Haden Has High Expectations, But Are They Reasonable?
Sanctions, lawsuits and transfers have racked a program that was once among the most feared in the nation and turned it into a laughing stock at the national level. [Insert Lane Kiffin joke here.]
But now there's a new sheriff in town, Pat Haden, and he's not going to take any crap. That's the vibe I got from the radio interviews he's done anyway. I don't know about you.
Tuesday was Haden's first day as athletic director. He kicked off his term with an open letter to the USC community outlining his goals and expectations for the future. Priorities include: winning, playing by the rules and trumping up women's sports.
Here's an excerpt:
On my first day as your athletic director, I wanted to share some early thoughts about our athletic department, our values, our athletes and our future. I am blessed to be reporting to President Max Nikias. Max has been at USC for 19 years and embraces collegiate athletics. He and his wife, Niki, love to attend our games. He is very supportive of all of us in Heritage Hall. Before President Nikias offered me this position, we spoke at length about "success"-what it means to us as professionals and how we plan to achieve it as Trojans. One challenge we discussed was how we will redefine success in light of the NCAA sanctions that are upon us today. We agreed to define our success over the near term the following ways:
- To compete passionately, win, and do it with integrity.
- To create a more robust culture of compliance without dampening the competitive spirit of our programs.
- To not only support the programs most of us think about (football, basketball, baseball), but to build on all programs and, in particular, to build on our women's athletic programs and their success.
- To continue to drive improvement in our graduation rates and the Academic Progress Rate (APR).
- To find a way to allow our athletes to experience the entire university experience, not just the athletic experience.
- To balance our budget every year and build on Mike Garrett's highly successful fundraising program.
We seek to win Pac-10 and national championships. That is our tradition and heritage. We will compete in an ethical way and with the integrity each of us attempts to live.
We will not win every game in every sport in every year. But we will create an environment where student-athletes work as hard as they can to win each game and, along the way, to learn the life lessons of preparation, teamwork, dedication and stick-to-it-ive-ness that athletic competition can teach us so very well.
You can read the rest of Haden's statement here, but this section summarizes his focus pretty well: he wants to win and make boatloads of money while also being politically correct and keeping the NCAA happy. In other words, he wants to have his cake and eat it too.
I know what you're thinking: The football program is under fire, what else is he supposed to say? And you have a valid point. Haden's at the tip of a hot poker right now. He didn't have much choice but to be politically correct.
With that said, I think he went too far in the direction of goodie two shoes with this statement. It's too long on vague terms and idyllic notions and too short on common sense for my taste.
We will compete in an ethical way and with the integrity each of us attempts to live? I don't even know what that means.
If we learned anything from the Mike Garrett/Pete Carroll era it's that winning comes at a price. There are trade-offs involved with bringing in big name recruits. Sometimes you have to prioritize certain things over others to get the results you want. And oftentimes those priorities don't jive with things like APR and building up the women's golf program.
I'm not saying Haden shouldn't strive to create the kind of environment he promises in his statement--who wouldn't want a viable, well-rounded athletic program that's on the level? I'm just saying he better have a damn good plan for carrying this off if he intends to do everything he says he wants to do.
Otherwise, USC will be just another program doing everything well, and nothing great.
To reach editor Patrick Crawley, click here.