Ex-USC AD Mike Bohn created ‘toxic’ work environment during time at Cincinnati, per report
Damning new details regarding a pattern of concerning behavior of former USC athletic director Mike Bohn have come to light following his sudden resignation on May 21. Bohn, who arrived at USC four years ago after a five-year stint at Cincinnati, created a “toxic” work environment at his former employer, according to a lengthy report from The Athletic featuring first-hand accounts and supporting documents.
Just ten days before Bohn was introduced as the AD at USC on Oct. 29, 2019, the University of Cincinnati’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Access Office of Gender, Equity & Inclusion launched two separate investigations into his leadership, according to the report. The first described a series of racially insensitive remarks from Bohn, who reportedly “made disrespectful comments about [Cincinnati] President [Neville G.] Pinto’s race” and whose “repeated, racially charged, disrespectful comments caused distress.”
In one example, Bohn allegedly told UC executive senior associate AD Karen Hatcher, who is Black, to “be careful with diverse pools” when it came to hiring:
In another instance, when Hatcher complained about the lack of minorities being promoted, Bohn told Stephen Rosfeld, a White male employee and vice president of development for the university’s foundation, that Hatcher “pulled the race card.” Bohn told Omar Banks, a Black male and former CFO at Cincinnati, that Hatcher was “only successful in athletics because she is an African American woman” and challenged her knowledge of the position, according to the document.
A second investigation, opened at the same time, centered on “an administrative review … to access (sic) the climate and culture of the athletics department as a whole.” From The Athletic:
As part of the review, several athletics staffers described that climate and culture “as having a toxic atmosphere,” including the perception that the department was not following university policy “regarding decisions in hiring and internal promotions.” The review also stated that several staffers “expressed there is an ‘in crowd’ and if you are not in the ‘in crowd’ you are not afforded leadership development to acquire new skillsets to be eligible for promotions.” Staffers also described what they believed to be “a lack of diversity in senior leadership positions and no recruitment of minorities for those positions.”
Cincinnati acknowledged Bohn had committed a potential violation of policy, but did not recommend action be taken as he had already left for USC at that point.
Bohn’s attitude toward female employees then became specific concern at USC, according to two sources who spoke to the Los Angeles Times around the time of his resignation. They noted that Bohn made inappropriate remarks about the appearance of female employees on staff, including their weight, dress and hair. The Times also reports that Bohn consistently missed important meetings and events.
Though Bohn stepped away citing health issues, multiple former or current USC employees recently raised concerns about Bohn’s management during a recent top-to-bottom review of the athletic department conducted by an external firm, according to The Times. USC retained Gina Maistro Smith, a Philadelphia-based attorney from Cozen O’Connor, to conduct that review.
“In our singular pursuit of excellence, I am committed to ensuring we have the right leadership in place to achieve our goals,” USC president Carol L. Folt said in statement last week. “As part of that commitment and as we prepare to move to the Big Ten, we conducted a thorough review of the athletics department, including its operations, culture, and strategy. Having built a strong foundation over the last few years, now is the time for new direction grounded in our values and in expertise needed to fulfill our aspirational vision for Trojan athletics.”
Before taking the AD job at Cincinnati, he served as athletic director at Colorado from 2005-13 where he oversaw the Buffaloes’ move from the Big 12 to the Pac-12. Bohn also had stops as the AD at Idaho (1998-2003) and San Diego State (2003-05).