Giving his two cents · Unlike his predecessor, USC President C.L. Max Nikias has not been shy with managing athletics at the university.Nick Entin | Daily TrojanAs Athletic Director Pat Haden prepares to retire in June, a vacancy opens for one of the country’s most renowned posts in college sports. A national search firm has been employed and an advisory committee has been assembled in order to help find the University’s next head of athletics, but ultimately, President C. L. Max Nikias will be faced with the difficult task of selecting that very someone, giving him a significant amount of leverage in the competitive arms race that is intercollegiate athletics for the time being.Nikias, who has served in the capacity of the University’s chief executive since August 2010, has actually been wheeling and dealing in the college football landscape for quite some time now, further expanding USC’s athletic footprint and influence among the nation’s top universities.Most recently, Nikias was named the chairman of the College Football Playoff Board of Managers. Prior, he was the only president or chancellor of a Pac-12 school to sit on the board, which governs the business affairs of the College Football Playoff, overseeing budgets, policies and other operating guidelines. He chairs a board comprising of 11 total university presidents and chancellors.“Dr. Nikias has been instrumental in the development and growth of the College Football Playoff,” Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff said when making the announcement back in January.While USC wasn’t in Glendale, Arizona, for the most recent national championship game, Nikias was, meeting with other College Football Playoff officials, including selection committee member and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. After being elected chairman of the Board of Managers, Nikias was pictured with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.Ever since Haden stepped down from the selection committee back in October, mainly due to health reasons, it seems like Nikias has been the mouthpiece for USC’s voice in those national conversations regarding the College Football Playoff, a place where head coach Clay Helton and the Trojans hope to find themselves for the first time ever in the coming years.For his extensive work on the playoff board, in addition to his pretty considerable involvement and investment in USC Athletics, Nikias deserves a lot of credit. Most university presidents or chancellors don’t exert themselves at half the capacity that Nikias has during his tenure thus far. At almost every USC football game or basketball game, you can find him on the sidelines many times sporting his cardinal-and-gold cap.With USC’s rich, athletic history and tradition, one would think that playing a significant role in athletics should almost be a prerequisite to the job, but Nikias has gone to greater lengths than I think most would have expected him to. He has also been much more involved than former president Steven Sample was with former athletic director Mike Garrett, based on what I’ve heard around Heritage Hall.Of course, Nikias was the man who offered Haden his current job before he was even inaugurated as president during the summer of 2010. It was then that Nikias also appointed Dave Roberts to Vice President of USC’s athletic compliance department, which was the first position of its kind at the time and has since played a great role in assuring that the University and its student-athletes stayed out of trouble after the NCAA controversially handed down sanctions.Looking back, that was the beginning of rebuilding all of the pieces to an intricate puzzle that was almost completely dismantled by the hypocritical governing body. Haden gets most of the credit for USC being able to put that puzzle back together, though at times it seemed like one or two pieces had to be missing. He is also presented with the misfortune of dealing with all of the backlash and criticism. All in all, though, Nikias has also been there at his side almost every step of the way.A lot of times, Haden would refer to Nikias as his sounding board when making difficult decisions, especially most recently when the football program had a head coaching vacancy due to some unfortunate circumstances.According to Haden, Nikias would usually start off by saying, “I don’t know anything about football, but …”, before going on to provide some helpful guidance.“Over the past six years, he has given me a lot of great advice,” Haden said at Helton’s introductory press conference back in November. There, Nikias sat alongside his right-hand man Haden, as they watched Helton give his opening remarks.Perhaps Nikias’ most important next move is finding someone to replace the man he gave so much responsibility in to turn around the athletics program six years ago.There’s no doubt that it’s a decision that will either be widely praised or criticized, perhaps based on whether the new hire has ties to USC or not. Regardless, it just goes to show how much effect Nikias has and will continue to have on athletics at USC and beyond.Darian Nourian is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Persian Persuasion,” runs Thursdays.