Lynn Swann’s greatest memory of USC career may surprise you


When people list the greatest teams in college football history, the 1972 USC Trojans are at or near the top. They not only were undefeated but were national champions, too, so dominant that broadcaster Keith Jackson called them the best team he ever saw.

Lynn Swann was a star receiver on that team. He played in two Rose Bowls, was named to the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame … and that’s a lot for one resume. Nevertheless, Swann had no trouble citing his greatest memory of college on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.

“Graduation,” said Swann, now the athletic director at USC. “It was pretty good.

“Look, we had some great football teams and some great teammates, a lot of wonderful experiences in college and made some lifelong friends. But to have been here (at USC) four years, to have my degree from USC’s school of journalism, to graduate on time … and then, you add to that, to have played in two Rose Bowls, to have won a national championship with my teammates … that was great. That was actually the very best. That was an exclamation mark on my four years.”

Swann, of course, went on to become a Hall-of-Fame wide receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he won four Super Bowls before retiring and moving on to a career in broadcast sports and, later, politics. But all that changed a year ago this month when he took over as athletic director at USC where, not too surprisingly, what he envisions for the school’s athletic programs and its athletes today isn’t all that different from what he envisioned for himself 43 years ago as a graduating senior.

“I’d like to see all of our athletes get a degree, for whatever amount of time they’re here at USC,” he said. “To at least be on track to get that degree in four years. and many of our athletes are capable of getting it in three or three-and-a-half years (by) staying in summer school, (through) working out, conditioning, those kinds of things — having more credits, even coming away with credit toward a master’s degree. So that’s the primary thing.

“Then, their college experience — to be on a winning team; to be on a championship team; to play in the Rose Bowl; to win a Rose Bowl; to win a national championship. Our women’s soccer team won the women’s championship this last fall. Our men’s water polo team competed for a national championship. Our women’s water polo team is playing well.

“Track and field, under coach (Caryl Smith) Gilbert, is doing extraordinarily well. Our women’s beach volleyball team has won back-to-back national championships, and they want to win a third. Our men’s and women’s golf team is ranked in the top five in the country and playing extraordinarily well. So we want them to have that winning experience because I think that helps them through life.

“And the third thing is to have a great college experience. For student-athletes there’s a lot of work being on the team.”

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