USC Trojans athletic director Mike Bohn penned a letter to USC fans and the Trojan Family on Friday, disseminated by USC Athletics. Bohn touched on the steps USC has taken thus far, how the Trojan Family can help, and looks forward to the days and months ahead.
Thank you for your patience during this time of unprecedented challenge for our University and immeasurable disappointment and devastation for so many of our student-athletes. In the two weeks since our world suddenly halted, our athletic department has been singularly focused on the student-athletes whom we are unequivocally committed to serving. As we face our new reality together, our attention has shifted to operational continuity during this extended remote period. I want to take this opportunity to provide some updates regarding our athletic department response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
First and foremost, on behalf of our entire athletics program, I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. Please allow me to be among the many to encourage you to practice social distancing and adhere to all CDC health and safety guidelines. As the preeminent program in the largest market in the world for intercollegiate athletics, it is my hope that we can be a leader in setting the social distancing standard for the rest of the nation. All of us in the Trojan Family are counting on each other to do our part in defeating our newest opponent, COVID-19.
Second, I’d like to share some of the steps we’ve taken to ensure that the critical needs of our student-athletes are met, and our athletic department continues to operate efficiently and effectively.
- Athletics Leadership: We have implemented a Remote Athletics Management Model, which is spearheaded by a 14-member project management team of athletics department leaders who together interface with all aspects of the student-athlete experience, including mental health, medicine, academics, compliance, and more; This group convenes multiple times per week via video conference and submits weekly reports to ensure that we are properly tracking all continuing developments.
- Campus, Conference, and NCAA Engagement: Each morning at 8:30 AM, I participate in a conference call with all Pac-12 Athletic Directors and Commissioner Larry Scott to address ongoing agenda items related to the pandemic; As a member of President Carol L. Folt’s Senior Leadership Team, I also serve on the University’s COVID-19 task force and participate in those daily meetings; Additionally, we have representatives on our staff who participate in daily calls for the University’s emergency operations command center and health centers, among other entities, as well as various Pac-12 academics, compliance, football task force, and NCAA legislative calls.
- Head Coach Communication and Student-Athlete Welfare: We are in daily contact through various platforms with all of our head coaches and student-athletes, and we’ve defined protocols for our head coaches and their expected, consistent engagement with our student-athletes (weekly virtual team meetings, support staff meetings, etc.); I’m pleased to share that our staff worked diligently to ensure that 99% of our student-athletes are home with family and friends, and we have only seven (of our more than 600 student-athletes) remaining on campus under watchful protection of our University and athletics staff; We also surveyed all of our student-athletes to document their new locations, potential travel, updated emergency contacts, and immediate requests for assistance in any specific areas, such as sports psychology, athletic medicine, academics, or administration.
- Mental Health and Wellness: Our world-class sports psychology services have shifted entirely to a virtual platform and 100% of our counseling services are continuing for our student-athletes during this especially challenging and stressful time; Additionally, we have in-person crisis services still available on campus for any student-athletes currently in the greater Los Angeles area who may need dedicated support; We are sending out regular communications on Coping and Wellness and will be hosting a series of virtual Mindfulness Sessions for our student-athletes as we prioritize maintaining connectedness.
- Medicine, Safety, and Sports Performance: Our athletic medicine staff and team physicians remain in constant contact with the University’s health and hospital personnel to ensure effective COVID-19 communications and proper support for any student-athletes experiencing any symptoms; Please know that, at this time, no USC student-athletes have tested positive for COVID-19; Remarkably, our athletic trainers have worked relentlessly to facilitate rehab and physical therapy at clinics all over the country nearest to the homes of our student-athletes; Further, our sport performance coaches have provided each student-athlete with an individualized home strength training program and we are in the process of sending all student-athletes a package of workout equipment.
- Academics: With classes resuming this past Monday, our Student-Athlete Academic Services team has converted our entire academic operation to an online format; We have connected each student-athlete with an academic advisor and learning specialist for regular check-ins, and we’ve mobilized our force of 85 tutors with proper training and technological equipment to continue all tutoring sessions as needed; This past fall semester, we recorded our highest student-athlete cumulative GPA in the last 20 years and maintaining this record-breaking level of achievement is a top priority.
I’ve been so inspired by our department’s collective response to this crisis. There are countless examples of staff members – the overwhelming majority of whom our donors and fans will never know – selflessly committing themselves to the success and well-being of our programs and student-athletes.
Third, we have received many inquiries as to how you can help us during this difficult time. While we recognize that there are significant threats facing our world, it is impossible to minimize the devastation felt by our student-athletes who had seasons and championships abruptly canceled through no fault of their own. As we assess the severe economic impacts on our program as a result of the pandemic, my primary request at this time is for you to show your love and support of our student-athletes and demonstrate the combined power of the Trojan Family. I’m calling on all Trojans to email me letters of support for our student-athletes at email@example.com. I’ll be sharing my favorite emails on social media. And if you are able, tweet at our teams and athletes to let them know how much you care. Please use #TrojanFamily!
Finally, with respect to the 2020 football season and eligibility relief for spring student-athletes, we understand that you have many questions right now that we simply cannot answer. However, I can assure you that we are working tirelessly each day to address your concerns with the Pac-12 Conference and the NCAA. My hope is that as we successfully flatten the curve over the next few weeks, we will gain clearer visibility into the timeline for returning to normalcy, and we’ll be better prepared to answer your questions. Please know that our Trojan Athletic Fund and season ticket representatives continue to work remotely, and they are available to you at any time. As soon as we receive any relevant information or make any pertinent decisions, we will communicate with you as quickly as possible.
For those who have yet to renew your season tickets, we’ve extended our 2020 football season ticket renewal deadline to May 13. For those currently on season ticket payment plans, we will delay processing the next installment until Friday, July 24. We recognize that you’re facing the same uncertainty in your life as we are, so it’s important to us that you do not worry about losing your tickets or making season ticket payments if you’re not in a position to do so at this time. We greatly appreciate your patience, understanding, and commitment.
This pandemic is so much greater than sports. As key stakeholders in USC, I want to assure you that the comprehensive response led by President Folt, Provost Chip Zukoski, Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman, and the University’s COVID-19 task force has been as masterful and inspirational as anything I’ve experienced in 35+ years as an administrator. During a truly extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime event, I feel deeply fortunate to be guided by the steady hand and resolute leadership of President Folt and her team of trusted advisors and partners. Like me, you should take great comfort in knowing we have the finest institutional leadership in the country.
The University has created an outstanding website that contains significant information and FAQs related to USC’s COVID-19 response. I encourage you to bookmark it and check it regularly for the latest updates: https://sites.usc.edu/coronavirus/.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can be helpful with absolutely anything at all. In these uncertain times, we are especially grateful to have dedicated individuals like you in our Trojan Family. We wish you the best and look forward to seeing you again soon.