More than two weeks before he officially took office, Max Nikias – at the time the incoming president of USC – couldn’t wait to tell the world that San Marino resident Pat Haden “has accepted my offer to become USC’s next athletic director.”
Since that July day some two-and-a-half years ago, Haden has helped lift Troy out of the depths of NCAA probation purgatory and lingering suspicions concerning ethics in the football program. Through it all, Haden has been his typical high-road self while USC has ridden the white horse through the smoke of suspicion.
That, the admirable and ongoing dedication to his family and the remarkable patience they have displayed while waiting to return to their home (damaged by last year’s wind storm), more than qualify Pat Haden as the San Marino Tribune’s ‘Citizen of the Year’ for 2012.
When notified of the honor – it is Tribune tradition that the recipient not know until publication – Haden will no doubt accept the award on behalf of his ever-expanding family.
He and wife Cindy are now grandparents. Several times over.
Nobody would have blamed Haden had he decided to continue his lucrative career as a businessman and broadcaster, but Cindy gave him the necessary nudge that caused her husband to accept Nikias’s offer.
“How many times do you get an opportunity to go back to a place you love and make a difference?” Cindy asked her husband.
That’s all it took.
Two years in, Haden is as enthusiastic as ever in achieving the lofty goals he set down for the program.
Winning more championship? Absolutely. But it comes as no surprise to those who know Haden that improving the experience of the student-athlete and educating the entire Trojan Family is as right up there with adding to Heritage Hall’s trophy cases.
“I know our student-athletes have to spend a lot of time practicing their sport. But there are so many other things going on at USC that will enrich their lives,” Haden told The Tribune shortly after he accepted the position. “We will be putting on more than thirty plays and other stage production on campus this year. We have guest speakers on a wide variety of subjects. Lectures and musical performances every single day. Don’t just get locked up in your sport, take advantage of all the things this university has to offer. I look back on my own time here and wish I had taken in a little more of what was going on. I don’t want any of our student-athletes looking back twenty years from now wishing they had done something different. My hope is that they will have a complete university experience.”
To that end, Haden personally sees that every student-athlete receives a monthly calendar of events that take place on campus.
Winning is still a priority,
“We want to win in a way we can be proud of,” Haden told the San Marino City Club when he was addressed that group in September.. “The right way. Some USC people take offense to that, as if we weren’t winning in the right way before. That is not what I am saying. We also want to close the gap between the student-athlete and the general student population. The graduation rate of the USC student-athlete is 79.6%, compared with 90% of general students. The average GPA is 3.4 for the general student population and just under 3.0 for the athletes. Of the one million young people playing high school football today, 65,000 will move on to play college at any level, 350 will be drafted into the NFL and only a dozen will still be playing at the age of thirty. When I say this in front of our football team, all 105 think they will still be playing at thirty. So I try to encourage our athletes to come and get a good education. To come and graduate.”
Haden administers 19 athletic programs with over 600 student athletes and serves on the faculty of both the Annenberg School of Comunications at USC and the Marshall School of Business. He was a general partner of Riordan, Lewis & Haden, a private equity firm, which invests in high growth middle market companies from 1987 until 2010. Haden graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from USC in 1975 and was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University in England. He graduated from Oxford in 1978 with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and received his J.D. from Loyola Law School in 1982.
Haden quarterbacked the Trojans from 1972-74, leading USC to two national championships and three Rose Bowl appearances. He was captain his senior season and was named co-Most Valuable Player of the 1975 Rose Bowl. Pat was also named an Academic All-American in 1973 and 1974 and is a member of the Academic All American Hall of Fame, the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, the National High School Hall of Fame and the USC Hall of Fame. He was also awarded the NCAA’s Silver Anniversary Award.
He played professional football for seven seasons, six with the Los Angeles Rams. He was named the Ram’s rookie of the year in 1976, was named to the Pro Bowl in 1977 and was named the National Football Conference Player of the Year in 1978 by the Washington, D.C. Touchdown Club.
The Hadens have two daughters; Natalie O’Connor, 33, and Kelly Paulus, 32 (she played soccer at Georgetown and her husband, David, played football and basketball there), and two sons, Ryan, 31 (he played football briefly at USC), and Taylor, 29.
Family is most important to the Hadens. Once asked his secret to successful parenting, Haden said, “It’s simple. Whenever one of our children asks Cindy or me to do something, we do it.” Hours after accepting the position of athletic director at USC, Haden reached out to The Tribune before all other news outlets, wanting his hometown newspaper to have the first opportunity for a chat, which we heartily accepted.
The lone blemish on Haden’s otherwise glittering resume is a rumored loss he and Trojan teammate J.K. McKay (who is Haden’s assistant athletic director) suffered in a golf match at the hands of San Marino residents Brad Talt and Steve Botsford, which lives on to this very day. And certainly will well beyond…
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