The list of accomplishments could span the length of an entire Football Field for USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, yet the inquisitive fascination for every sector of life is what truly separates the 60-year-old's name in the records.
"I had a fantastic college experience, it was wonderful friends and I like learning," Haden said, describing his All-American and USC Athletic Hall of Fame career, Wednesday night during esteemed Sports Business professor Jeff Fellenzer's weekly session. "I come from a family of five kids, and all of my family is interested in education and such"
Currently the midst of his fourth year as the Trojans Athletic Director, Haden came to campus in the midst of crisis and NCAA sanctions clouding the future of the highly-acclaimed program. Taking the challenge head on, like many of his other successful endeavors in life, Haden recognizes that he performs the job "for the love of the game," along with making the college experience for all his student-athletes "a whole lot of fun."
While the job is not always filled with fun times on campus, Haden understands what it takes to success dating back to his early childhood. Whether tackling defenders, battling for student-athlete stipends or even trying his hand at a free-throw shooting contest with USC Basketball players, Haden fears no challenge.
"This is part of the job I understand USC Athletics, I have been here since I was 14," Haden told students, who are part of a unique Sports Business class, focusing a bulk of its discussion with the AD on sanctions and many other hot topic issues in mainstream collegiate athletics. "At the end of the day its a game, and this is an athletic institution."
Fully immersed in the USC Athletic tradition dating back to his final game as a Trojan during the 1975 Rose Bowl playing for legendary coach John McKay, Haden loved his collegiate experience backwards and forwards. That being said, he also wished that he had taken more chances to venture out into different realms on campus. A mission he successfully accomplished full circle with a small acting bit this past Spring in a production of One Happy Fella.
Diving right into the future of the USC Athletics department from the opening statement, Haden was quick to recognize the real accomplishment surrounding a program celebrating #WePlay125 for an outstanding period of athletic success. Among many of the items tossed around from students and faculty-alike, Haden addressed the need to improve the viewer experience at the Coliseum moving forward.
"We are happy to have control," Haden said of the new 98-year lease USC signed early last week with the State of California and the Science Center Board of Directors. "But if you are wearing my hat its a mixed blessing." Haden immediately pointed out the need for major renovations, including renovating seating on the peristyle end zone sections along with increased luxury suites and improved cell phone/wireless service in the years to come.
In terms of a time table for many of the changes and added fixtures Haden envisions for the future, he says "its putting lipstick on a big concept. What we want, what we can afford and go from there." Switching to matters more pertinent to the student athlete, Haden did spend a good deal of the night weighing in on pressing issues for student athletes and the state of affairs for his big-ticket item USC Football.
"At the end of the day, we're in the winning business, so sooner or later you have to go that done," Haden said, while also defending his head coach for many of the positive aspects he has brought to the table over the last four years.
Most notably, Haden referenced Kiffin's high marks in player graduation rates, character, and athletic compliance. The most recent example stems from the vastly increased 12-person compliance department protecting the liberties and freedom of players like Marqise Lee regarding his trip to New York with a legal instance of signed memorabilia.
In terms of the daily duties, Haden loves walking around campus each and every day interacting with what he calls the "wonderful blend of students" who never fail to share their two-cents on the football team. In the midst of it all, the love of the game that he continues to preach keeps his student-athletes humble and appreciative. "You are special, but remember you are part of that great continuum," Haden says is the main message he tells each and every kid.
Celebrating the next step towards true academic and athletic greatness, including an NCAA-leading three National Championships last season from Men's and Women's Water Polo plus Women's Golf, Haden remains challenged with better integrating his student athletes.
Some of those plans include the multi-sport workout setting of the new John McKay center which allows players of all shapes, sizes and cultures to interact on a daily basis. All in the plan of brining athletes together under the Trojan cause: through this portal walk the worlds greatest athletes.
Hoping to lock in the final two crowns before reaching National Championship number 100 this season, Haden surely loves to balance the bevy of flaunting awards with plenty of witty humor. "I love when students are back on campus for the Fall," Pat Haden said about interacting amongst students through the first three weeks of school. "I swear I almost get hit by four or five bikes a day, and yet I love it."