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Pat Haden era as USC athletic director is officially over

Thursday marks the end of Pat Haden's tenure as athletic director at USC -- and what a fascinating tenure it has been.

In February, the university announced that the former Trojans quarterback would depart from his AD post on June 30 after six years, to be replaced by former USC and Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann.

Endings offer a chance to look back at the body of work that came before them. And in the case of Haden's time at USC, even simple reflection is rather complicated.

Haden came aboard in July 2010, just one month after the NCAA dealt USC football a crippling blow that included a two-year postseason ban and 30 yanked scholarships.

Lane Kiffin was USC's football coach when Haden was hired, and -- despite those sanctions -- the Trojans showed promise under Kiffin, at least at first. The Trojans went 10-2 in 2011, walloping rival UCLA 50-0 to close the season and entered 2012 ranked No. 1 in the country.

But after that, the true chaos began. Even Hollywood screenwriters would have been challenged in devising a script as mercurial as the one that followed USC throughout the remainder of Haden's tenure.

There was certainly a significant amount of department-wide success: Haden was credited with creating a large NCAA compliance program, graduation rates and grade-point averages improved across the athletic department, and he helped raise more than $400 million and to kick-start an ambitious renovation of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- an overseeing job he will retain for one year after Thursday's departure.

But football is king at USC, and -- whether it's fair or not -- the spectacular Trojans roller-coaster ride on and off the field dominates any discussion of Haden's legacy as athletic director.

After Kiffin's 2012 team stumbled to a 7-6 finish, the 2013 squad started a disappointing 3-2. That's when Haden fired Kiffin, reportedly at Los Angeles International Airport when the team returned from its 62-41 loss at Arizona State.

The program enjoyed a brief rebirth of sorts under interim coach Ed Orgeron, winning six of eight games, but Haden decided to hire former Pete Carroll assistant Steve Sarkisian to be Kiffin's replacement at the end of the season.

The Trojans finally came off NCAA probation in June 2014, just about three months before Sarkisian coached his first game for USC. In a bizarre occurrence during a game at Stanford that September, Haden left his director's box in the third quarter to voice his frustration with officials on the field. The incident was especially controversial because of Haden's spot on the College Football Playoff committee.

Haden stepped down from the committee in October of last year, citing unspecified health concerns, two weeks after he felt light-headed and required medical assistance during a USC football game at Notre Dame. He was also hospitalized this past February.

The Trojans finished 9-4 with a bowl victory in 2014, generating optimism for 2015, but good feelings vanished when Haden fired Sarkisian in October 2015 following a dramatic two-month saga. Sarkisian admitted to mixing alcohol and medication before a speech at a preseason event in August, and he was terminated one day after being asked to take an indefinite leave of absence after he appeared to arrive at team facilites intoxicated.

Sarkisian later filed a lawsuit against USC, alleging discrimination on the basis of disability and breach of contract. In March, that legal battle moved from the courts to arbitration and has not yet been resolved.

The Trojans finished 2015 at 8-6 overall, a disappointment relative to their No. 8 preseason ranking in the AP poll. In what would become his final major coaching hire, Haden tapped interim coach Clay Helton as Sarkisian's successor before the year was finished.

Although Haden has faced criticism for what some say was a hasty decision to hire Helton -- there's a restless mood around a USC football program that has undergone five coaching changes in six years -- there's still a chance that Haden's legacy will eventually be viewed as a successful one.

As our Ted Miller wrote in February, the Trojans have talent, so championship-level success in the Helton era cannot be completely ruled out just yet. If that's combined with a sparkling renovation of the Coliseum, then Haden's directorship will be viewed much more brightly than it is in the moment.

But right now this tumultuous decade of USC football is the freshest object in memory. It's up to Helton to bring stability to that situation -- and ultimate credibility to the Haden era.