USC has begun the process of installing its promised $70 million improvements to Los Angeles Coliseum. The Trojans have until 2024 to make the renovations, so athletics director Pat Haden can afford to take his time and make sure it gets done right. Part of that process has included visiting more than 20 NFL and college stadiums around the country to get an idea for what USC would like to do. Haden has brought senior associate athletics director Mark Jackson with him for those trips and if this is all starting to sound familiar, that's because it should.
Haden employed the exact same strategy - touring athletic facilities and offices around the nation with Jackson - back when USC planed the 110,00-square foot, $70 million John McKay Center.
Jackson, 41, played cornerback at Colby College from 1991-94, and was a graduate assistant at Trinity College from 1995-96. He turned two summer internships with the New England Patriots' media relations department into three seasons of working on Pete Carroll's staff from 1998-2000. Jackson followed Carroll to USC, where he was the Trojans' director of football administration, and later assistant athletics director.
In 2005 he became a senior associate athletics director at Syracuse, then spent a year as vice president of athlete development for A2 Holdings, and then served as director of football development for the Oakland Raiders from 2007-08.
He returned to Troy in January of 2009 to work as USC's senior associate athletics director, managing the department's capital projects (the McKay Center, Heritage Hall, Uytengsu Aquatics Center and now the Los Angeles Coliseum), oversees the football, baseball and women's lacrosse programs and handles odds-and-ends internal affairs such as sports medicine, security and apparel operations.
In a dozen years in athletics administration, he's seen the rise of USC football under Pete Carroll, the first year of Greg Robinson's tenure at Syracuse, experienced the mess that was the Oakland Raiders under the leadership team of Al Davis and Lane Kiffin, saw the end of the Carroll era at USC and the hiring of Kiffin, and now has a front-row ticket to the regime change from Kiffin to USC's next coach.
He's peaked under the hood at the best facilities and stadiums the NFL and college football have to offer, has his hand in a number of different pots within a major athletics department and has seen success and failure first hand. And he's only 41 years old.
If you might be in need of a new BCS athletics director any time soon, you may want to put a call into the 213 area code before someone else does first.