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Swann needs to continue progress

first_imgKeep it rolling · Pat Haden helped USC recover from crippling sanctions. Now, it is up to Lynn Swann (above) to take the next step forward. – Tal Volk | Daily TrojanUSC Athletics reminds me of a heavy-duty locomotive. Something can attempt to stop it with all of its might, but 99 times out of 100, that locomotive is going to continue to steamroll in its desired direction with little to no damage done to it.Almost six years ago, the NCAA tried to become that 1 percent when it handed down sanctions that it hoped to derail the USC Athletics program in the years to come. “A lack of institutional control” apparently warranted that.The football program faced a two-year postseason ban and was docked 10 scholarships for each of the following three seasons, while men’s hoops also self-imposed a postseason ban in 2010 and gave up a scholarship for two straight seasons. All hope seemed lost, especially for the football and men’s basketball programs which are traditionally the “bread and butter” of any collegiate athletics program.A natural conductor, Pat Haden stepped in as athletic director that summer and somehow managed to keep USC’s locomotive on track, despite the cloud of turmoil that was present when he took over. Under Haden’s tenure, graduation rates for student-athletes went up, athletics fundraising was as high as it’s ever been, and a number of new facilities were built.Of course, the NCAA did undoubtedly still do its damage with the blunder that it delivered. USC football was crippled by scholarship limitations, which led to lackluster on-field performances year after year and even more off-the-field drama with firings on airport tarmacs, unexpected hires and some personal problems that would lead to yet another coaching change. All of that is now in the past.Haden maneuvered around just about every obstacle thrown at him — some with more noise than others — but he deserves to be commended for leaving the athletics program in a better place than it was when he took over.The direction of both the football and basketball programs are perfect indicators of that upward trend, a progression that must be continued by the new sheriff in town: former USC football player and NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Lynn Swann.While there are doubters of Swann out there who say that his lack of athletic administrative experience makes him the wrong man for the job, I respectfully disagree.A one-time candidate gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, Swann is a natural politician, who will likely flourish as the figurehead of an athletic department that is as iconic as USC’s.  Just as he is responsible for the well-being of USC’s student-athletes, he is the man who will also serve as the ambassador of one of the country’s most renowned athletics programs.He must pick up where Haden left off, though, come July 1. Over the past five and a half years, the department has operated on a mantra of “continuous improvement” in all facets. That includes student-athlete performance and well-being, compliance, facilities, academics, and attendance at sporting events, among many other things.The athletic director position has evolved greatly over the past half decade, particularly due to the emergence of the invisible “arms race” among college programs, which requires a great deal of assets, resources and manpower on a daily basis. Swann will be tasked with making certain that all of the parts of the high-powered and intricate locomotive are functioning. It’s something I think Haden did well with his leadership, especially when some of the moving parts needed repairs, such as athletic compliance.There’s still a lot to build on as Swann learns the job on the fly. There really is no job or experience that could possibly prepare someone to be the athletic director at USC, not even athletic administrative experience.Swann’s first and foremost duty, however, will be to ensure the comfort and prosperity of his student-athletes, on and off the playing field.“This is not about me, this is about the kids,” Swann said in regard to his student-athletes in his introductory press conference.If he can live up to his promises, the athletics program should be in store for a pleasant ride in the years to come.Darian Nourian is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Persian Persuasion,” runs Thursdays.last_img read more