LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11 / CNS) - USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, who took over a program reeling from NCAA football sanctions and came under fire last season for his handling of the suspension and ultimate firing of Coach Steve Sarkisian, will retire at the end of June, the university announced Friday.
From Zohreen Adamjee:
It's the end of an era at USC. Athletic Director Pat Haden plans to retire in June after six years on the job.
In an interview with ESPN, Haden says he's proud of what he's accomplished and the timing of his departure was right.
"The other things we did which make me proud and happy to leave at this time are rising graduation rates. GPA's, facilities. We put a 150 million dollars into new facility upgrades. Integrating our students with the rest of the university better," said Haden.
The school says after he steps down, he will take on a year-long role to renovate the L.A. Coliseum to get it ready for the Rams.
Haden took over the department at a troubled time with USC football program was climbing back from severe NCAA sanctions, triggered by a scandal involving improper benefits given to former running back Reggie Bush. In the last year, another cloud loomed over Haden. He's received criticism for how he handled head football coach Steve Sarkisian's substance abuse problems. Sarkisian was eventually fired and is now suing USC.
Haden talked to ESPN about criticism he's received in the last few years.
"Every decision I've made, I've always - in my own mind - and the people who help me make those decisions - had our students and the university's best interest in mind," said Haden.
There's also been concern about Haden's health. Last November, he collapsed on the sideline before the Notre Dame game.
USC is doing a nationwide search. It's unclear if they will hire from within or from outside.
Haden will continue working with the university for one year to help guide the renovation of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, according to a letter sent to alumni by USC President C.L. Max Nikias.
Haden became USC's athletic director in 2010, replacing the 66-year-old Mike Garrett, who held the post for 17 years. Haden, a former USC quarterback, had been serving on the university's Board of Trustees since 1991. He resigned that post when he was named athletic director.
"He took on this role at a time when the department faced unprecedented pressure, externally and internally, requiring nothing less than a Herculean effort to rebuild its foundation for the long term,'' Nikias wrote in his
announcement. "USC Athletics had received NCAA penalties of unprecedented harshness only weeks earlier, and its physical and academic infrastructure urgently required improvement to bring it in line with the university's overall dramatic progress in recent years.''
As a player, Haden helped lead USC to three Rose Bowl appearances and two national titles. He graduated from USC in 1975 and went on to quarterback the Los Angeles Rams from 1976-81, and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1977.
He continued his academic career while playing football, studying philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University. He received a law degree from Loyola Law School in 1982.
He spent two decades as a partner with Riordan, Lewis and Haden -- a venture-capital firm that includes former Mayor Richard Riordan.
In addition to his work with the venture capital firm, Haden was the analyst on NBC's Notre Dame telecast since 1998. From 1990-97, he was an analyst for TNT's Sunday night NFL games, and for CBS from 1982-90.
Haden took over the department when the football program was trying to recover from the NCAA sanctions, which were handed down in large part due to improper benefits given to former star running back Reggie Bush and his family.
He took some heat during the past season with his handling of Coach Steve Sarkisian, who was fired amid a battle with alcohol use. Haden did not immediately fire Sarkisian, opting to keep him on despite a public melt-down by the coach in which he slurred his words and used profanity during an apparently drunken speech at a pre-season pep rally.
Sarkisian later blamed his behavior on a mix of alcohol and prescription drugs. Haden publicly rebuked the coach, but allowed him to keep his job. But concerns about his behavior persisted, prompting Haden to place Sarkisian on indefinite leave in October. Haden fired him the next day.
Sarkisian has since sued the university, claiming he should have been given time off to seek alcohol treatment before being fired.
Nikias continued to support Haden throughout the ordeal. The Trojan football team responded behind interim Coach Clay Helton -- who was eventually given the full-time job -- and the team won the Pac-12 South.
"Pat has pursued long-term goals without sacrificing the near-term goals of the Trojans being as competitive as possible in every arena,'' Nikias wrote. "Over the past five years, USC teams have won 10 national championships, a figure exceeded only by the University of Florida's 11 during that same period.''
Nikias also hailed Haden for introducing two women's sports -- lacrosse and beach volleyball, and for raising more than $400 million for the athletic program.
"This fundraising total has allowed us to provide the facilities and support benefitting the world's best student-athletes, and it also includes commitments for the crucial work of renovating the Coliseum,'' he wrote.