Notable departures from USC

The University of Southern California’s new president, Carol Folt, has inherited an institution still reeling from a wave of investigations. Disruptions have led to a string of departures across the university, including numerous administrators in the athletic and medical departments.

Some of the school’s top administrators have been ousted, including Folt’s predecessor, C.L. Max Nikias. Here’s a guide to the most notable departures since Nikias’ tenure began in 2010.

What's happened

The series of scandals and investigations behind it all

Admissions scandal
Tyndall scandal
Leadership turnover
Sexual harassment
Donations
Drugs and alcohol
Basketball bribery
Admissions scandal

USC is at the center of the growing college admissions scandal, in which actresses, tech figures and corporate power brokers were accused of hiring William “Rick” Singer to get their children into elite colleges through bribery and cheating. The university claims it was a victim of deceit perpetrated by just a few employees.

Bookkeeper, former USC coach plead guilty in admissions scandal, promise to help investigators

Ali Khosroshahin

Women’s Soccer Coach

Fired 2013

charged

Khosroshahin was fired from his job running the women’s soccer team in 2013, six years before a federal indictment alleged that he accepted bribes totaling nearly $350,000 to fabricate fake athletic profiles for prospective students. He has pleaded guilty.

USC fires administrator and coach arrested in college admissions fraud scheme

Laura Janke

Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach

Left 2014

charged

Janke, an assistant to women’s soccer coach Khosroshahin, left the university in 2014, five years before being implicated alongside her boss in the admissions scandal. She has pleaded guilty.

USC athletic administrator arrested for bribery in admissions scandal ‘knew her stuff’

Donna Heinel

Senior Associate Athletic Director

Fired March 12, 2019

charged

Heinel, a top administrator in the athletics department, was indicted by federal prosecutors who allege she accepted more than $1.3 million in bribes and helped Singer enroll the children of wealthy clients into USC by falsely claiming they were recruited athletes. Heinel was fired from the university and has pleaded not guilty.

USC fires administrator and coach arrested in college admissions fraud scheme

Jovan Vavic

Water Polo Coach

Fired March 12, 2019

charged

Vavic, coach of both the men’s and women’s water polo teams, was fired following a federal indictment that alleged he took bribes totaling more than $250,000 in exchange for recruiting unqualified athletes to USC. He has pleaded not guilty.

Homayoun Zadeh

Associate Professor and Director, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry

On leave starting March 14, 2019

charged

Zadeh is on leave following a federal indictment alleging that he paid $100,000 to have his daughter recruited for lacrosse, a sport she did not play. USC has begun termination proceedings against Zadeh. He has pleaded not guilty.

Three USC senior athletics officials are out, sources say

Ron Orr

Senior Associate Athletic Director

Fired January 14, 2020

Orr, along with Steve Lopes and Scott Jacobson, was fired abruptly in connection with the college admissions scandal, and in part because of the desire of new athletic department leadership to bring in its own people.

Three USC senior athletics officials are out, sources say

Steve Lopes

CFO, COO, Senior Associate Athletic Director

Fired January 14, 2020

Lopes was one of three senior athletic officials fired in January 2020.

Scott Jacobson

Associate Athletic Director

Fired January 14, 2020

Jacobson was one of three senior athletic officials fired in January 2020.

Tyndall scandal

Following allegations of sexual abuse, ex-USC campus gynecologist George Tyndall was arrested and charged. He had been allowed to continue to practice and retire quietly despite numerous complaints, a decision that triggered an uproar in the campus community.

Allegations against USC’s George Tyndall inspire lawmakers to take action

George Tyndall

Gynecologist, Campus Services

Resigned June 2017

charged

Dr. Tyndall was accused of sexually abusing hundreds of students during three decades as a gynecologist at a campus clinic. The accusations, first reported by The Times, prompted a federal Title IX investigation, Tyndall’s criminal prosecution and the university’s multimillion-dollar settlement with his former patients. Tyndall has pleaded not guilty to the sexual abuse charges against him.

William Leavitt

Lead Physician, Engemann Student Health Center

Fired May 2018, and returned to campus

Leavitt supervised Tyndall in the clinic and was removed as lead physician when Tyndall’s history of abuse was publicized. He has accused USC of wrongly targeting him for dismissal and has sued the university for defamation. Leavitt still serves as a campus doctor while his litigation is pending.

Tammie Akiyoshi

Executive Director, Engemann Student Health Center

Fired May 2018

Akiyoshi was a leader in the clinic and was fired when Tyndall’s history of abuse was publicized.

Leadership turnover

C.L. Max Nikias resigned as USC president in August 2018, after more than a week of uproar over the university’s handling the Tyndall case. His resignation was followed by the departure of other key administrative personnel.

USC names retired aerospace executive Wanda Austin as acting president, announces Nikias’ departure

C.L. Max Nikias

President

Resigned Aug. 7, 2018, and returned to campus

After being named president in 2010, Nikias led initiatives that boosted the university’s fundraising and its position in academic rankings.

His sucessful run was ended in the uproar after allegations of sexual misconduct by a longtime campus gynecologist. Nikias stepped down under pressure and was given the title of president emeritus and a lifetime seat on the board of trustees.

After his departure, the university’s new leadership cleared out some of the school’s top administrative positions.

Carol Mauch Amir

Senior Vice President for Legal Affairs and Professionalism

Resigned June 30, 2019

In her role as general counsel, Amir helped oversee the legal response to a wide array of scandals and complaints, including accusations against campus gynocologist George Tyndall. She retired from her post following the departure of USC President C.L. Max Nikias. At the time, the university’s interim leader praised Amir’s efforts to reform the university’s governance.

Top USC officials stepping down as university tries to set new course

Michael Quick

Provost

Left June 30, 2019, and returned to faculty

As provost, Quick handled many of the complaints against former medical school Dean Carmen Puliafito. Quick left that post and returned to teaching after the departure of USC president C.L. Max Nikias.

James Ellis

Dean, Marshall School of Business

Fired July 2019, and returned to faculty

Ellis was fired from his post overseeing the business school after an outside review of harrassment and discrimination complaints made against faculty and staff. Administrators have not publicly revealed what specifically prompted his removal, sparking anger from some who say he’s being unfairly treated. Ellis wrote an op-ed in The Times denying any wrongdoing. He has returned to teaching as a tenured professor.

USC athletic director Lynn Swann resigns

Lynn Swann

Athletic Director

Resigned Sept. 9, 2019

A star football player for the Trojans in the 1970s, Swann was named head of USC’s athletics department in 2016, despite having no prior experience managing college sports.

During his tenure, the department was hit hard by two FBI investigations, one into admissions fraud and another into corruption in basketball. Swann said he was “blindsided” by what happened. Despite having said he planned to stay in the job for 10 years, Swann unexpectedly announced his resignation.

“He felt that this was the professional thing to do, to resign and allow me to build my team,” USC President Carol Folt said.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment allegations, alongside the nationwide #MeToo movement, led to several key departures within USC.

USC medical school dean out amid revelations of sexual harassment claim, $135,000 settlement with researcher

Rohit Varma

Dean, Keck School of Medicine

Resigned Oct. 5, 2017

Dr. Rohit Varma resigned while The Times was preparing a story revealing past discipline for sexual harrassment.

David Carrera

Vice President of Advancement and Health Sciences Development

Left October 2017

Carrera, a leader of USC’s historic fundraising campaign, left his post amid an investigation into his treatment of women launched by a string of complaints.

Donations

Questions about the handling of donations for nonprofits led to three departures.

Pat Haden will step down as USC athletic director on June 30

Pat Haden

Athletic Director

Retired June 30, 2016, and remained on campus

Haden, a former USC quarterback, returned to the school in 2010 to head its athletics program. In that role, he led the program out from under past NCAA sanctions and garnered large donations that helped expand the school’s athletic facilities.

In 2015, The Times reported Haden had pocketed more than $1 million in his role as chairman of a foundation that gave academic scholarships to students studying at USC and elsewhere. He also came under scrutiny for allowing Steve Sarkisian to continue as football coach despite reports of alcohol abuse.

The next year, Haden announced his retirement.

Donation from prominent L.A. politician roils USC, which referred case to federal prosecutors

Sebastian Ridley-Thomas

Professor, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

Fired July 2018

Ridley-Thomas, a former state Assemblyman recently appointed as a professor, was fired after questions were raised about a $100,000 donation to the school from campaign funds of his father, a Los Angeles County supervisor that ended up in a think tank Ridley-Thomas controlled. Ridley-Thomas said the university was wrong to fire him.

Marilyn Flynn

Dean, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

Resigned July 2018, and returned to faculty

Flynn stepped down after an internal investigation found that she transferred donations to Ridley-Thomas’ nonprofit. Flynn’s lawyer said the former dean discussed budget issues “openly and transparently” with faculty and administrators.

Drugs and alcohol

Two top leaders left following reports of intoxication or involvement with drug users.

Steve Sarkisian won’t fight on after former USC football coach loses dispute over firing

Steve Sarkisian

Football Coach

Fired October 2015

Sarkisian served as the school’s head football coach for only a season and a half before reports of public intoxication led to his eventual firing. Sarkisian filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the school, which he eventually lost. He has publicly admitted to having an alcohol addiction.

USC moves to fire, ban from campus former medical school dean over ‘egregious behavior’

Carmen Puliafito

Dean, Keck School of Medicine

Resigned 2016

Dr. Carmen Puliafito stepped down as medical school dean three weeks after a 21-year-old woman overdosed in his presence in a Pasadena hotel room. A later Times investigation found that he associated with a circle of addicts and received a settlement to leave. He has publicly admitted to having a drug addiction, and his lawyers have said the doctor was plagued by bipolar disorder that altered his judgment.

Basketball bribery

A 2017 FBI investigation into bribery and corruption at NCAA basketball programs led to the arrests of coaches at Louisville, Miami and USC, among others.

Former USC assistant coach Tony Bland pleads guilty in college basketball bribery case

Tony Bland

Associate Head Men’s Basketball Coach

Fired January 2018

charged

Bland was arrested after being netted in an undercover sting. Bland admitted to receiving payments in exchange for directing basketball players to certain financial advisors and managers. He was fired from his position as an assistant coach of the men’s basketball team.