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Report: Former USC AD Mike Bohn Fostered 'Toxic' Workplace Environment at Cincinnati

Joseph Zucker

A new report from The Athletic's Justin Williams, Nicole Auerbach and Bruce Feldman lifted the lid on the circumstances leading to Mike Bohn's sudden resignation as athletic director at USC.

They describe how issues arose with both the Trojans and at his previous stop, Cincinnati:

"In the days since his resignation, The Athletic has spoken to multiple individuals who worked with Bohn at USC and Cincinnati, as well as athletic directors and others who engaged with him professionally, probing Bohn's history in college athletics and why it all went wrong at USC. That insight was reinforced by documents obtained from his time at Cincinnati that detail racially insensitive comments made by Bohn and claims of another 'toxic atmosphere.'"

From the outside, it looked like USC's athletic department was thriving.

The school poached Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma, and the football team went 11-3 with Caleb Williams winning the Heisman Trophy in 2022. The basketball team secured a commitment from Bronny James, which promises to bring plenty of attention since he's the son of NBA star LeBron James. Bohn also oversaw the Trojans' eventual move to the Big Ten.

That made it all the more surprising when the 62-year-old abruptly departed on May 19.

There was far more to the story, though, and it extends back to before he was hired by USC.

According to The Athletic, Bohn was the subject of two investigations in 2019 as he was on his way to the West Coast.

Karen Hatcher, who works in Cincinnati's athletics foundation, made allegations of "discriminatory and other professional misconduct." In one exchange, Bohn allegedly instructed her to "be careful with diverse pools" of candidates for an open job position. He also allegedly said she had "pulled the race card" when she drew attention to the lack of minority employees earning promotions with the school, per the report.

The other inquiry centered around "the climate and culture of the athletics department as a whole," according to The Athletic.

Similar issues emerged at USC.

As Bohn's resignation was announced, the Los Angeles Times' Ryan Kartje reported there was growing "internal criticism of his management of the athletic department."

"Bohn made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female colleagues, including remarks about their dress, hair and weight, that staff members said made them feel uncomfortable, according to two USC sources with knowledge of the incidents," Kartje wrote.

His report also cited two people who worked with Bohn at Cincinnati who saw him allegedly "make unwanted physical contact with women" that made the women "visibly uncomfortable."

Both the Los Angeles Times and The Athletic painted the picture of an absentee athletic director as well. Kartje spoke to people with the Trojans who "described him as a poor manager who missed meetings he was expected to attend and was often absent from key events, including USC national championship victories."

According to The Athletic, Bohn worked remotely from his home in Boulder, Colorado, "for the better part of his first two years on the job at USC" amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, he struggled to build relationships with or even know some of the people who worked within the athletic department.

For USC, this is yet another administrative failure in a string of them.

Nobody remembers former athletic director Pat Haden's tenure all that fondly, particularly because the football team experienced such a quick decline from the Pete Carroll era.

Lynn Swann replaced Haden. His inexperience presented clear challenges, and the "Varsity Blues" scandal unfolded while the Hall of Fame wide receiver was in charge.

Bohn was both a USC outsider and the kind of seasoned administrator who could finally bring some stability. Instead, the cycle of dysfunction continues in Los Angeles.


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