LOS ANGELES – Southern California hired Mike Bohn as its new athletic director on Thursday, breaking from recent tradition to turn over the program to a veteran collegiate sports administrator with no ties to the school.
USC President Carol Folt announced the hiring nearly two months after Lynn Swann abruptly resigned. Folt took over in July, and Bohn is the latest change atop the structure of a program beset by scandal and underperformance in recent years.
“I will work tirelessly and relentlessly to make the Trojan Family proud,” Bohn said during his introductory news conference. “We are going to build the championship program that you deserve.”
The 58-year-old Bohn has spent the past five years as the athletic director at the University of Cincinnati. He also has been the AD at Colorado, San Diego State and Idaho during a 35-year career in administration that began at the Air Force Academy.
Bohn is the first AD at USC since 1993 who was not a former USC football player with no prior experience working in athletic administration. The Trojans’ past three athletic directors — Mike Garrett, Pat Haden and Swann — all left with the department in turmoil.
That clubby atmosphere has been changed by the arrivals of Folt and Bohn, and more change could be on the way at the department’s highest-profile program.
Bohn said he had not met embattled football coach Clay Helton, whose team is 5-4 in his fourth full season in charge. Helton has a contract through 2023 but is thought to be on a hot seat after his Trojans finished last season with their first losing record since 2000, followed by their mediocre current campaign.
Bohn declined to say whether a coaching change was part of his mandate in getting the job.
“We all understand the importance of football,” Bohn said. “It’s very similar to every institution that I’ve been a part of. We expect all of our programs to compete, and that’s one of the attractions of coming and working with Dr. Folt. It would be premature to be talking about coaches or any situation when I’ve just arrived and in the process of learning.”
The USC football program has spent the past decade failing to recapture its 2000s success under Garrett and coach Pete Carroll. Former Carroll assistants Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian were both fired, while Helton has hung on much longer than almost anyone expected when the career assistant coach was promoted by Haden to replace Sarkisian in 2015.
When asked what he expected from the football team’s final three games of the current regular season, Bohn said: “I mentioned Fight On, but it’s also Fight On to Victory. I’m not trying to add any more pressure to (Helton) or our student-athletes, but we always want to finish strong.”
Dave Roberts had been USC’s interim AD since Swann quit in September.
Bohn is a graduate of the University of Kansas, where he played baseball.