It seems like they should have known.
The problems Corey Johnson has faced during the past two weeks that culminated Thursday are not new. In fact, they are almost the same to what he went through 10 years ago at Colorado State: a short time on the job followed by accusations of inappropriate behavior followed by a hasty resignation.
So why did USF hire Johnson without knowing about any of this? University officials have stated they weren’t informed by Carr Sports Associates, the search firm, of Johnson’s checkered past.
But still, there was evidence there, at least enough that it should have raised a few eyebrows. Johnson had slowly worked his way through the athletic ranks. He graduated college in 1971 and then, 16 years later, earned his way into a job as an athletic director at Long Beach State. In 1992, he arrived at Colorado State, holding the job as head of an athletic department at a Division I institution with a reputation firmly implanted in the national sporting consciousness.
Yet, after a short stint, he left the job and took a position in 1995 at the fledgling NAIA institution Nova Southeastern University, a far cry from Division I prominence.
In addition, Johnson left a job at CSU where he earned $109,000 and took the job at Nova for $60,000, an almost $50,000 pay cut.
It seems a man who has paid his dues for 25 years and earned his way to the top should keep going up, instead of taking a major step back.
All of that information is on the same page of Johnson’s application, which the administration reviewed.
In addition, Bill Carr, head of the firm hired to identify candidates for Johnson’s position, was listed as one of his references. That means there was a previous relationship and, whether anyone will say it or not, there is at least the perception of unethical behavior.
Was Bill Carr helping out a friend by recommending him for the position and covering up knowledge of past wrongdoing? Maybe. Maybe not. But does the fact the question even comes to mind mean the university should have investigated further?
These are questions that university officials will have to face.
But now the speculation will center on how the athletic department will recover from its second embarrassing resignation of a high level official in the past two years. Former athletic director Paul Griffin resigned in 2001 following allegations of racism against head women’s basketball coach, Jerry Ann Winters.
When Griffin resigned, Lee Roy Selmon stepped into the job with relative ease. The women’s basketball program has actually improved and the football team has continued to grow.
CSU recovered from Johnson’s departure and has consistently maintained a strong, bowl-earning football program and national recognition in other sports. In fact, USF itself has proved that the impact of Johnson’s departure on CSU’s program was relatively minimal since officials in Tampa did not even know about the controversy.
USF’s recovery will be aided by Selmon, who is a Hall of Fame football player and well-liked in the community. That alone means something for the athletic program. He will be faced with the challenge of troubleshooting following this embarrassment.
This athletic director has done it before, but the difference between Griffin and Johnson is that this time, the finger will be pointed squarely at Selmon.
People will want to know why.