Pat Haden has experience passing things off to Lynn Swann.
USC’s outgoing athletic director Haden quarterbacked the Trojans in 1973, the same year Lynn Swann capped his college career with an All-America performance. 714 of Haden’s 1,832 yards when to Swann that season, and nearly half of his touchdown passes — 6-of-13 — Swann caught.
The 1973 Trojans finished 9-2-1 and ran the table in the Pac-8 en route to a Rose Bowl Game appearance. Given USC football’s recent run of underachievement, with zero conference championships or Rose Bowl bids since 2008, either feat would make Lynn Swann’s tenure a rousing success.
The true benchmark by which all around USC football are measured, however, are national championships — athletic department included. Swann played an integral role in one of the Trojans’ 11 claimed national titles as a part of USC’s deep wide-receiving corps in 1972.
Swann’s 534 yards led the unit, though J.K. McKay’s four touchdowns set the scoring pace, and Charles Young’s 29 grabs was most on the lineup. The trio factored into the kind of well-balanced offensive attack USC teams have long strove to employ for decades, with varying degrees of success.
The ’72 Trojans mastered it. In addition to the receiving trifecta, John McKay employed a three-man backfield of 1,191-yard rusher Anthony Davis; 567-yards ball-carrier Rod McNeill; and USC legend Sam Cunningham, who finished the campaign with 13 touchdowns.
Four came in a 42-17 pasting of Ohio State in the Rose Bowl Game, which sealed USC’s national championship.
Mike Rae quarterbacked USC much of that season, though Haden got his share of snaps — including in the Rose Bowl.
Both Haden and Swann have experience winning titles in cardinal-and-gold; both lost a heartbreaker that prevented the Trojans from pursuing another.
In October 1973, an undefeated USC visited Notre Dame for the annual rivalry tilt. A win for the sixth-ranked Trojans over the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish would have vaulted USC back into championship contention, and effectively made the Rose Bowl Game against fellow unbeaten Ohio State in January for a share of the crown.
Notre Dame’s 23-14 win included Luther Bradley’s now-iconic hit on Lynn Swann, which knocked the wide receiver’s helmet off.
Whether the blowout of the 1973 Rose Bowl, or the heartache of that year’s trip to Notre Dame, Swann can only succeed in his new role if USC returns to that level of marquee game.
It never quite happened under Haden, whose handling of inherited Lane Kiffin, passing over of Ed Orgeron, hiring and firing of Steve Sarkisian, and tabbing of Clay Helton all generated mixed reviews at best.
Like Haden, Lynn Swann has no prior athletic administrative experience. Like Haden, Swann spent time on TV before excelling away from sports. In Haden’s case, he found success in business. Swann became political active, culminating in his nomination as Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports by Pres. George W. Bush.
And, like Haden, Swann’s place on great teams of USC’s past landed him his new role.