At the time he was hired as USC’s athletic director, Mike Bohn was under investigation for his conduct at Cincinnati and was facing complaints from his staff, according to interviews with five current and former Cincinnati employees, as well as Title IX documents seen by The Times.
One of those complaints, filed by Cincinnati’s associate athletic director on October 29, 2019, describes several instances in which Bohn made “racial harassment and other unprofessional remarks about himself and others in the athletic department.”
Title IX investigators in Cincinnati stated in May 2020 that Bohn’s conduct “may have been evidence of a violation of university policy.” The evaluation came six months after Bohn accepted his new job as USC’s athletics director.
“There is no opportunity for the respondent to respond, as he left before the (Office of Equal Opportunity and Access) had an opportunity to address concerns with him,” the summary of the investigation’s notes says.
Bohn resigned as USC’s athletics director last week, a day after The Times asked Bohn and USC about internal criticism of his management and conduct. USC hired an outside law firm earlier this year to conduct a review of the department’s culture and climate under Bohn’s leadership.
At Cincinnati, where Bohn served as athletic director from 2014 to 2019, documents show the school was conducting its own review at the time of Bohn’s departure to assess “the overall climate and culture of the athletic department,” according to a copy. The review was obtained by The Times through an open records request. That review, part of a second open inquiry in late October 2019, included 27 interviews with athletic department staff, many of whom said the department had a “toxic atmosphere.”
“They do not feel comfortable in the Lindner Center building,” the report said, referring to several employees who work in the Cincinnati building where the athletic department used to work.
The report concludes that “there is sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that employees may have engaged in conduct in violation of university policy.”
Bohn declined multiple requests from the Times to provide answers to specific questions about the allegations made by Cincinnati employees. None of the investigations resulted in a record of public discipline against Bohn.
Mike Bohn spoke at a 2014 press conference introducing himself as the University of Cincinnati’s director of athletics.
(Al Behrman/Associated Press)
Cincinnati has not responded to The Times’ questions about Bohn’s conduct, other than providing public records as required by law.
USC hired Turnkey Search to recruit and vet athletic director candidates in the fall of 2019. At the time, Turnkey’s Lev Perna said the search firm was considering more than 80 candidates. According to trade publication Pernak Hunt Scanlon Media, Bohn was “selected for his integrity, focus on NCAA student-athletes and his people skills.”
USC did not respond to The Times’ questions about Bohn or the vetting process before he was hired.
Two female employees in Cincinnati told The Times that IX. They said they met with title officers to share concerns about Bohn’s behavior and discuss filing a complaint before the department’s review began.
One of the women, who asked not to be identified to avoid adverse repercussions on her career, filed a complaint against a supervisor who reported it to Bohn. According to a copy of the official complaint seen by The Times, he alleged “discriminatory, hostile, retaliatory and/or disrespectful and unprofessional conduct that allegedly violated university policy.”
In that complaint, the employee alleges that Bohn belittled her and accused her of lying about a job offer at another school.
In the case published by Cincinnati in May 2020, the woman’s supervisor ultimately found insufficient evidence of discrimination, retaliation or unprofessional conduct.
Kim McGraw, who served as Cincinnati’s director of athletic business affairs from 2009 to 2021, expressed concern about Bohn years before he left for USC. McGraw never filed an official complaint, but he met with a Title IX investigator on March 30, 2017, as a witness in an investigation, according to a disclosure letter obtained by The Times through an open records request.
The letter states that McGraw told investigators that she confronted Bohn about the pay disparity between her and two male employees who were splitting the duties of an outgoing administrator. Bohn, he said, replied, “It’s not about age or gender.” He said he was asked to sign notes at the end of the meeting stating that the pay dispute had been resolved and that he would not file a complaint with the university. He told investigators he refused to sign.
McGraw told The Times that she saw Bohn making unwanted physical contact with women in the department, which made them visibly uncomfortable. IX The title notification letter does not mention any claims involving unwanted physical contact.
McGraw, who is set to retire in 2021, said he did not file an official complaint because he was concerned about retaliation from the university, Bohn or others in the department close to him. The meeting with Title IX officials only heightened those concerns, he said.
“I was led to believe that I was going to fight this on my own,” McGraw told The Times. “I knew that other people had filed complaints or at least went there to talk to them. I didn’t feel like anyone had my back.”
By 2019, some of the female employees of Cincinnati’s athletic department began to meet discreetly, not only to discuss how to handle their concerns with Bohn and the department, but also to offer emotional support to each other.
“It felt like therapy,” one woman said.
IX to appoint Bohn. The woman who filed the headline complaint told The Times that the atmosphere in the department was so tense that the women sometimes left their meetings one by one so as not to arouse suspicion in Bohn or others in the department. . She said the women discussed leaving the documents clandestinely at the university president’s house because she was worried that filing a complaint through official channels would risk getting back at Bohn and retaliating.
Three female employees told The Times they were particularly concerned that the entrance to Cincinnati’s Title IX office in the athletic department building was open.
“These are not easy jobs to lose,” said one female worker. “We were afraid of that.”
IX During the title’s administrative review, Cincinnati athletic personnel shared similar concerns about the department’s culture with investigators.
“Employees feel that there is no trust in athletics and that they can’t trust anyone without everyone in athletics making their concerns known,” the review says.
Former USC athletic director Mike Bohn in a Coliseum tunnel.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Employees also told investigators they were concerned that the athletic department did not have university policy regarding hiring or internal promotions. Multiple employees complained about the lack of diversity in leadership positions and said there was a “crowd” in the personnel department near Bohn.
By the fall of 2019, one of Cincinnati’s top female athletic department staffers had already reached breaking point with Bohn. Karen Hatcher, Cincinnati’s associate executive athletic director for major gifts, met with Title IX investigators on Oct. 29, 2019, three days before The Times reported that Bohn was finalizing a deal with USC to become its next athletic director. USC’s hiring of Bohn didn’t become official for another five days.
Hatcher, who is Black, was promoted by Bohn to his current fundraising role shortly after his arrival in 2014. But, according to investigative memos obtained through a records request, their relationship “became more contentious as there were some troubling interactions. He experienced (with Bohn).
One interaction, which was not described in the statement summarizing the case, left Hatcher particularly uneasy, according to three Cincinnati sources familiar with the incident.
Sources say Bohn, while recounting an episode of a television game show to Hatcher and another senior staffer, repeatedly made racially insensitive comments belittling the intelligence of a Black family competing on the show.
Steven Rosfeld, another senior fellow in attendance, who is white, eventually brought concerns about Bohn’s “disrespectful and unprofessional remarks” to the university’s human resources department. The investigative release states that he finally spoke with a Cincinnati assistant athletic director about Bohn on Oct. 30, 2019.
Hatcher and Rosfeld IX. Headline investigators were told that Bohn accused Hatcher of “playing the race card” after raising concerns that minority workers were not being promoted. Both told investigators they heard Bohn make “disrespectful comments” about the race of Cincinnati’s president, Dr. Neville Pinto. (Pinto is Indian). The report did not specify the comments Bohn was accused of. Another female employee, who asked not to be identified to avoid a detrimental effect on her career, told The Times that she heard Bohn make a racially insensitive comment about Pinto in front of fans in Cincinnati.
Omar Banks, Cincinnati’s former executive associate athletic director, who is black, told investigators that Bohn questioned Hatcher’s knowledge of her position and said she was “only successful in athletics because she is an African-American woman.”
Banks told investigators that after telling Bohn she was interviewing for other extracurricular positions, Bohn began shirking her job responsibilities and told top athletics staff in a meeting that the schools were only after Banks, who is Black because Hatcher confirmed this account as part of the university’s investigation.
That negative treatment, Banks told investigators, led him to leave Cincinnati. He worked at Virginia Tech and later became the athletic director at Campbell University.
IX The other female employee who filed the official title complaint said she left in part because of Bohn’s treatment of her.
According to the official complaint, in a December 2019 interview with Title IX officials, he said he received an offer from another Power Five school the previous September, but declined after Bohn assured him Cincinnati would offer him a $15,000 raise and courtesy. if the car stayed. Shortly after resigning from the job, Bohn reneged on those guarantees, he said.
He told investigators that Bohn accused him of lying about receiving the offer from the other organization during a meeting with his supervisor. The woman provided Cincinnati Title IX investigators with copies of text messages confirming she received the offer.
“He felt his character was being called into question by Bohn, stating that he would repeatedly say he only wants the money,” the complaint states.
He told The Times that the meeting was “traumatic” and “mentally exhausting”. He left the department in 2021 after being reported by Cincinnati.
Bohn was not in the 9th century. The main defendant in the title complaint was therefore not named in the findings focused on the woman’s supervisor.
The five female Cincinnati employees who spoke with The Times said they felt a mixture of relief and frustration when Bohn left for USC.
“We were all excited that he left (for USC), but kind of angry at the same time,” McGraw said. “He didn’t have to pay for the damage he did while at UC.
“I don’t understand why it took them so long.”