In the midst of growing controversy around the functioning power and authority of the archaic NCAA, USC AD Pat Haden takes a firm stance for his student athletes preaching a challenging, fun but also rewarding environment.
Arriving solely for the purpose to solve major sanctions around the basketball and football programs that stand second only to the SMU Death Penalty in the mid 1980s in terms of discipline, USC's Athletic Director Haden has aggressively tackled big picture issues in NCAA Compliance for 21 of his athletic programs on campus.
Now in the midst of his fourth season, Haden's grind for perfection has taken a slight tole on his love of the game mentality that makes him an effective problem solver. "That has been a jigsaw puzzle which is difficult to crack, sooner or later it catches up with you," Haden said last week about compliance. "This is part of the job, I understand USC Athletics I have been here since I was 14. At the end of the day its a game, and this is an athletic institution."
Dating back to his playing days with the Trojans under the tutelage of the great John McKay, Haden witnessed decades of athletic dominance at Troy. Something he wants to return to campus in the coming years, and as times are obviously changing around NCAA compliance and benefits the necessity for change is rather prevalent across the land.
"I can understand the temptation for some of these kids," Haden said about the possibility of players taking stipends from school-affiliated donors. "It (food stipends) averages 5-6 bucks a day to consume four-times the calories guys like I consume. We should not have guys not eat for three or four days, just because of the stipend."
Despite the growing concern over players taking money for autographs and other memorabilia, Haden firmly stands behind his stance that USC Athletics has made massive strides since the Reggie Bush scandal. Not only has USC bulked up their compliance department from one to 12 employees in the past four years, the players arriving on campus are expected from the moment they arrive working within the rules behind a clean-slate Trojan Athletics brand.
"(We) Recruit kids with character, talk about what it means to be a Trojan. I am not naive enough to avoid sanctions," Haden said about the ever-changing landscape around NCAA rules and regulations in athletics. "We will not hide what we find out, but I have personally thought that we have not treated our NCAA athletes fairly."
Haden has been firmly behind the implementation of some form of payment for players, especially at a time where conversation around USC Football and the financial impact of its players are at an all-time high.
Whether that be a trust fund, direct deposit or even luxury plan for the coming years after their NCAA careers, Haden feels students be compensated for their play to a certain extent, even if it just pays for lunch at the campus center.
With control of the Coliseum under his grasp, along with 98 National Championship enshrined in Heritage Hall, Haden likes the propositions of USC Athletics that lie ahead win, lose or draw this season. "Athletics should be fun for those who play," Haden says about the high-paced and win-or-go home mentality that surrounds major revenue athletics. "It should be fun and having a blast, and thats been a little of a challenge."