If you could interview USC AD candidates, which questions would you ask?
We have spent plenty of time focusing on the candidates USC President Carol Folt can and should consider in her search for the next athletic director of Trojan athletics. To be sure, picking the right candidate is the ultimate point. Getting someone who can blend Mike Bohn’s talent for picking great coaches with a personal ability to provide better leadership, organization, and management in office settings — without drama or controversy — is the goal for USC. Getting the good parts of Mike Bohn without his negatives is Carol Folt’s pursuit.
Naturally, the conversation will gravitate toward the names of the top candidates USC should look at. To be sure, that’s important. Yet, Folt and USC — like any other school considering a huge hire — can significantly improve the odds that their new hire will do a great job if they ask the right questions in the interview room.
Let’s explore this point a little more, noting that we mentioned it on our recent live show with Mark Rogers at The Voice of College Football.
As you look at the questions we raise below, ask yourself: “If I could interview USC’s next AD candidate, what questions would I ask?”
Here we go:
QUESTION 1: HOW WOULD YOU WORK WITH LINCOLN RILEY?
Mike Bohn definitely sold Lincoln Riley on the idea of working at USC (as did Brandon Sosna, Bohn’s then-assistant in 2021). The new athletic director needs to be fully in sync with Riley, and Riley needs to enjoy working for this athletic director. In the interview room, the candidate needs to demonstrate a strong knowledge of Lincoln Riley and how to put him in a position to thrive and be happy.
QUESTION 2: HOW WILL YOU HANDLE ALEX GRINCH?
If the USC defense does not play great in 2023, the USC athletic director will need to have a difficult conversation with Lincoln Riley about his defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch. Riley is loyal to Grinch, but results have to matter. The new AD needs to have a relationship with Riley which is strong enough to create accountability on this front.
QUESTION 3: CAN YOU HIRE AN ELITE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR IF YOU NEED TO?
Can the new athletic director not only hire a new defensive coordinator, but hire an elite coordinator to replace Grinch if that becomes evident and necessary in December or January? Whoever is conducting this interview has to explore the candidate’s short list of defensive coordinator candidates and identify which candidates have the best lists and the best ability to pull off such a hire. Maybe it won’t be needed. Maybe USC goes 12-1 this year and Grinch proves himself. That would be great … but the new AD needs to be prepared if this season doesn’t go as well as hoped. The interview needs to unearth a plan for the defensive coordinator slot.
QUESTION 4: HOW WILL YOU DEAL WITH BIG TEN SCHEDULING AND LOGISTICS?
With USC entering the Big Ten, Mike Bohn was the guy who helped get that deal done. Bohn had a working relationship with Big Ten administrators and executives. The new AD at USC has to establish a strong relationship and make sure USC athletes in all sports are taken care of in terms of travel, logistics, and the other issues Bohn discussed with Big Ten leaders. Making sure there is no drop-off here is important.
QUESTION 5: HOW WILL YOU SUPPORT LINDSAY GOTTLIEB?
Mike Bohn sold Lindsay Gottlieb on a vision for USC athletics. The new AD has to win Gottlieb’s confidence and trust. That’s pretty clear, and it’s not something which requires any real explanation.
QUESTION 6: HOW WILL YOU SUPPORT ANDY STANKIEWICZ?
USC baseball, like women’s basketball, is prominent and successful once again. Making sure Andy Stankiewicz has everything he needs — after being convinced by Mike Bohn to come to USC — is another really important task for the Trojans’ new athletic director. Being on the same page with these coaches who were hired by Mike Bohn is a very critical aspect of the new AD’s job description.