The State of Troy (September)

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Each month, I sit down with athletic director Pat Haden and get his thoughts on the hot topics at USC plus we'll take a look at what's on his agenda for the coming months and semesters.
Q.) How do you assess the football team's progress through three games?

"We are getting better.  We are not playing perfectly.  But you want to be getting better every week.  That is the sign of a good team and a good staff and I think we are.  The defense played very well against Minnesota.  Anytime you stop the run and you can make the other team one-dimensional, you have a pretty good chance to win the game."

Q.) The women's volleyball team knocked off UCLA Friday night.  How special is it to play in that crosstown rivalry?

"To me, UCLA is our biggest rival.  On my office calendar, I have all the UCLA match-ups in every sport highlighted just because it is that important to me.  I am going to try to make every UCLA contest that I can.  Playing our rival, there is just something magical about playing against UCLA."

Q.) How did you first Board of Counselors meeting go?

"It went great.  There are an awful lot of people who care about this university in such a special way.  Some of them I have known for a long time, but some of them I just met for the first time.  Their passion for athletics is really remarkable.  What I am trying to do is remind them of all the great athletes we have in sports that they do not usually think about.  So, I had four athletes come in.  One was a football player, but the other three were from women's volleyball, women's soccer and men's water polo.  If they got to meet the kids, I thought they would be even more impressed.  One of the things that I want to do is put our incredible student-athletes out in front of audiences, so people can really appreciate them and see what they are all about."

Q.) Tell us about your new "Redshirt" initiative to re-enlist former athletic support group members.

"We have lost about 800 members in our various athletic support groups, which are really the lifeblood of the program.  I can understand that it has been tough economic times and that's why some people are not able to support the athletic programs as much as they would like, but we are trying to get those folks back in a variety of ways.  We use the Board of Counselors as almost an internal sales force to call them and say, 'Hey, I know you might have dropped Cardinal and Gold, but this is the time USC needs your support the most and we would like you to rejoin the efforts.'  Hopefully, we will implement that effort here shortly."

Q.) Other than benefits, why should young alumni get involved with athletic support groups?
"It is not just being a part of the athletic program, but being a part of this university, which is on the rise and has been for a decade.  It was ranked in the 50s when I went here and now U.S. News and World Report has USC at #23.  I think being associated with excellence is something neat.  Just the ability to be a part of a great academic university that is really doing interesting things like life-changing research and a new understanding of world problems.  Universities last hundreds and hundreds of years, longer than other institutions, and I would think young people would want to be a part of that."

Q.) What is the scouting report on our men's and women's basketball programs this season?

"Kevin O'Neill thinks we are going to be much better this year and he is very optimistic about the next two, three and four years.  He really believes we are going to be a very strong team.  And talking to Michael Cooper, he is getting more comfortable coaching and recruiting the college game.  We have a good freshman class that has come in and I think we are going to be much better.  The product is going to be much more fun to watch and now we just need to get some people to watch it in the stands.  The Salute to Troy basketball event on October 24th is a great opportunity for our fans to get to know these teams better."

cooper.jpgQ.) How do you think Michael Cooper's NBA championship background as a player helps him as a college coach?

"The fact that he was a champion many times with the Lakers resonates with our young women, even though they were probably too young to see him.  The fact that he played professional basketball and won championships helps him get into the living rooms of families.  And ultimately, our university and Michael sell them on coming here."

Q.) What do you think of the women's soccer team trying to break the NCAA attendance record for their October 22nd game against UCLA at the Coliseum?

"I have been following women's soccer for 15-20 years.  I actually went to see Mia Hamm practice when she played at the University of North Carolina.  Women's soccer has been great here.  We won a national championship a couple years ago.  We have a terrific young team that is really on the rise and we have won four straight and have not lost in six straight games.  Playing a natural rival in the Coliseum, it would be fantastic for our young women to get that kind of support.  One of my disappointments is that we do not get enough people watching these incredible athletes.  I would love to see them draw more than 15,000 fans and break that record.  I will be there!"

Q.) You spent a lot of time in Minnesota working with their athletic department.  What do you hope to learn from your counterparts?

"I called Minnesota's athletic director before the game and told him, 'I am a new athletic director and I know that we can be doing some things better, so I would love to sit down with you and your staff and go peer-to-peer with our staff.'  We learned a lot of things.  I came back with a to-do list that is eight or ten pages long.  We can always learn by listening.  As my mom used to say, 'You never learn by talking.'"

Q.) We have great photos of you and J.K. McKay playing doubles against the women's tennisChest_Bump.JPG team.  What's the next challenge?

"My body may not handle it, but John McKay and I, next up, we are going to be goalkeepers against the women's soccer team.  We are going to see if they can score against us from the penalty spot.  Now, John and I might have to be in the goal together to be able to stop them, but that is the next challenge."

Q.) We'll keep the results in the top secret file...

"Of course, results do not matter.  It is all in the effort!"

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