

Golden Trojan
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Helton seems to be a man of strong faith. If so, he should have a certain amount of peace about wherever life takes him. It is all about God’s Plan not ours, and leave it to Him philosophy.

ATL D.D.S.
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Huh?

Scipio
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This is going to be the longest week end in memory waiting for Mike Bohn’s return to SC campus Monday. sad

Rock2112
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Is he really going to Cinci, or is he maybe going to divert to a secret underground bunker at the base of the Rockies in Colorado to meet with Urban Meyer and a team of lawyers to hammer out the next era of USC football???!!! Think about it, … you can go back to Cinci any time you want to say goodbye around there. But do you need the media tailing you and tracking your whereabouts while Mission Number 1 is hiring the best available coach in America?

Just a tongue-in-cheek thought with a “hmmmm.” wink

danielmcd1
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….where western skies meets western seas,
our college stands in majesty……..
May this be the new beginning to our University to stand in majesty once again in southern California with fresh leadership and guidance to make our athletic programs and the entire University be the noble beacon of light that it has been and will be again and the role model for the Los Angeles community to be proud.
Hail all Hail to thee……………….. To Victory!