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State of Troy: March 2014

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Each month, we interview USC Athletic Director Pat Haden to get his take on the hot topics around Heritage Hall.

Haden on Northwestern student-athletes considering unionization...

_PEC2506 Pierson Clair Pierson Clair.jpgClearly, change is in the air in college football with issues like pay-for-play, unionization and concussion prevention drawing national attention.  As an administrator, these are all worthy of discussion in terms of how we can create a better environment within the rules of the NCAA.  Regarding unionization specifically, I have looked at the demands of the Northwestern players, and quite honestly, we provide most of those already at USC.  We do not yank scholarships from players, and we happily pay for former student-athletes to come back and complete their degrees.  In terms of health benefits and stipends, we provide the maximum allowed under NCAA rules, but we would love the opportunity to do more, especially when it comes to feeding our student-athletes.  It is unjust that we cannot feed them when they are hungry, but we have to live within the NCAA rules.  The Northwestern case will work its way through the court system over the next few years, and we will closely monitor it, and maintain a dialogue with our student-athletes about how we can improve.

Haden on homosexuality in sports after the announcements of Jason Collins and Michael Sam...

This issue is near and dear to my heart as I have a gay son.  I am so proud of him and love him to death.  At USC, we are all about inclusion.  We have many gay athletes here, and we welcome and appreciate them.  We promote diversity not just in terms of sexual orientation and ethnicity, but different points of view.  We are producing a video featuring our student-athletes expressing that we want to live by our Trojan Family Code, which is centered around treating people with respect despite any differences and, even more, appreciating that diversity.  In the last two years, we have also created a "culture committee" with student-athletes, coaches, administrators and some faculty members.  We discuss changing the culture around USC from the standpoint of what can we do better.  Appreciate and respect one another.  And, treat each other with dignity and fairness.

Haden on eliminating the N-word during athletic competitions...

Haden-Bye-McG.jpgWe talk about the use of the N-word around here a lot, especially on our culture committee.  We have spoken with our teams and our coaches about it.  The word is so contextual.  For a 61-year-old white male like myself, it has enormous impact.  But, many of our African-American student-athletes tell us they use it in a different context, often affectionately.  We are trying to educate our kids about the powder keg that it can be even though they are using it in a completely different way than someone from my generation might.  I do not think the word should be banned.  Instead, we should do what we do best at universities and educate our student-athletes about the word's many meanings. 

Haden on the proposed 10-second rule to slow down college football...

Everybody would be for that rule change if somebody could show us some empirical evidence that a faster pace causes more injuries.  To my knowledge, there is no evidence to prove that theory.  Most people like uptempo, high-scoring football.  We have hired a new head coach who plans to implement a faster paced offensive system, and we are looking forward to it.

Haden on what he is looking forward to this spring...

We have a chance to win seven or eight national championships this semester.  Now, it is unlikely that all will happen, but we have several teams with legitimate shots.  We have such a broad-based athletic department with world class talent in so many different sports.  For instance, our new Director of Track and Field, Caryl Smith Gilbert, has gotten off to a fantastic start leading the women to an indoor conference championship.  And then of course, spring football begins.  Steve Sarkisian will start to build his team, and there is real optimism around the program.  In talking to our football players during the offseason, they were extremely complimentary of the strength and conditioning staff, which is their focus at this time of the year.  Hopefully, that is a precursor of what is going to happen when they get to be on the field with the entire coaching staff.

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