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College Hotline - Pac-12 affairs: Why USC’s AD search matters to your school whether you...

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    (Courtesy: USC)

    The Pac-12 is looking for an athletic director.

    Yes, technically the search falls under the purview of the University of Southern California. Except USC’s AD search is everyone’s AD search. If you’re not interested, get interested – the job is that important for the conference at large.

    Check that. It could be that important for the conference at large, if the Trojans get it right and hire someone who can express and execute a vision that embodies the mission of the school and the conference during a time of momentous changes throughout college athletics.

    Think about it:

    The AD at the conference’s flagship football program … in the nation’s No. 2 market … at a top-25 academic institution … in the midst of major legislative and financial challenges rippling from the NCAA HQ and Power 5 conference offices to campuses big and small, public and private, from coast to coast.

    Yeah, I’d say the hire is pretty important for the league.

    Confidence that the Trojans will get it right?

    Okay, don’t answer that.


    USC does many things very well when it comes to athletics, but the thing it does best is hire its own.

    Only once in 90 years has the school gone outside the USC family (either alums or employees) to hire an AD: Mike McGee in the 1980s.

    Yep: Once in 90 years.

    I’d argue the school and the Pac-12 would be better served by the Trojans going outside the family in this situation.

    Here’s what USC absolutely should not do: Hire the 2016 version of Mike Garrett or Pat Haden.

    The Trojans need a proven collegiate athletics administrator, not a former football player with zero AD experience.

    USC athletic director Keyshawn Johnson? Bad.

    USC athletic director Chris Del Conte? Good.

    USC athletic director Rodney Peete? Bad.

    USC athletic director Scott Barnes? Good.

    (Just joking about Johnson and Peete … I think.)

    The Hotline went deep into its list of contacts to determine what model the Trojans should use … what characteristics they should consider … what criteria they should emphasize during the search.

    The consensus: USC should hire someone with substantial experience in the business of running an athletic department, someone who has strong contacts in the industry, is well versed in the legislative changes, has proven success in football matters, understands life on the front lines, can communicate a vision for USC (and, by extension, the conference) in an inclusive, passionate manner.

    No problem, right?

    (Also important: Integrity, which is why the Tom Jurich report Wednesday made little sense. Jurich is well-regarded in the AD industry but the Louisville scandal would seem to make him a poor fit for USC. Best guess: USC’s search firm reaches out to Jurich as part of initial candidate sweep, the Jurich camp takes the contact and spins it into legit interest, leaks it and … presto: Jurich has some leverage with his own bosses.)

    What was not named as essential: Experience at USC.

    Yes, it helps to understand the culture of the west coast; even better if there’s familiarity with the Pac-12. But actual USC employment (or degree) is not critical.

    I’m not suggesting the names below are candidates. I have no idea if any of them are interested in the job … if there has been any contact … if the Trojans are the slightest bit interested … no idea.

    (Honestly, it’s so early in the process that USC’s brass probably doesn’t have a hard-and-fast list. AD searches typically take months.)

    But these sitting ADs could be considered models for the Trojans, because they all understand the landscape and have loads of experience and proven successes:

    TCU’s Del Conte, Pittsburgh’s Barnes, Arizona’s Greg Byrne, Memphis’ Tom Bowen, Florida’s Jeremy Foley, Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione and Arkansas’ Jeff Long.

    Again: These are my examples, not USC’s candidates — and there are a dozen others that I could have named that would provide a model for the Trojans.

    How many of the top 10 or 15 ADs in the country would be interested in a move to Trojanland? I’m not going to pretend to know the answer.

    But I know this: USC needs to go outside the family, it needs to aim high, and it needs to get this right.

    xxxxxxx

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