President Carol Folt announced Monday that Athletic Director Lynn Swann resigned from his position. Swann had served as athletic director since 2016.
“Lynn has been a leader on and off the field at USC for nearly five decades, and he will forever be a valued member of the Trojan family,” Folt wrote in an email to the USC community.
Folt also stated that special adviser to the president Dave Roberts, who currently serves as the NCAA’s Vice Chair of the Committee on Infractions, will fill the athletic director role in the interim. He has been the vice president of athletics compliance at the University since 2010.
Folt said Roberts’ experience as a student-athlete at UC Davis, understanding of collegiate athletics and legal background make him a well-qualified candidate.
“I think you probably know by now that I always start from the students and think about the student-athletes,” Folt told the Daily Trojan. “And, as we look forward to the next athletic director, having that strong perspective of student-athletes is really important … I couldn’t have a person better poised to think about what are the things that an athletic department needs to be to be a great athletic department in the next year, five years, 10 years.”
Roberts told the Daily Trojan that his first step will be to talk to coaches, administrators and student-athletes in the coming weeks to find out what the department can change and improve. He said his ultimate priorities are to set things up for the next athletic director and ensure that student-athletes have the best experience possible.
“Being on the Committee on Infractions, [has] allowed me to do is see what the cutting-edge issues are with sports today, so I can bring that information back to my colleagues at USC, and we can take actions that are going to have us be avoiding problems in the future,” Roberts said.
Folt also announced the members of a search committee that will be in charge of finding a permanent replacement. The committee is chaired by Trustee Suzanne Nora Johnson.
It includes alumni representative Bill Allen, Vice President for Student Affairs Winston Crisp, Faculty Athletics Representative Alan Green, Academic Senate President Rebecca Lonergan, Provost Charles Zukoski, Board of Trustees Chairman Rick Caruso and trustees Jeff Smulyan and William McMorrow.
Folt added that the committee will include two student-athletes yet to be named. She told the Daily Trojan that she is drawing on positive experiences from including two students on her provost search committee.
“I think the main reason I decided to [include student-athletes] is that my experience has always told me that when you can involve students in decisions that are very pertinent to them, you’re going to get a much better outcome,” Folt said. “So I’m looking for an athletic director that is really helping us build a very strong student-centered focus.”
Swann’s resignation comes four days after a Los Angeles Times report revealed that USC alumnus B. Wayne Hughes Sr., founder of self-storage company Public Storage and a good friend of Swann’s, donated almost $400 million to the University from 2010-15, just before Swann took over as athletic director. The article also reported that Swann was given “a seat on the corporate board of a Hughes company, American Homes 4 Rent, and directorship on the board of Hughes’ charity,” and that Hughes donated over $165,000 to Swann’s 2006 campaign for governor in Pennsylvania.
Swann, a former USC wide receiver, came under fire for multiple scandals in the athletic department during his tenure. His resignation comes just months after USC’s involvement in the college admissions scheme, in which the FBI found that former senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and former water polo coach Jovan Vavic received bribes to falsely identify prospective students as recruits, and two years after the FBI arrested former men’s assistant basketball coach Tony Bland for his role in the college basketball bribery scandal.
With all the problems that happened under Swann’s supervision, some were surprised at the timing of the decision. Folt said there is no single appropriate time for a dramatic overhaul due to the ever-changing nature of the athletics department.
“Each sport has a different ebb and flow, but right now all of our fall sports are really set, they’re all going, things are going really well, things are in a really good situation,” she said. “And in a few months, we’re going to start looking to winter sports, and we’re going to be doing more recruiting and more building, so in a way this is a very good time because it allows me to select an athletics director that’s going to be the person all those new people will want to meet.”
Both Folt and Roberts said they’re excited with the direction of the department.
“Our Athletics Department puts our student-athletes first by pursuing excellence with integrity,” Folt wrote in her announcement email. “We will build on the traditions and strengths of our exceptional athletics program.”
Amanda Sturges contributed to this report.