As the USC athletic department begins the search for a new athletic director, there are two schools of thought on finding the next person for the job.
One is that the university should look outside its walls to bring in an established athletic director who has no ties to USC, with the thinking being that after all the upheaval and challenges of the recent sanctions era, it would be best to start fresh with someone who has experience doing the job. There is certainly merit to this idea, as there are plenty of talented administrators out there who would make fine candidates.
The other school of thought, however, says there are talented candidates who do have USC ties, and though they might not have athletic director experience, they bring impressive resumes to the table and are worthy of consideration. Here, in alphabetical order, are three names who could get a look.
David Baker (President, NFL Hall of Fame)
Baker got an up-close look at the USC program while his son, Sam, was a three-time All-American offensive tackle for the Trojans from 2004 to 2007. At the time, Baker was the commissioner of the Arena Football League, a position he held for 12 years after getting involved with the league as an owner of the Anaheim Piranhas. A former basketball player at UC Irvine, Baker earned a law degree from Pepperdine and served as mayor of Irvine.
Jeremy Hogue (CEO, Sovereign Healthcare)
Hogue played offensive line for the Trojans from 1993 to '95, a time that included the 1996 Rose Bowl victory over Northwestern. He was an Academic All-American at USC (3.91 GPA, political science major), and he is a Rhodes Scholar finalist and a graduate of Harvard Law School. In 2003, Hogue founded Sovereign, a healthcare strategy and operations company that has partnered with some of the leading industry professionals in the Southwest, including on the formation of the Kerlan-Jobe Institute. Hogue sits on the board of the Lott IMPACT Foundation and has served as a media analyst for USC football and high school football games.
Steve Lopes (COO & CFO, USC athletic department)
Lopes began his climb up the USC athletic department ladder in 1984 as an assistant strength coach, and he has served eight roles in the department leading to his current job. A former All-American offensive lineman at Linfield College, where he won a national title in addition to wrestling and playing golf, he earned a pair of master’s degrees from USC and a doctorate from Penn. His wife is a former athletic trainer at USC, and his son is currently a walk-on safety for the Trojans. If USC is going to promote from within, Lopes would be the leading choice as a respected and well-liked member of the department.
These are just three of the many people with USC ties who could be qualified for the job. This is not to say the next athletic director must have a connection to the university, but it would be unwise to simply dismiss such candidates out of desire to go outside the Trojan family.