In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles on the hiring of Mike Bohn as the new Trojans’ athletic director.
The announcement: All the guessing, rampant rumors, and all the back and forth is over with Thursday morning’s official announcement and press conference in the John McKay Center. Former University of Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn (photo above), 58, is the Trojans’ ninth athletic director in school history and the fourth this decade. Is the hire a hit or a miss on the former 5-year Cincy AD? Is it a home run or a strike out? Is it a blessing of good fortune or yet another in a recent long line of athletic department blunders? Lord knows that the last ten years of USC athletic department administrators has been not only a real struggle but a flat-out embarrassment for the once proud USC sports heritage.
The announcement – Part 2: Many Trojans fans were hoping for an athletic director along the lines of “A-list” candidates like Alabama’s Greg Byrne or Texas’s Chris Del Conte, but that wasn’t going to happen. It was a blessing that the Trojans didn’t have to waste their time with the aforementioned. At least USC President Folt went through an athletic director hiring process and wasn’t that a novel idea? Bohn was probably on the “B” list, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a savior or a hidden gem. After all, when you’re succeeding a line of previously inexperienced and incompetent athletic directors by the names of Pat Haden or Lynn Swann, there’s no way to go but up. There are a lot of reasons to like the hiring of Mike Bohn and quite frankly some reasons to temper the enthusiasm.
The Good: During and after the press conference, both Mike Bohn and USC President Folt were a tidal wave of enthusiasm. Bohn and Folt heavily emphasized the importance of winning national champions with integrity. Afterward, Folt said that Bohn would have no limitations on the coaches he wants to hire ( I and others took that to mean Urban Meyer is in play). Bohn and Folt both said that it was all about winning and doing it with integrity. Bohn’s hyper enthusiasm was amazing to say the least when he talked about winning. He came off as a professional at the highest level, and said he had experienced both successes and failure in his past, and he learned from both. Most media questions to Bohn were either directly or indirectly tied to the football program. He gave no indication of Clay Helton’s future. Helton was not at the press conference, and Bohn admitted he had yet to meet Helton in person. After the official statements, Bohn met afterward with the media and said he had watched the Oregon defeat on television and would view the ASU game back in Cincinnati where he wanted to say his good-byes to his former university friends and colleagues.
President Folt says: “Mike (Bohn) has an impressive career spanning 35-years. He’s known for his integrity, his competitiveness, his passion, and placing students at the center of his work.You’re going to find that he is very energetic and very accomplished. He is someone who is very focused to our students and staying true to our university’s mission. It’ so important to me.
“I have four things that I expect from USC (athletics) that I am confident will be delivered – winning competitive teams in all our sports, competing for national championships in all our sports, doing it with integrity and honor on the field, and ensuring the wellness and success of our student-athletes is at the heart of everything we do.”
Mike Bohn says: “I will work tirelessly, relentlessly, to make the Trojan family proud. We’re going to build a championship program that you deserve. I am committed to our student-athletes to be successful on and off the field. If recruits are listening, that’s what we’re committed to.
“My intent is to listen, to learn, and to lead in that order. Ultimately, my goal is to deliver a bold, creative vision to lead USC to the forefront of the intercollegiate landscape in the present and the future. We want to be the best in every single thing that we do.
“Our goal is to win in everything we do on the field, off the field, and in the classroom.”
The good – Part 2: No question that as athletic director at Cincinnati, Mike Bohn had done well. While being a tireless and successful fundraiser in 2016, he hired a rising star in Bearcats football coach Luke Fickell, who just happened to have played for Ohio State and was once on Urban Meyer’s coaching staff. BTW, the Bearcats are currently AP No. 17 in the country and in first place in the American Conference East. Ask UCLA what they think of Fickell and his UofC football program, having lost twice to the manly Bearcats the past two seasons by scores of 28-17 and 24-14, respectively. And I know what you’re thinking, my friends, Bohn does have a connection to the legendary Urban Meyer, since Fickell was Meyer’s Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator in 2012. BTW, Urban’s son, Nate, currently plays baseball at Cincy where his famous football coaching dad also went to college.
The good – Part 3: If the Trojans’ head football coaching position is ready for change at the end of this season or earlier, no question that Bohn – if he hasn’t already – will make the attempt to see IF Urban Meyer is interested and – based on Folt’s comments – has been given the green light to hire his coaches (i.e. Urban Meyer). Whether Meyer is actually interested is another question, but rumors are flying that Urban’s wife loves living in the SoCal area while her husband does his FOX college football studio work on the weekends. There is also a rumor that a certain USC football legend of prominence has said that Meyer is interested in the USC job if it opens.
Mike Bohn on Clay Helton and the final three games of the season: “Just like any program, we expect him to finish strong. It’s important to win. I’m not trying to add more pressure to him or the student athletes (but) good programs finish strong.”
The good – Part 4: If Urban Meyer is eventually hired as the new USC football coach, any questions regarding Bohn as a past athletic director that might raise eyebrows will immediately be dismissed, and the impact from the Trojans’ fan base to the football program will immediately rise to the highest level of approval, not to mention the immediate impact on recruiting, which is right now in the dire straits – and did we mention an expected avalanche of season tickets numbers. If Meyer isn’t hired but at least approached, Bohn will lose no credibility, and he’ll will move on to the next obvious candidate – former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. If that too doesn’t work out, no question that Luke Fickell could be on the short “B-list” along with others like Penn State’s James Franklin, former Trojans All-America linebacker and former NFL head coach Jack Del Rio, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, and Baylor’s Matt Ruhle. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but it will be fascinating if the Trojans’ head coaching position does open up.
The good – Part 5: Because Mike Bohn is a fundraiser with a good recent past – he oversaw an $86 million renovation of Cincinnati’s home football field )Nipper Stadium) and an $87 millions campaign to renovate Cincinnati’s basketball’s Fifth Third Arena, he understands what the expectations are for the Trojans who recently completed a $300-plus renovation of the Coliseum. Bohn understands that you don’t put that much money into an historic venue and have a football product that doesn’t live up to its storied past. Bohn saw the attendance for the Oregon game.
The good – Part 6: Underplayed is that Mike Bohn was once a highly recruited quarterback coming out of high, where he eventually played football and baseball at the University of Kansas. So, the Trojans are getting somebody who understands what it’s like to be a student-athlete both in football and baseball, which should work to his advantage in understanding the recruiting importance of Southern California. In his press conference, Bohn put tremendous importance in recruiting, especially in the Los Angeles area. He gets it.
The good – Part 8: Mike Bohn said that one of his main missions is to bring back into the fold the old Trojans’ spirit of togetherness and purpose, which means welcoming back former players from all the sports and reaching out to highly prized financial boosters that have been treated with disrespect in the past decade, and showing the USC fan base that he is on campus to bring in a new era of positive environment. Also in attendance on Thursday was Rick Caruso, the USC Chairman of the Board of Trustees, who walked in with Bohn. Caruso will have a big say, no doubt, in whom the next Trojans football coach will be, but he won’t be the only booster of financial substance.
The questionable: No, Mike Bohn doesn’t arrive without some legitimate questions. When he was the athletic director at Colorado, he hired three football coaches – former Boise State head coach Dan Hawkins (19-39 UC record); former Colorado player and assistant coach Jon Embree (4-21 UC record); and Mike MacIntyre (30-44 at UC). The combined record of Bohn’s three Colorado football hires is 53-104. Yikes! However, it’s what have you done for me lately and to look at the cup as half full, you turn your attention back to Bohn’s hiring of Luke Fickell.
The questionable – Part 2: In somewhat of a controversy, Mike Bohn resigned – many say forced out – seeing the writing on the wall at Colorado. From the University’s perspective, Bohn didn’t raise enough money for the athletic department and was held accountable for his poor head football coaching appointments. Bohn’s resignation drew mixed reactions from the school, boosters, and fans, some who that Mike got a raw deal. However, as AD at Cincinnati, fans have displayed a real sense of shock on his departure to USC. One Ohio fan said the USC hiring of Bohn was a “home run” for the Trojans and another described the departure as “depressing.”
From the press box…
Working the room: Give credit on Thursday morning to USC President Carol Folt for staying around afterward to meet and greet members of the media. I asked her that when she was an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara, did she follow USC football under the legendary John McKay? She replied enthusiastically, “Of course! I couldn’t go to the games because I had no money. I worked as a waitress to make ends meet. I am a tremendous sports fan coming from Ohio, and I certainly knew the USC football greatness.”
Moving quickly: When she arrived at USC,it didn’t take long for new USC President Carol Folt to show Lynn Swann the door. Many thought Dr. Folt would wait until October, but she wielded her power to point Swann to the exit door of the John McKay Center back in very earlier September, much earlier than anticipated. Many believed that Dr. Folt would wait until the end of November to make an athletic director announcement. Again, she surprised many by hiring Mike Bohn during the first full week of November. Folt said that when she met Bohn, they immediately bonded and the rest was history. Perhaps the sense of urgency in hiring Bohn was allowing enough time for the new athletic director to deal with possible scenarios with current head football coach Clay Helton. It makes sense for Folt and Bohn to have enough time to form a timeline if a change as expected is needed.
Outside the box: I guess one of the positives for many USC fans is that Mike Bohn has no affiliation with the USC family. However, it’s always been felt here that it didn’t matter whether the new AD had some sort of USC connection. What mattered was the person selected was the BEST candidate available. Hopefully, Bohn is that man.
Numbers game: There is something to be said when you know that Mike Bohn is only the second Trojans athletic director with no USC connections – the late Mike McGee being the other. Of course, the great irony is that both Bohn and McGee came from the University of Cincinnati.
The judge: The decision of whether Urban Meyer has any interest in USC may come down to what his wife thinks. She has wanted her husband to get out of the rat race of college coaching but living in SoCal is completely different that living in Columbus, Ohio. It says here if Urban gets the green light from his wife and Dr. Folt gives the green light to Mike Bohn to pursue Meyer if Clay Helton is dismissed, it makes it more than possible of Meyer being the USC head coach.
The President: So now USC President Carol Folt has her fingerprints on her biggest hire in the athletic department. She owns it – good or bad. And it won’t be the last time she has to make the call for an important athletic department decision – perhaps Urban Meyer. The whole football situation is in the air, and, no doubt, she will or already has discussed with new AD Bohn the football options. If a new coach is required, it will be wildly intriguing as it pertains to Urban Meyer or anybody else for that matter. One thing we know about Meyer at this point, he hasn’t flatly denied he won’t coach again or given a timetable. And the plot thickens.
The post-game call in show…
Caller No. 1: Greg, did you originally see this hiring of Mike Bohn coming? Caller No. 1, no, I had no heads-up on the hiring and that might be a good thing. I read Bruce Feldman’s tweet like everybody else, so I was taken by surprise. I think that it’s an interesting hire that has some good and bad points as I mentioned above. Sometimes it’s all about the right “fit” and hopefully for long suffering Trojans’ fans USC is the right fit for Mike Bohn and vice versa.Certainly it’s the right fit for President Folt, who said so on Thursday morning.
Caller No. 2: Katz, are you alarmed by that 53-104 record regarding Bohn’s coach selection at Colorado? Don’t beat around the bush, dude. Man, Caller No. 2, you show no mercy. Yes, I was alarmed at that record when I was doing my research. It’s certainly not something I would be highlighting on my resume. However, Bohn apparently got a good one in Luke Fickell, and if Clay Helton is not retained and the new Trojans’ athletic director hires Urban Meyer, who the hell cares about what Bohn’s record was at Colorado in hiring football coaches.
Caller No. 3: GK, it’s still too early for Mike Bohn to make a decision on Helton, what do you think one of his first priorities should be at USC? Let me first say that at Thursday’s press conference, Bohn said that he has been getting information on the current football situation and Clay Helton from other university information givers. Now for your good question, Caller No. 3. I would make a beeline to all the super boosters of the athletic program and schmooze the heck out of them and find out what they would like to see and how they would like to financially help. I would guess much of the discussion from those super boosters would revolve around football, which would be no shock. I am sure that most of those boosters would make their feelings known regarding the current state of the football program and tell Bohn what he would need to do to get them back on board, which is a necessity. I believe this may have already taken place.
Caller No. 4: Katzman, what about basketball and baseball. How do you think Mike Bohn will address those situations? Caller No. 4, I think that since Bohn played college baseball at Kansas, he’d have a spot in his heart for the USC baseball program. Bohn said on Thursday that winning national championships in all sports was a priority. As for Cincinnati basketball, he hired the new men’s basketball coach after Mick Cronin departed for UCLA. By all accounts, his selection of John Brannen as the new Cincy men’s coach has been positive. With rumors that the NCAA is taking a look at the USC men’s basketball program, it will be interesting to see what happens should that time arise.
Caller No. 5: Who do you think is the happiest person in the USC family with hiring of Mike Bohn? Caller No. 5, no doubt here it’s “former” interim USC AD Dave Roberts, who now won’t have to fire Clay Helton if needed and won’t have to hire a new football coach. Roberts can now sit back and enjoy the show. Yes, Roberts was in attendance at Bohn’s Thursday press conference.
The last word: With the new athletic director in place, grab your popcorn and your favorite liquid refreshment because this and next month are likely to have a lot of drama, with special emphasis on “a lot” and, yes, we’re talking about football.