USC hires Mike Bohn as athletic director

Athletic director Mike Bohn speaks at his introductory press conference after USC president Carol Folt officially announced the hire Thursday morning. (Ling Luo / Daily Trojan)

USC officially announced former University of Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn as the University’s athletic director Thursday morning. The University hopes Bohn’s experience proves invaluable as the school’s athletic department looks to confront several major challenges in the coming months and years.

USC Athletics have been marred by scandal in recent years. During previous athletic director Lynn Swann’s three-year term, USC found itself involved in a federal investigation into college basketball’s pay-for-play infractions. USC was also heavily implicated in the recent college admissions scandal, in which members of the athletic department helped students get into the University by falsely identifying them as athletes. This prompted the indictment of associate athletic director Donna Heinel and former water polo head coach Jovan Vavic, among other officials. 

“It always starts with playing by the rules, doing the right thing and most importantly, supporting our student-athletes,” Bohn said. “When you’re supporting your student-athletes and doing things to help them be successful, then you know you’re obviously focused on the right things in pulling it together.”

With the exception of a Rose Bowl Victory in 2017, USC’s football team has failed to return to to the prominence it enjoyed during the 2000s, and many fans are calling for the athletic department to replace current head coach Clay Helton. Bohn said he had not met Helton yet and that any talk of job status was premature.

“Just like any program this time of year, we expect them to finish strong.” Bohn said. ” … I’m not trying to add more pressure to him or the student-athletes that represent him, but we always want to finish strong. Good programs finish strong.”

Bohn replaces interim athletic director Dave Roberts. Roberts, who also serves as USC President Carol Folt’s special adviser, took the interim position following Swann’s resignation Sept. 9.

USC President Carol Folt introduced Bohn and said she is confident Bohn will fulfill her vision for a successful department that wins with integrity.

“[Bohn has] led athletic programs that are very competitive, have gone through changes and been even more competitive as they progressed, and he demands at all times the highest level of integrity of himself and of everyone who works for him,” Folt said.

Bohn is the first athletic director USC has hired without previous ties to the University since Mike McGee, who held the position from 1984-1993. Bohn said he thinks this gives him an advantage.

 “I believe I bring in a new perspective. Maybe something just a little bit different,” he said. “But I want to make sure you understand and want Trojans everywhere to understand that I have tremendous respect for the traditions, the history, the success and what USC Athletics stand for … As a competitor, that’s why I want to be here.”

Bohn arrives at University Park after serving as Cincinnati’s Athletic Director since 2014. While at Cincinnati, Bohn oversaw the revival of several of the university’s athletic programs and became a champion of Cincinnati’s attempts to join a Power Five football conference. 

In 2013, Bohn marshalled in an $86 million renovation to Nippert Stadium, the school’s football field. In 2016, he hired former Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell to take over as the school’s head coach. 

Despite missing out on a slot in the Big 12 conference during 2016 talks over conference realignment, the Bearcats have returned to college football relevance under Fickell’s tenure as head coach. The Bearcats are currently ranked No. 17 in the AP Top 25 and are 18-3 since the beginning of Fickell’s second season in 2018.

Bohn also sought to re-energize Cincinnati’s basketball programs during his term. In 2017, Cincinnati’s basketball arena received an $87 million renovation. Cincinnati’s men’s basketball team never failed to make the NCAA tournament during his time at the school, while Bohn’s 2018 hiring of women’s head basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard helped the program reach its highest win total since 2002.

Prior to his tenure at Cincinnati, Bohn served as Colorado’s AD from 2005 to 2013. During his term in Boulder, Bohn oversaw the school’s successful transition from the Big 12 to the Pac-12. The three head football coaches he hired — Dan Hawkins, Jon Embree and Mike MacIntryre — were fired within five seasons of taking the job.  

Bohn said that his primary goal is to engage with student-athletes and ensure the administration is centered around them.

“My intent is to listen, to learn and to lead — in that order,” Bohn said. “And ultimately, my goal is to deliver a bold, creative and innovative vision for our program that will position USC at the forefront of the intercollegiate athletics landscape for the present and the future. We want to be the best at every single thing that we do.”

Nathan Ackerman and Amanda Sturges contributed to this report.

A previous version of this article listed Marko Vavic as USC’s former water polo coach. The article has been updated with the correct name, Jovan Vavic. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.

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