When Lynn Swann was glamorously hired to run USC athletics in the spring of 2016, there was a quiet concern that he had no experience in athletic administration and no ongoing close connection with the program.
In one stunning move Sunday, both fears were realized.
By retaining Clay Helton as the Trojans’ football coach, Swann doesn’t seem to understand the basic role of an athletic director or the modern soul of USC.
In failing to make a change in leadership after the Trojans’ worst season in nearly 20 years and with the program at one of its lowest ebbs ever, Swann took the easy way out by keeping Helton, almost as if he had no real plan and no desire to dirty his hands concocting one.
In completely ignoring the scores of invested boosters who were demanding a change, Swann also showed a lack of appreciation for the passion that has helped fuel not only the greatness of the football program, but the success of the entire university.
The Trojans family is shouting, yet he’s not paying attention. The Trojans program is in freefall, yet he’s not grasping the gravity of the situation.
The USC football team is the university’s greatest and most important marketing tool, yet Swann is treating it like it will just sell itself. Maybe that was the case when he was a national champion receiver at USC in the early 1970s, but these days, he’s running the wrong route.
If Helton were viewed as the manager of a company’s most visible asset, and that asset was visibly failing, a strong chief executive would hold him accountable. An athletic director needs to be that kind of CEO, but Swann lacks the experience, and it shows.