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Column: Mike Bohn brings USC integrity, which means he can’t hire Urban Meyer

Mike Bohn speaks at a news conference after he was named Cincinnati athletic director in 2014.
Mike Bohn speaks at a news conference after he was named Cincinnati’s athletic director on Feb. 6, 2014.
(Al Behrman / Associated Press)

You ever heard of Mike Bohn?

Me neither, and that’s a good thing.

USC is apparently set on naming Bohn as its new athletic director, the smart hiring of a man who embodies the most important attribute for the new leader of the Trojans family.

He’s a complete stranger.

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He never played football at USC. He never coached football at USC. He never attended USC. He’s surely never even cheered for USC.

He comes from Cincinnati, a cozy Midwestern school that thrives in the shadows. He spent the last five years building excellence in those shadows. He has done a lot with little, and has done so while following the rules.

He is everything that recent former USC athletic directors were not. This job is not his hobby, it’s his business. This is not his first gig, it will be his fifth post. He cares little about being a star, as he is a 58-year-old administration lifer whose name was virtually unknown on the sports landscape until it surfaced Friday.

Mike Bohn, who has spent the last five years at Cincinnati, is near a deal to become USC’s new athletic director, people close to the process say.

He won’t be signing autographs for money while the department is in turmoil. He won’t be enabling a coach’s addiction problem while the team crumbles underneath him. Chances are, he won’t foster the arrogance that leads to rules violations that result in a historic NCAA probation.

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No offense to Lynn Swann, Pat Haden or Mike Garrett, but it’s refreshing that Bohn doesn’t have their pedigree, and thus perhaps will not have their problems.

USC athletics needs a fresh set of eyes, and this could be it. USC needs to clean out the cobwebs of favoritism and hero worship and bring athletics into a new scandal-free era, and this could be the person to do it.

USC also needs someone with the good sense not to fall into the gory glory trap that is Urban Meyer, and Bohn appears to be that guy.

Wait, what, you thought because of an Ohio connection, Bohn was hired because he could successfully woo Meyer to replace embattled coach Clay Helton? Heck, you even thought Bohn and Meyer were maybe a package deal?

Think again. It’s just the opposite.

Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn is seen during a basketball game between Cincinnati and Connecticut at BB&T Arena on Feb. 22, 2018 in Highland Heights, Ohio.
Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn is seen during a basketball game between Cincinnati and Connecticut in 2018.
(Getty Images)

The many, many USC boosters who are pushing to hire Meyer, the three-time national championship coach, are understandably delighted to see the Trojans hire an athletic director from Meyer’s alma mater and the school where Meyer’s son Nate plays baseball. And Bohn obviously respects Meyer’s coaching, as he hired current Bearcats coach Luke Fickell from Meyer’s staff.

But Bohn is being hired, in part, because he demands an integrity that is the opposite of the culture created by Meyer, who has a history of fostering criminal players and trivializing domestic violence.

Meyer protected players at Florida throughout multiple arrests for alleged crimes. Meyer then protected receivers coach Zach Smith at Ohio State amid multiple accusations of domestic violence by Smith’s former wife Courtney.

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Meyer was suspended by Ohio State for three games for his role in enabling Smith, and don’t you think that right down the road, Bohn was watching? Don’t you think the person recently hired to clean up all of USC was watching?

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There is no way new USC President Carol L. Folt can use the word “integrity” with a straight face if she approves the hiring of Meyer. She couldn’t do it. She wouldn’t do it.

Because of this, there is no way she would hire Bohn if she thought he would be turning to Meyer. It can’t happen. It won’t happen.

Granted, a USC athletic director is only as good as the football coach he hires, and, certainly, Bohn has made some awful coaching hires in his career. While at Colorado, he hired Dan Hawkins, Jon Embree and Mike MacIntyre. They went a combined 40-83. All three were eventually fired.

But in his most recent position, he made a great hire, bringing in former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Fickell, who has gone 21-11 while leading this year’s Bearcats to a 6-1 record and No. 17 ranking.

Here’s guessing that in the great probability that Bohn needs to make a coaching hire, he will turn to someone more like Fickell than Meyer, someone working under the radar, someone who plays it straight and smart, someone like himself.

But for those who think Bohn’s hiring means the automatic end of Helton, don’t. Bohn will surely wait until the Trojans are eliminated from Pac-12 title contention before making up his mind.

That could happen Saturday in the Coliseum against No. 7 Oregon. Or it might not happen at all, as the Trojans could win their final four games and survive the Pac-12 championship game and end up in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

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If Helton leads the Trojans into the Rose Bowl, it would seem difficult for Bohn to fire him, but who knows? The new athletic director’s first major decision will certainly be his biggest and probably most controversial.

He will be serenaded by fans screaming for Meyer. He will be inundated with candidates ranging from James Franklin to Matt Rhule. If the Trojans are running onto a football field on New Year’s Day, some boosters will still want to back Helton.

Who exactly is Mike Bohn? We’re about to find out.


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