LOS ANGELES >> Mike Bohn stood in front of the gathered alumni, trustees, administrators and coaches, his red-and-yellow striped tie signaling his inclusion into the club.
Bohn was introduced Thursday as USC’s new athletic director. He comes not as a former Trojan, but as the second AD in school history without previous ties to the institution.
He hit all the right notes in trying to win over his new environment. He spoke about the special feeling he got around campus, how he wants to reach out to former Trojans to get their perspective on his new department. He went so far as to call USC “the preeminent college athletic program in the country.”
But Bohn is, in fact, an outsider. And at a school that previously hired three former Trojans football players to run the athletic department, that could prove to be asset.
Bohn has been the athletic director at Idaho, San Diego State, Colorado and, most recently, Cincinnati. He pointed out he didn’t attend any of the institutions he worked for, going back to his first job at the Air Force Academy.
“But I think that’s a little bit of an advantage,” he said while reiterating his respect for USC’s athletics history. “I believe I bring in a new perspective. Maybe something just a little bit different.”
USC president Carol L. Folt introduced Bohn on Thursday. She repeatedly emphasized his experience, as well as the energy and passion he brings to the job.
These characteristics were on display as he spoke, his volume rising throughout his opening remarks and responses to queries. Bohn credited this to being the son of a P.E. teacher.
Asked if finding someone from outside the USC bubble was important to her, Folt, herself having arrived at USC from North Carolina this summer, said she wanted to find the best candidate, period.
But, she noted, his array of experiences across the country was part of what made Bohn that candidate.
“I loved the diversity and breadth of experience,” Folt said. “That does lead, usually, to somebody who comes from the outside because they’ve been to a lot of places. If you’re a lifelong learner like Mike, they really do bring those successes and mistakes into a new way of thinking.”
And a new way of thinking would be a good change of pace for an athletic department that’s been the subject of two federal investigations, one into its men’s basketball program and another now infamously dubbed “The Admissions Scandal.”
That’s why, in addition to emphasizing his credentials and his enthusiasm, Folt kept referencing “integrity” when it came to Bohn.
“It always starts with playing by the rules, doing the right thing,” Bohn said. “I could go on and on about the wonderful things the university stands for. We need to make sure we keep pace on the same trajectory as the institution.”
Bohn did his best to focus on the department as a whole, and not the football team only. He spoke about wanting to compete for national championships in every sport, and wanting to talk to athletes and alums from all programs to gain their perspectives as he gets the lay of the land at USC.
Folt made that clear, too, as she laid out her vision for Bohn’s tenure at USC.
“We’re gonna be competing for national championships in all of our sports, and doing it with integrity on and off the field,” she said. “And every day ensuring that the wellness and the success of our student-athletes is at the heart of everything that we do.”
But the specter of the football program was inescapable. The press conference was held in the football meeting room. The wall behind the podium listed USC’s 11 national championships in the sport and 25 Rose Bowl crowns.
In the second question he took from media, Bohn was asked if he anticipated making a coaching change at football, with Clay Helton mired in a 5-4 season after missing on a bowl game last year. Bohn said it would be “premature” to have those conversations after just arriving.
He was also asked about the expectations for the team with three games left in the season.
“We all understand the importance of football,” explained Bohn, who said he has not yet met Helton. “I expect them to finish strong. I mentioned ‘Fight on’ and the sense of being able to do that. But it’s also ‘Fight on to victory.’ It’s important to win.”
Even if he’s an outsider, Bohn already understands that part of USC culture.