Why Lynn Swann resigned as USC athletic director

Lynn Swann is out as USC's athletic director; new President Carol L. Folt to conduct national search for replacement.

USC fans finally got their wish.

Lynn Swann resigned as USC's athletic director, President Carol L. Folt announced in an email Monday. The former USC and NFL star was told he had the option of resigning or he would be fired, sources say.

The decision comes a little more than three years from the beginning of Swann's tenure, and less than three months into Folt's. Swann has come under intense scrutiny in the past year amidst multiple university scandals and his decision to extend and then retain football coach Clay Helton.

The tipping point for Folt was Swann’s connection to a possible donor scandal involving mega-booster Wayne Hughes, which comes on the heels of separate FBI investigations over the school’s involvement in “Operation Varsity Blues” and former basketball assistant coach Tony Bland. How much time Swann spent doing his job was also said to be cause for concern.

Folt, who was given a five-year contract, was given one mandate upon accepting the role: clean up the university. She vowed in her statement to conduct a national search for a replacement. 

Members of the athletic department have been told to expect Folt to make sweeping changes with sports.

Sources tell me she reached out to North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham, but he turned down the offer. USC has not had an athletic director without school ties or with previous experience as an AD since Mike McGee held the post from 1984-1993.

Here is President Folt's letter in its entirety:

"Dear Trojan Community,

I am writing to share my sincere appreciation for Lynn Swann, who has decided to resign from his position as the Director of Athletics effective today. 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.

Lynn has led our Athletics Department to five national championships in five different women’s and men’s sports during his tenure. Our student-athletes’ cumulative GPA for the past two years and our graduation rate of 86% last year were all-time highs for USC Athletics. We appreciate Lynn’s leadership of the department over these past three years and will continue to be grateful for his historic contributions to USC.

I have asked Dave Roberts, currently a special advisor to the President, to serve as Interim Director of Athletics until a permanent replacement is named. In his current role, Dave serves as the NCAA’s Vice Chair of the Committee on Infractions. His experience, relationships and understanding of collegiate athletics, including as a student-athlete at UC Davis, make him well-qualified to lead the department during this period.

I am pleased to introduce the committee who will conduct the national search for our next, permanent athletic director. USC Trustee Suzanne Nora Johnson will chair the search committee, which 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; and trustees Jeff Smulyan, William McMorrow, and Board Chair Rick Caruso. Importantly, the committee will also include two student-athletes, who will be named shortly. The position will be filled with an experienced and accomplished individual, and I encourage you to share your thoughts and recommendations with the committee via email at

Our Athletics Department puts our student-athletes first by pursuing excellence with integrity. We will build on the traditions and strengths of our exceptional athletics program. Our outstanding coaches, administrators and student-athletes work tirelessly every day both in the classroom and on the playing field, to embody the very best of the Trojan spirit. Our Athletics Department, working together with faculty and staff across the university, is focused on preparing all of our students for success in life, wherever they may go.

We will keep our tremendous Trojan heritage and tradition of strength going forward in all of our athletics programs. There is so much to look forward to and I am excited about our future."

Swann addressed the media for just the first time this year last month at the Coliseum unveiling.

Comments (2)
No. 1-1

Hey Adam, Do you know if Cunningham was actually "offered" the AD job or was Folt simply gauging his interests?

1 Reply

Adam Maya
Adam Maya


semantics. multiple sources told me this is someone usc wants.