In a rare show of emotion, USC Trojans athletic director Pat Haden came down from the press box to help head coach Steve Sarkisian argue a unsportsmanlike penalty in the third quarter of USC’s 13-10 win over the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday. This wasn’t just an unprecedented move by the USC official, but unacceptable for Hayden to be a sideline presence for the Trojans.
Haden is a Pac-12 conference representative who serves on the college football playoff committee, along with notable former players, coaches and university officials. The members are ultimately responsible for collectively being the deciding factor in the first ever four-team playoff. After Haden’s show of favoritism by being on the field during a game, he should resign from the playoff committee.
Haden said after the game he went to the field not to argue the penalty, but rather to seek clarification with Sarkisian on the coach’s position on the sideline. A member of the USC staff sent a text to Haden from the sideline asking for his assistance. Haden remained on the sideline until the game was over, even congratulating some of the Trojan players on the field after the win.
If Haden makes the decision to remain on the committee, then he should be stripped of his duties by committee director Bill Hancock. It would be unacceptable for Haden to continue on the committee knowing his status at the university. The Trojans have a possibility to be among the teams considered in the four-team playoff and Haden’s outburst would make any fan wonder if the system is showing an unfair advantage.
It’s never good when university officials become mixed in the game as semi-fans, but it’s even worse when they’re playing a vital role on deciding championships. Haden needs to hand in his resignation along with Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez. This would ensure fairness and take away any doubt toward the future of the playoff system.