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USC AD Hinted At Independence, Later Clarified; But Pac-12 Needs USC

(L-R) Athletic Director Mike Bohn of the USC Trojans shakes hands with head coach Clay Helton of the USC Trojans after defeating the UCLA Bruins 52-35 in a game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, California – The Pac-12 has some issues – like lagging behind in media rights money compared to its Power 5 peers and lack of distribution of the Pac-12 Network. Their problems may get bigger is USC is seriously exploring other options.

This might be extreme and unlikely to happen but new USC athletics director Mike Bohn left the door slightly ajar when he spoke to USCFootball.com in a recent podcast. The hosts of KSL Unrivaled, Scott Mitchell and Alex Kirry were shocked by his statements.

Bohn was asked if the Trojans would take the independent route. His answer was shocking, “I think right now, Larry would agree with this, everything is on the table.”

The question seemed like it was from a fan just wildly speculating and dreaming of a USC program free from the Pac-12. However, when Bohn took it seriously, it turned into a bombshell. To say that a blue-chip program would leave the Pac-12 is a big statement, according to Unrivaled.

Bohn clarified the statement to CBSSports.com but the attempt fell flat and didn’t offer any clarification or commitment to the Pac-12. He tried to play it off as in saying any media rights deal was on the table.

“The answer is no. Why would we do that? We’ve got 21 sports here. You know the drill. There would be no way for us to do that,” Bohn said. “Now, that being said, if the unexpected happened and NBC said, ‘Hey we want to partner you guys with Notre Dame’ then that’s different.’ There’s no talk of [leaving], but guess what? If it was on the table, we would certainly explore that.

“The context that I was talking about was whether it was league TV stuff, creative pieces with any other type of deliverable, it has to be on the table. Guess what? If that helps [the league] understand the importance of what our campuses are going through, so be it. I don’t want to walk it back, but hopefully, that gives it a little more context.”

To recap, Bohn claimed the Trojans are not leaving, but brought up a hypothetical NBC contract which eludes to leaving the Pac-12 and doesn’t actually clarify his comments when he said he is adding more context.

The follow-up clarification to the original comments appeared wishy-washy, according to Unrivaled.

Pac-12 Needs USC To Be Great

The Pac-12 has been down – not only with money it gets from its media partners but also on the big stage of college football. Only two appearances in the College Football Playoff don’t bode well for the conference of champions. The league itself needs to have its top programs to lift up the rest.

If the Trojans found a deal good enough for its football program to leave the conference, the Pac-(insert number here) would be in trouble, according to Mitchell and Kirry.

Mitchell explained why the Trojans getting back to being an elite program matters for  Utah and every other team in the Pac-12.

“You can argue that there is a valid point for USC going independent because the bottom line in all of this is that USC is the Pac-12,” Mitchell said. “The opinion, the view, the pulse, everything in the Pac-12 hinges on USC. Every year they will be ranked and they always have the athletes and if they can ever pull it all together they would dominate.”

“It is so much better for the Pac-12 for USC to be a champion,” Kirry said. “That is exactly what makes this conference worth being a part of it if you are Utah, Oregon, or Washington, and you aim to beat that excellence, always.”

USC is in a bad place right now and their name is the only thing of real value because they could go out and get any football coach if the position is open.

Perhaps it is just cyclical because the Trojans were elite in the late 1960s and 1970s, really good but not great in the 80s and 90s, early 2000s with Pete Carroll they were elite and now they are back to up and down.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast.