People, like life itself, are complicated. Public image and private reality are often different. What outsiders see on the surface is often quite different from internal realities in workplaces and departments. To a certain undeniable extent, this split between front-stage and back-stage identities has existed at USC.
On the surface, Mike Bohn seemed to be the consummate professional. Athletic directors are paid big money to do a few things really well. One of them is to hire the right coaches for sports programs, especially in the high-profile revenue sports.
Mike Bohn did that part of his job really well. That is very clear.
Bohn is also leaving USC under a cloud of disappointment. USC President Carol Folt accepted Bohn’s resignation and very briefly thanked Bohn for his service to USC in a manner which was (appropriately) subdued. Bohn, as L.A. Times reporting has noted, was asked about his management of the USC athletic department one day before he resigned. The Times gathered numerous complaints from several different sources about Bohn’s behavior and his management practices.
Translated: This is not a happy retirement or withdrawal from the scene. This is an unwelcomed, unwanted exit which had to occur due to unprofessional behavior. The contradictions and complications of Mike Bohn’s tenure at USC have been laid bare. Let’s tackle the most important points:
The hire of Lindsay Gottlieb worked out really well. The Trojans returned to the NCAA Tournament this season for the first time in nine years. Gottlieb has USC on a steady upward trajectory. Bohn knocked this hire out of the park, something he did in other sports.
The Trojans’ new manager has USC on the brink of a trip to the college baseball postseason. USC baseball is in a better place than it was at any point over the previous eight years.
Bohn got this hire right as well.
Mike Bohn bringing Lincoln Riley is the biggest hire of them all, and USC football is back in the forefront of the sports scene in Los Angeles and on a national level. Bohn’s hires of high-profile coaches have obviously been highly productive moments for USC athletics.
NEW YEAR'S SIX BOWL
The Trojan football program was tough to watch in the years before Mike Bohn hired Lincoln Riley. In Riley’s first year, the Men of Troy made a New Year’s Six bowl game, although they lost to Tulane. The Trojans also had the Heisman Trophy winner in Caleb Williams. This wouldn’t have happened if Bohn hadn’t landed Riley in November of 2021.
WOMEN'S NCAA TRIP
Not only did the USC women’s team beat Stanford, they also made a trip to the Big Dance. The baseball team could get into the NCAA Tournament field as well, and all three of Mike Bohn’s major hires have done well thus far. That’s a plain reality.
ON THE OTHER HAND
Mike Bohn resigned today as USC’s AD a day after @latimes sent him and USC questions about concerns about his conduct and leadership.
— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) May 20, 2023
Lots of concerning details emerged in Los Angeles Times reporting on Bohn’s tenure at USC, and for that matter, on his previous tenure at the University of Cincinnati.
CAROL FOLT'S STATEMENT
This is obviously not a triumphant, celebratory statement. Something was amiss, and that will be attached to Mike Bohn’s track record and legacy as an athletic director … and not just at USC. His tenure at Cincinnati has also been criticized by former employees at UC.