Newsletter: Athletic director resigns at scandal-plagued USC

Lynn Swann prepares to lead the USC football team onto the field at the Coliseum for a game in 2014.
(John McGillen / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Sept. 10, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

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Someday, in the not-terribly-distant future, we’ll probably see the scandal-ridden last few years at USC depicted in a prestige miniseries, or as the new installment of a Ryan Murphy anthology show. There has certainly been enough drama at the nexus of power, money and malfeasance for more than a few seasons of searing TV. But until then, the dust remains far from settled and the news alerts keep coming.

On Monday, the university’s athletic director Lynn Swann resigned from his perch atop one of the nation’s most prestigious athletic departments. The former Trojans football star had had a tumultuous three-year reign that saw one of his top lieutenants indicted on bribery charges for her alleged role in the college admissions scandal. (Many elite academic institutions have been caught up in the sprawling admissions scandal, but USC has played a particularly central role, with four members of the school’s athletic department and 19 parents of USC students charged in the case. The “misconduct alleged involving USC dwarfs all other schools,” as my colleagues Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton wrote back in March.)

[Read the story: “USC athletic director Lynn Swann resigns” in the Los Angeles Times]

USC President Carol Folt told The Times that the department’s role and Swann’s handling of the admissions scandal “was not a part of the decision for me,” and that Swann had understood that she planned to put her own leadership team together. (Folt was hired in March, a little less than a year after former university President C.L. Max Nikias — a man whose departure “was once considered unthinkable” — was forced out amid sexual abuse allegations against campus gynecologist George Tyndall.)


“He felt that this was the professional thing to do, to resign and allow me to build my team,” Folt said. “That really is the gist of it.”

Also on Monday: Tyndall, who is accused of sexually abusing scores of patients, surrendered his medical license. Tyndall was arrested in June and charged with committing more than two dozen felonies at the campus clinic where he had practiced for decades. That arrest came after a yearlong investigation that ballooned into the largest sex crimes inquiry involving a single suspect in Los Angeles Police Department history. Allegations against Tyndall, which were brought to light in a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by The Times, also inspired state lawmakers to take action.

[See also: The Los Angeles Times’ investigation of George Tyndall, former USC gynecologist accused of sexually abusing students]

A bill unanimously approved by the state Assembly on Monday temporarily lifts the statute of limitations on lawsuits for damages over sex abuse allegations against Tyndall. That bill is now on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


California will enact sweeping new restrictions on medical exemptions for vaccines under bills signed by Newsom on Monday, despite near-constant protests in the state Capitol that resulted in arrests after opponents blocked entrances to the statehouse and temporarily shut down legislative sessions. Los Angeles Times

Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the Southern California boat fire that killed 34 people last week, with a focus on whether the operation violated maritime safety regulations. Though the cause of the deadly Sept. 2 blaze off the coast of Santa Cruz Island remains undetermined, investigators have been looking into possible shortcomings in the way the Conception operated. Los Angeles Times

The Walker fire, a massive wind-driven wildfire in Northern California’s Plumas National Forest, is the state’s largest blaze so far this year. The fire has consumed more than 68 square miles and is burning in remote mountainous terrain about 150 miles northeast of Sacramento. So far, no structures have been destroyed and no injuries reported. Los Angeles Times


In L.A. County, African Americans are 9% of the population, but 40% of its homeless population. A giant homeless encampment under the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Pacoima provides a stark illustration of the racial disparity among homeless people that Los Angeles and cities across California are just starting to recognize and address. Los Angeles Times

Michelle Vaughn, 24, and Edwin Williams, 31, live in a homeless encampment under the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Pacoima.
Michelle Vaughn, 24, and Edwin Williams, 31, live in a homeless encampment under the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Pacoima. Many of the residents were displaced from homes their parents owned in the 1950s and 1960s.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

This entire 11th-grade class is getting free L.A. Metro passes. LAist

Why is movie theater popcorn so outrageously expensive? Well, the cinema-synonymous snack is the lifeblood of most movie theaters’ business models.The Hustle

L.A. celebrities vs. 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. feud watch: Forget the cast of “Will & Grace,” the leader of the free world is now in a Twitter spat with “boring musician” John Legend and Legend’s “filthy mouthed wife” Chrissy Teigen. (His words, not mine.) Los Angeles Times

The evolution of Wilshire’s Broadway Federal Bank — the only black-owned bank headquartered in the western U.S. KCRW

Big deal tasting-menu chef Dave Beran is going à la carte with a new French spot in Santa Monica. Los Angeles Times

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Fear of deportation adds to the plight of immigrant domestic violence survivors in Sacramento.Sacramento Bee

A federal judge reinstated a nationwide injunction against a Trump administration rule that would deny asylum to most immigrants at the southern border. Los Angeles Times


Can California Sen. Kamala Harris recapture the lost magic? The Democratic presidential hopeful shined in the first debate and stumbled in the second. But even if Thursday night’s performance vaults her back to the top tier, Harris needs to catch up in Iowa, where her big-state campaign style leaves many cold. Los Angeles Times

After crushing losses and a steep slide in voter registration, California Republicans gathered this weekend in the desert, hoping to plot a path back to relevancy in a state where shifting demographics and President Trump’s low approval numbers are continual challenges. Los Angeles Times

San Francisco’s mayor and three supervisors announced a plan that they hope will stem the closures of the city’s rapidly disappearing residential care facilities. San Francisco Chronicle

Plus: It’s the bill-frenzied final week of the legislative session in Sacramento. Some other bills sent to Newsom’s desk Monday include one designed to open up the pristine beaches of Hollister Ranch, a major expansion of the state’s “red flag” law regarding gun restraining orders, legislation to block new oil and gas wells in national parks and wilderness areas in the state.


A San Fernando Valley man who operated a heroin ring like a pizza delivery service was sentenced to nearly 20 years in federal prison. Los Angeles Times


Water interests are fighting California’s bid to block President Trump’s environmental rollbacks. Los Angeles Times

Wildfire season increases the risk of bad air in the Bay Area, and masks aren’t necessarily the solution. San Francisco Chronicle


Central Valley vs. Central Coast: The communications manager at a Paso Robles brewery took a shot at Fresno on Twitter, angering plenty of Fresnans. The brewery in question also happens to be the presenting sponsor of Fresno’s largest music festival, and its beers are stocked in supermarkets and liquor stores around the city. A Fresno columnist wrote about how he’d like to see an apology, and the brewery responded offering any Fresno resident who makes the 110-mile drive to Paso Robles a free brewery tour and some samples. (Wear closed-toed shoes and bring your ID.) Fresno Bee

A three-week runway closure at San Francisco International Airport continued to disrupt travelers’ plans, with hundreds of flights delayed or canceled over the weekend. San Francisco Chronicle (See also: SF Gate’s guide to finding alternatives to/surviving the runway construction mess at SFO)

A legendary Disney Imagineer transformed his backyard into an enchanted “Mary Poppins” wonderland. Orange County Register

From the annals of #Vanlife: How a 21-year-old woman traveling alone around California in a refurbished GMC Vandura Explorer became a YouTube sensation. Outside

What the “record” price sale of a Modesto apartment complex says about the continuing rise of Bay Area supercommuters. Modesto Bee

“The neoliberal takeover of the human body”: Biometric technology is infiltrating every other aspect of our digital lives. Is it only a matter of time until facial recognition is used to make payments at the grocery store? Market Watch


Los Angeles: sunny, 78. San Diego: partly sunny, 73. San Francisco: windy, 70. San Jose: partly sunny, 74. Sacramento: sunny, 82. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Tim Smith:

“A summer morning in the ‘60s, me, my brother and our boards headed south in the VW bus for Huntington Cliffs, through intersections where the morning fog turned traffic lights into mere pinpoints. We couldn’t see the ocean, only hear it. Waxing our boards, we listened for the patterns of quiet between trains of breaking waves to paddle out. Out of the mist, riders shot by like apparitions, silence cut by the sound of wet-suit tails fluttering and their boards pushing water, leaving a brief trail of wake, only to disappear again. Afterwards, a treat of Winchell’s Donuts and coffee in the van.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.