USC Trojans Athletic Director Pat Haden has announced his plans to retire as athletic director, effective June 30, 2016. Haden will stay on for an additional year to help the University with their renovation of the Los Angeles Coliseum. The announcement was made via a letter from University President Max Nikias.
Pat Haden became the Athletic Director in the Summer of 2010 during a dreadfully turbulent time in USC athletics. Among other problems the University was stuck in an NCAA quagmire and Haden was brought on to help guide the athletic department out of the mess and rebuild. Haden instituted a robust NCAA compliance program while still fielding a football team that many considered to have out performed compared to other programs faced with similarly severe sanction. At the same time Haden was able to substantially improve student-athlete GPAs. Haden has also been a prolific fundraiser bringing in almost half a billion dollars to USC.
Haden's actions as athletic director, however, were not without controversy and many have wanted him gone for some time. When the NCAA was rebuked in the McNair case many of the Trojan faithful wanted Haden to take strong and decisive action against the NCAA. Haden opted not to do this. Others pointed to the sideline debacle against Stanford when he apparently received a text to come to the field to help Steve Sarkisian. Haden released a video just before the 2013 season to point out that Lane Kiffin was decidedly NOT on the 'hot seat' yet a mere handful of games later Haden fired Lane Kiffin in an airport. Others were upset with Haden's hiring of Andy Enfield, which after completing the sweep of UCLA last night seems like a much better hire.
Perhaps most notably, members of the Trojan family were upset with Pat Haden given his hiring and handling of Steve Sarkisian. Many were angered that Haden claimed to be unaware of Sarkisian's problems before he was hired at USC and it did not help that Haden attempted to shift blame to a million-dollar search firm for doing a poor job vetting Sarkisian. Some folks did not really care about the vetting, they just wanted to know why '7-win Sark' was deemed good enough to coach at USC when he could not find much success at his previous coaching stint.
Haden did not help himself much, in the eyes of his detractors, during the process to replace Steve Sarkisian as head football coach. Many wondered about the timing of his announcement that Clay Helton would be the head coach, many wondered (and likely still do) if Helton was even the right pick at all. The questions raised about the thoroughness of his efforts in hiring Sarkisian understandably arose during the search process that resulted in Clay Helton.
Pat Haden has had many successes in his time as the USC Athletic Director. Unfortunately, his biggest flops all seemed to revolve around the one thing that matters most for so many members of the Trojan Family. USC is a football school. In the end, for the people that wanted him to step down, all of his accomplishments and advancements for the department could not overcome the problems with the direction of the football team.
With Haden's pending retirement, let us not forget that while his reign was certainly imperfect, Haden did do a tremendous amount of good for the University of Southern California and it is difficult to deny that the Athletic Department is in much better shape now than it was in 2010.
Best of luck to Pat Haden, best of luck to his successor, and as it always will be, Fight On.