USC names interim administrator to lead athletic department, Big Ten transition team

USC president Carol Folt stands at a podium and addresses a crowd while standing in a rock garden on campus.
USC president Carol Folt named an interim athletic director following the resignation of Mike Bohn.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

USC has appointed an “interim executive administrator” to help steer a reeling department in the wake of Mike Bohn’s resignation Friday.

Denise Kwok, USC’s executive senior associate athletic director for student-athlete development, will be the interim executive administrator while USC balances conducting a search for a new athletic director and navigating a transition to the Big Ten Conference.

She’ll be joined in that task by a newly appointed “interim leadership” team that includes three external administrators with athletics experience, as well as four members of university president Carol Folt’s senior administration.


Outside members of USC’s leadership team include Sandy Barbour, a former athletic director at Berkeley and most recently at Penn State; Mitch Moser, a longtime administrator at Duke; and Kevin Weiberg, a former Big 12 commissioner and Big Ten Network executive.

USC’s incoming provost Andrew Guzman, senior vice president and general counsel Beong-Soo Kim, senior vice president of human resources, equity and compliance Felicia Washington and presidential advisor Mark Merritt — none of whom currently work in athletics — comprise the rest of Folt’s appointed transition team.

Folt met with athletic department employees on Monday. In a letter sent to USC athletics employees on Wednesday, Folt wrote that the interim leadership team will “augment the leadership and staff in our department and provide a broad national perspective on changes taking place nationally.”

USC President Carol Folt praised athletic director Mike Bohn’s integrity. Bill Plaschke writes amid a scandal, Folt must explain why Bohn was hired.

May 20, 2023

How long USC will be without a full-time leader still remains to be seen. Folt has not announced any details about how the search for Bohn’s successor will be managed.

The past 18 months seemed to be a banner stretch for the Trojans athletic department. USC hired one of the most coveted coaches in college football, Lincoln Riley, before announcing seven months later that it was leaving the struggling Pac-12 for the cash-flush Big Ten. In March 2022, Bohn was named athletic director of the year by the National Association for Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).

Bohn resigned last week, a day after The Times sent him and USC questions about his conduct and internal criticism of his management of the department.


Bohn didn’t answer any direct questions posed by The Times. In a statement provided to The Times in response to those questions, Bohn wrote that it was “the right time” to step down.

USC football coach Lincoln Riley and USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn during a press conference at the Coliseum.
USC football coach Lincoln Riley, left, and USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn, right, during a press conference at the Coliseum on Nov. 29, 2021.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

“In moving on, it is important now that I focus on being present with my treasured family, addressing ongoing health challenges, and reflecting on how I can be impactful in the future,” Bohn wrote.

The financial terms of his exit were not announced. Bohn agreed to a contract extension last year that USC never publicly announced, four sources with knowledge of agreement who were not authorized to speak about it publicly told The Times.

USC didn’t respond to questions from The Times about Bohn. It didn’t announce an interim leader for the department until Wednesday, when Kwok was officially given the reins.

USC retained an outside attorney, Gina Maisto Smith of Cozen O’Connor, to conduct review of its athletic department culture earlier this year. Smith, whose past work includes high-profile investigations into the institutional response to sexual misconduct and harassment at Baylor and Colorado, began interviewing members of USC’s athletic department in March.


By May, Bohn stepped down.

In a letter last Friday, following his resignation, Folt wrote that USC had “transformed into a national powerhouse” during Bohn’s tenure.

Mike Bohn has stepped down as USC’s athletic director. Here’s our coverage from his three-plus years on the job.

May 19, 2023

She maintained that optimism amid turmoil in the letter she sent on Wednesday.

“The future for USC Athletics is exciting,” Folt wrote. “With all the success in the last couple of years, I have no doubt that we will keep our momentum going.”