Haden Is A Dream Choice For USC
Pat Haden isn’t just the best choice. He is the perfect choice.
He is the dream athletic director for a USC program that has had to dig itself out of the nightmare of the past two years. Just by naming him to be beleaguered Mike Garrrett’s successor, the whole aura immediately has changed around Heritage Hall.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a banquet or a charitable function where Haden was speaking when someone leaned over to me and asked the obvious question:
“Why isn’t this guy the Trojans’ athletic director?”
There was no good answer because, well, he was never available. He was too busy being successful in so many business endeavors.
You have to understand, if you took a poll, Haden would be the runaway winner to name the Trojans’ greatest student-athlete. He was not only an All-American caliber quarterback who went on to make the Pro Bowl with the Rams despite being the smallest player in the league, he was a Rhodes Scholar who actually delayed his pro career to go to Oxford.
This is a guy who could read sixteenth century English literature as easily as he could opposing defenses. He was as comfortable in a full academic gown as he was in helmet and pads.
Haden was the epitome of everything you would want in a college student and has been the ideal spokesman for the university ever since.
Garrett has been taking some big hits for USC’s problems, and much of it is understandable. He was the one overseeing an athletics program that had swerved drastically off course of late, and you knew he would be the one who had to take the fall. But let’s not write him out of Trojans’ history altogether. Yes, he made mistakes, but the former Heisman Trophy winner also did some great things for the university, both on and off the field. And never could anyone question his love for the school.
But a change had to be made, and someone directed the new incoming president, Max Nikias, in the right direction. Even if it had seemed like a longshot, Haden had to be the first person to call.
Luckily for the Trojans, this time he was ready to listen. And maybe, just maybe, now the NCAA might be willing to listen a little closer to USC’s appeal of those overwhelming sanctions put on the football program.
Either way, Haden is ready to start, and even before he takes over, he has made a significant move. He has hired his lifelong buddy, J.K. McKay, as the new associate athletic director in charge of football.
Yes, that is the late legendary John McKay’s son, and Haden’s former favorite target with the Trojans. These two are not only the most popular pair of alums you could find, they have a history of being smart, intuitive and ethical. They also happen to have a sense of humor that is off the charts.
For everything Garrett was good at, public relations was never his forte. That instantly changes now. Haden and McKay, who has been a successful lawyer, are as gregarious as they are intelligent. They know how to work hard, but they also know how to laugh and have a good time.
Most of all, they are and always have been each other’s biggest admirer, something I discovered while researching “Fight On!”” a book on USC football history I co-wrote with Loel Schrader a few years ago.
“I’d never say this in front of him,” McKay said of Haden, “but he’s the most well-rounded person I’ve ever met. As a friend, a father, a good guy and a good human being, you just can’t beat him.”
Then the new AD’s best friend paused, with that perfect timing his father possessed, smiled and added:
“If he were taller, he’d be perfect.”
— Steve Bisheff