Plaschke — “Fire Swann”

Bill Plaschke (LA Times)  —  When Lynn Swann was hired out of nowhere to become USC’s athletic director in April 2016, his lack of major college administrative experience was brushed away with a promise.

C.L. Max Nikias, then USC’s president, pledged that Swann would bring, “the heart and soul of a Trojan to his position.’’

After three years, it is a promise broken. With two scandals that drew FBI investigations having occurred under Swann’s careless and chaotic watch, the Trojans heart has been damaged, its soul tainted, and it’s time for a change.

In the wake of news that his program endorsed the admittance of fake athletes, it’s time for USC to retire Lynn Swann and find a real athletic director.

Swann needs to go, now, for the sake of a world-class university with an otherwise sterling academic reputation that has been soiled by an athletic director who behaves like a dummy.

Athletics used to be one of the school’s major selling points. It’s now an embarrassment.

The national success of Trojans teams used to attract the smartest of kids longing to study at the coolest of places. Now, surely, the thought of going to a school where admission could be gained with a fraud photo and a fat check makes a National Merit Semifinalist think twice.

USC’s academic reputation is spiraling because of athletics, and that’s on Swann.

He has made many mistakes before this and, despite much criticism in this space, he has been given a pass by many longtime Trojans fans because he’s a school great and Pro Football Hall of Famer and all that stuff. None of which should mean anything when it comes to the mechanics of running a big-time athletic program.

But at USC it still does, and that’s part of the problem.

Swann was somehow forgiven his surprising retention of football coach Clay Helton. He was inexplicably excused for allowing offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury to hijack his football program while he found a better job. Folks only raised eyebrows when he banned the Song Girls from performing at home basketball games.

The lack of success among the football, basketball and baseball teams could be blamed on the coaches. Even the perception that Swann cares more about playing golf than running an athletic department was treated with whispers.

Then, this week, everything became exponentially uglier with news that four USC athletic employees — including the No. 3 person in the department —allegedly accepted nearly $2 million in bribes to get students into school.

This is not a whisper. This is a shout. This is a cry for help that should be heard to the heights of USC’s sagging ivory tower.

Something is terribly wrong here, and that something is Lynn Swann.

There have been two announced FBI probes into college sports in recent months. Only one school was cited in both of them. USC.

In the past 18 months, of five USC current or former athletic department employees who have been arrested by the FBI, three of them worked under Swann.

First, there was Tony Bland, the USC assistant basketball coach who recently pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with the college basketball corruption scandal.

Now, this week, Donna Heinel, a senior associate athletic director, was alleged to have accepted $1.3 million in bribes, and Jovan Vavic, the famed men’s and women’s water polo coach alleged to have accepted $250,000 in bribes.

There were two others, both former USC soccer coaches, charged in this scandal — Ali Khosroshahin and Laura Janke — who were either fired or left the school before Swann’s arrival.

Swann was not named in the allegations, and interim president Wanda M. Austin seemed to go out of her way to distance him from the mess in an open letter to the USC community in which she wrote, “At this time, we have no reason to believe that admissions employees or senior administrators were aware of the scheme or took part in any wrongdoing — and we believe the government concurs in that assessment.’’

It seems like the problem isn’t with what Swann did. It’s with what he didn’t do. It boggles the mind what he didn’t do.

The No. 3 official in the athletic department is pushing fake recruits through the system and the athletic director never notices? Granted, these were all purportedly non-scholarship students, but Swann has basically no idea who is entering school through his doors?

Three were fake football players, including a “kicker’’ who had no idea how to kick and a long-snapper who never played in high school. Seriously? Football is Swann’s main responsibility and he never looks at who is being admitted as a football player?

Some were fake basketball players — small, uncoordinated ones — and it is truly a march toward madness when an athletic director doesn’t know who enters school under the cover of his second-most celebrated program.

It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that most of the bribed admissions occurred in non-revenue sports, including water polo, lacrosse and crew. It’s entirely possible that Swann just ignored those teams entirely.

Even if Swann did not touch this, his lack of fingerprints is damning.

“The government has repeatedly informed us that it views USC as a victim,’’ Austin wrote in an open letter to the USC community.

Sorry, you can’t play that card here. The victims are the deserving kids who were rejected from your school because of spots taken by the entitled phonies. The victims are Southern Californians so invested in your school through your sports teams that they have made “Fight On’’ a mantra for their lives.

USC athletics has abandoned these people because Lynn Swann has ignored these people, and they deserve better from both. They deserve an athletic director who does more than shake hands and raise money. They deserve a savvy administrator who can lead a program in an era where college athletic departments are actually giant corporations. They need a CEO, not a football hero who goes AWOL.

There is belief among USC insiders that Austin doesn’t feel her “interim’’ title gives her the power to replace Swann. The perception is that the university would rather wait until a permanent president is hired before any housecleaning would occur.

If that is true, then they need to change Austin’s “interim’’ title to “vacant,’’ because only a university completely devoid of leadership would continue to allow Lynn Swann to lead.

latimes.com

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Mikejohn
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“The government has repeatedly informed us that it views USC as a victim,’’ Austin wrote in an open letter to the USC community.”
With an interim president who writes this claptrap it is a sure thing that it won ‘t be Wanda who will clean out the USC mess.

trojan92
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Wow, I actually agree with Plaschke for once razz

TrojanRJJ
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Plaschke nailed it. Always believed that Swann was much worse at his job than Helton at his. In any functioning Administration, Swann’s resignation would have been requested. Given the grease fire that is the present Administration as run by Wanda “I am a victim” Austin, Lynn is probably safe.

Golden Trojan
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I see a report Giannullli went to Augusta in November 2016 with Lynn Swann!

Jamaica
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Wow Bill Plasche, tell us how you really feel about Lynn Swann? But he’s 100% right and it had to be told/written that Swann is no more a true AD administrator than I am a Nobel Prize poster on this website. So with this LA Times ariticle, hopefully “someone” in the administrartion will finally get a clue as to what needs to be done…… CLEAN HOUSE!

John Weld
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Jamaica: good idea! Maybe Allen and I will have to award a Nobel Prize to the best poster each month or maybe best comment, thanks.

cdeleon
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Westwood Ho! lol

Trojan96
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The BOT needs to release Swann immediately. His staff has diminished the school’s reputation. If Wanda won’t do it, then she needs to go as well.

USCJojo
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BREAKING NEWS:
Kim Helton arrested for bribing USC Officials to get C. Helton hired as USC Head Coach. 😜😜😜

alfa1
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It was the call from Kim to Monte Kiffin that got the ball rolling, bringing Clay to the big league from Arkansas State who had just hired him as OC, it was reported by several in the media at the time.

Jamaica
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Yeah, Monte Kiffin was the right man to talk to about offensive coaching all right. Once CH landed in a major school football program his ship had arrived. And it is slowly sinking now that he is running it.

SAS
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I think the situation with Tony Bland might have started before Swann got to campus. I’m not sure. But the bigger picture was laid out in the piece above. Plaschke noted that of the 2 FBI investigations USC was the only school who was involved in both. Lynn Swann or anyone being the Athletic Director at USC while this is happpening should have the sense to realize they aren’t keeping the house in order and should resign. But he won’t so I agree with BP. Fire Lynn Swann. -How does an AD who…….. Takes a vacation instead of hiring an… Read more »

alfa1
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Mind you I’m not a fan of the NCAA, but the tenor and severity of this situation evoke, if not scream….Lack of Institutional Control. It appears the upper echelon of leadership at SC is more akin to a Criminal Organization, perhaps a Federal RICO investigation should be requested, because what took place was in fact Criminal. We see only the latest that has become known….what ? And how much lay beneath the surface that is not now known? The level of corruption is disheartening and disgusting and needs to be rooted out. Perhaps this is the reason a challenge to… Read more »

SAS
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There could very well be more under the table ways at SC that are going on or were. The only way they ever break away from this cloud is by seperating from hiring “one of their own” (Mike G, Pat H., etc.) It’s clearly been a constant sprint to negativity with these unqualified hires. Nepotism, favoritism, friendships. They have to go get people who are the best available and not convenient. It’s a lot of spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Sports and Academics both being put on blast like it’s been, I can’t see any changes made.

Steveg
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Great post Sam. It seems it all goes back to the “country club” atmosphere. Everything fits within it, the BoT, the acting president, the do nothing, know nothing AD, bad judgements in hiring, obvious staff deficiencies, and poor performance from students and staff. The attitudes of the BoT, the president, and the AD are like a cancer upon the school, and it spreads like a cancer, ultimately killing it.