USC’s athletic director Mike Bohn was fired on Monday after less than two years on the job. He was widely criticized for his handling of the football program, the hiring and firing of coaches, and the lack of transparency and accountability. In this post, we’ll take a look at how Bohn made a series of missteps that ultimately cost him his job and what you can learn from his failure.
The Football Fiasco
The most glaring mistake that Bohn made was his decision to retain Clay Helton as the head coach of the football team in 2019. Helton had led the Trojans to a disappointing 8-5 record in 2018 and a 5-7 record in 2019, missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2000. Many fans and alumni were calling for Helton’s dismissal, but Bohn announced that he would give him another chance.
This proved to be a disastrous move, as Helton failed to improve the team’s performance in 2020 and 2021. The Trojans went 5-1 in a shortened season in 2020, but lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. In 2021, they started off with a 2-0 record, but then suffered a humiliating 42-28 loss to Stanford at home, followed by a 45-27 blowout by Oregon State. Helton was finally fired after the third game of the season, leaving Bohn with the task of finding a replacement.
The Coaching Carousel
Another mistake that Bohn made was his inability to hire and fire coaches effectively. He was responsible for hiring Andy Enfield as the men’s basketball coach in 2013, but Enfield failed to live up to expectations. He led the Trojans to only three NCAA tournament appearances in eight seasons, never advancing past the Sweet Sixteen. He also faced allegations of academic fraud and recruiting violations.
Bohn also hired Lindsay Gottlieb as the women’s basketball coach in 2019, but she resigned after two seasons to join the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers as an assistant coach. Bohn then hired Mark Trakh as her replacement, but he retired after one season due to health issues. Bohn then hired Lindsay Gottlieb again as her replacement, creating confusion and frustration among the fans and players.
The Lack of Leadership
The final mistake that Bohn made was his lack of leadership and communication skills. He was often criticized for being secretive and unresponsive to the media and the public. He rarely gave interviews or held press conferences, leaving many questions unanswered and rumors unchecked. He also failed to address the issues and concerns of the athletes, coaches, staff, donors, and alumni.
Bohn also faced backlash for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on USC athletics. He was accused of being insensitive and irresponsible for allowing fans to attend games without masks or proof of vaccination. He also faced criticism for not supporting the athletes’ mental health and well-being during the stressful and uncertain times.
The Lessons Learned
Bohn’s tenure as USC’s athletic director was marked by poor decisions, bad hires, and low morale. He lost his job over a series of missteps that could have been avoided if he had followed some basic principles of leadership and management. Here are some lessons that you can learn from his failure:
- Be clear about your vision and goals. Bohn never articulated what he wanted USC athletics to achieve or how he planned to get there. He seemed to lack direction and focus, which led to confusion and inconsistency.
- Be decisive and proactive. Bohn waited too long to make changes when things were not working out. He let problems fester and escalate, instead of addressing them head-on.
- Be transparent and accountable. Bohn hid behind closed doors and avoided taking responsibility for his actions. He did not communicate effectively with his stakeholders or listen to their feedback.
- Be supportive and empathetic. Bohn did not show enough care or respect for his athletes, coaches, staff, donors, and alumni. He did not acknowledge their achievements or challenges or provide them with the resources and support they needed.
By following these principles, you can avoid making the same mistakes that Bohn made and become a more effective leader and manager.
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