Lynn Swann, a legendary Hall of Fame wide receiver with USC and the Pittsburgh Steelers who then made a mark in the worlds of broadcasting, politics, corporate governance, civic engagement and philanthropy, was named USC’s eighth athletic director on April 13, 2016, effective July 1.
He succeeded Pat Haden, who retired as athletic director on June 30.
“To his new role, Lynn Swann will bring the heart and soul of a Trojan,” said USC president C.L. Max Nikias upon Swann’s hiring. “He shares our profound dedication to combining academic excellence with athletic excellence.”
“I am excited about coming back to USC,” said Swann. “As athletic director, my goals for the student-athletes will be to graduate, to win and to experience.”
In 2016-17 his first year on the job, he saw the football team win the Rose Bowl (while also defeating traditional rivals UCLA and Notre Dame), the women’s soccer and beach volleyball teams win NCAA championships (and 11 other teams finish in the NCAA Top 10), the men’s basketball team defeat highly-ranked crosstown foe UCLA, USC finish fourth in the Directors’ Cup and second in the Women’s Capital One Cup and Trojan athletes win 21 medals (9 golds) at the Rio Olympics.
Well known both within the Trojan Family and globally, the 65-year-old Swann drew on his football success to distinguish himself as an acclaimed leader in both the civic and corporate spheres. He also is a charismatic motivational speaker who has addressed a wide range of audiences across the country, offering an inspiring voice on the importance of assuming responsibility, strong leadership, and maximizing opportunities. As a respected philanthropist, Swann has raised money for a variety of charitable and community organizations, including to provide scholarships for the Pittsburgh Ballet.
Swann served 2 years (1993-95) as chairman of the national board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, an organization with which he was active for more than 30 years. As chairman, he managed more than 400 agencies across the United States and helped establish the organization as the premier mentoring group in the nation.
President George W. Bush appointed Swann as the Chairman of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, where he served from 2002 to 2005.
In 2006, Swann was the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, running a campaign that drew significant praise for its organization and focus as he attempted to become the first African-American governor in that state’s history. He captured 40 percent of the vote against Democratic incumbent Ed Rendell.
He further sharpened his governance experience in the boardroom as a director of such international companies as The H. J. Heinz Company, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, and Hershey Entertainment and Resorts. Effective July 1, he will only serve on the Fluor Corporation Board and, until his term ends in November 2016, on the board of the non-profit PGA of America. He was named to Savoy magazine’s 2016 list of the 300 Most Influential Black Corporate Directors.
He was part of the ownership group of the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League from 2011 to 2014. The Power went 15-3 in 2014 and earned its first playoff berth.
Swann worked for ABC from 1976 to 2006, serving as a host, reporter, and analyst for a wide range of events, including college football (he covered a number of USC games), Monday Night Football and the USFL. He also worked on the 1984 Summer Olympics, the 1980 and 1988 Winter Olympics, the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes), the Irish Derby, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the International Diving Championships, Wide World of Sports and The American Sportsman. In 2008, he was the sideline reporter for CBS’ Clash of Champions bowling telecast (he was inducted into the International Bowling Hall of Fame in 2009).
He also hosted TV game show To Tell The Truth in 1990 and 1991, made a cameo appearance on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and appeared in the movie The Waterboy.
As a wide receiver, Swann was known for his extraordinary coordination, quickness, fluidity, leaping ability, physical precision, gracefulness and balance. He credits those attributes to his involvement with dance dating to the fourth grade when his mother enrolled him in a dance class.
He was the Steelers’ first round selection in the 1974 NFL Draft and spent his entire 9-year (1974-82) NFL career in Pittsburgh. He played in Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV (the Steelers won all of them). He was MVP of Super Bowl X (the first wide receiver so honored), catching 4 passes for a Super Bowl-record 161 yards (his 64-yard TD grab late in the fourth quarter provided the game’s decisive points).
Appearing in 116 regular season games in his NFL career (with 96 starts), he had 336 receptions for 5,462 yards (16.3 average) and 51 TDs, along with 61 punt returns for 739 yards (12.1 average) and a TD. In 16 career playoff games, he added another 48 grabs for 907 yards (18.9 average) with 9 TDs and 12 punt returns for 92 yards (7.7 average). He led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 1975 (11) and in punt return yardage as a rookie in 1974 (577). He made All-Pro first team and the Pro Bowl 3 times (1975, 1977 and 1978).
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He was the NFL’s 1981 Walter Payton Man of the Year. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1970’s first team and in 2016 he was named to the Super Bowl 50 Golden Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors.
A 3-year (1971-73) letterman at USC, he was a 1973 consensus All-American first teamer and was a member of the Trojans’ 1972 undefeated national championship team. He played in the 1973 and 1974 Rose Bowls, catching a touchdown in the 1973 game. In 1973, he was USC’s MVP and team co-captain while earning All-Pac-8 first team honors and the Pop Warner Award (as the Pacific Coast’s most valuable senior). After his senior campaign, he was selected to play in the 1974 Hula Bowl, Senior Bowl, College All-Star Game and Coaches All-America Game.
He had 95 catches in his USC career for 1,562 yards (16.4 average) with 11 TDs. He also returned 49 punts for 599 yards (12.2 average) with 2 scores (the yardage ranks fourth on the USC career chart) and he rushed for 200 yards on 26 carries (7.7 average). He led the Trojans in receiving in 1971 (27 catches) and 1973 (a Pac-8 best 42 receptions) and was USC’s leading punt returner all 3 of his seasons (157 yards in 1971, a Pac-8 high 253 yards in 1972 and 189 yards in 1973).
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame in 1993, the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2013. He received the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award in 1999.
He received the Walter Camp Football Foundation Man of the Year Award in 1997, then in 2000 he was presented with the Pop Warner Little Scholars Tomlin Award and the Pittsburgh YMCA Man of the Year Award.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations from USC in 1974. He later returned to USC to take graduate-level courses in broadcast production along with outside instruction in writing, speech and acting.
Swann was born on March 7, 1952, in Alcoa, Tenn., but moved when he was 2 to San Mateo, Calif.
He starred in football and track at San Mateo’s Junipero Serra High. He earned prep All-American honors in football and won the 1970 CIF California state long jump title, defeating future Olympic gold medalist (and fellow Trojan) Randy Williams. In 2002, he was inducted into the Bay Area Hall of Fame.
Swann and his wife, Dr. Charena Swann, have 2 sons, Braxton (a sophomore at USC in the Marshall School of Business) and Shafer (a cadet at West Point).