The only physical reminder of the USC-Notre Dame football rivalry in Trojans athletic director Pat Haden’s office is a photo snapped of the Coliseum scoreboard after the 1974 game:
Freeze frame, 55-24.
“Someone gave me that,” admitted the quarterback on the winning side that historic game, thanks plenty to another AD — Anthony Davis. “It’s really the only thing I have. I didn’t save a lot of things.”
So if memories serve us correctly, that must have been the most memorable moment for him of all the annual meetings. What could be anything better?
“I asked Cindy to marry me after that game,” Haden said, “and she’s still crazy enough to be with me 34 years later.”
With four kids, five grandkids, and dozens of new “old” friends now hitting him up for tickets.
USC fans give thanks today for Cindy Haden, coaxing her husband into breaking away from a nice cushy life practicing law and broadcasting Notre Dame TV games to accept this new challenge. Otherwise, Pat Haden wouldn’t be scrambling around town this Thanksgiving weekend like a turkey with his head cut off – fielding ticket requests, greeting visiting dignitaries, checking in with the school’s compliance officers and attending other Trojan games before viewing today’s 82nd meeting through the prism of the school’s fresh-cut athletic director.
Having been a fan, a player, an alum and announcer, how do things change this year?
“I do have a much more vested interest this time,” said Haden, whose black-and-blue Friday schedule includes attending the annual USC-Notre Dame luncheon downtown and going to Westwood for the Trojans’ womens volleyball season-ender against UCLA.
“As a USC alum, I was always hoping we’d win. As a broadcaster, I was always calling it down the middle, but in my heart of hearts, I’d hope USC would win.
“But having come to know these players and coaches, watching how hard they prepare, I definitely have a lot more at stake. Losses hurt a lot more, and wins are much sweeter from this position.
“And, against Notre Dame, there’s even more at stake.”
His Irish Catholic mom was disappointed that he picked USC over Notre Dame – “Ara Parseghian probably would have made me a strong safety,” Haden says, noting Tom Clement was the Irish quarterback at the time. Stanford, closer to where his parents lived, was also in the mix.
Trojans coach John McKay was able to persuade him to join his son, J.K., to be part of the decision process of the three national titles that always seemed to be at stake when USC played Notre Dame from 1972-74.
Last summer, Haden was able to coax J.K. into joining him in running USC athletics, digging the university out of the NCAA muck.
With Haden’s new job title comes hosting duties in his Coliseum luxury suite. Until the second half.
“It’s a social event during the game, a lot of donors, some just kinda watching,” he said. “By the fourth quarter, I need to be on the field, by myself, really concentrating on what’s going on.”
The new culture of NCAA compliance implies Haden has to be a bit more discretionary about how he fills ticket inquiries.
“I can always rustle up something if I need to; I’ve got a few in my back pocket all the time,” Haden admits.
Are you brave enough to ask him for an entry pass to a game that’ll be close to a 90,000 sellout, and more memories ready to be made?
“Talk to Heather, my assistant,” Haden said. “She’s a good guard dog. It depends on how nice you are.”
== ESPN.com’s Mark Saxon talks to Haden about the ethical rigors of his new job (linked here).