USC athletic director’s message to Rotary today

USC Athletic Director Eric Hyman spoke to the Columbia Rotary Club today. Eric’s a smart guy with a big job, but since I’m not much of a sports fan a lot of what he said went right by me. But this jumped out, and I shared it on Twitter:

Eric Hyman, USC athletic director, tells Columbia Rotary, “We do not get any state money.” He adds, “We. Do. Not. Get. Any. State. Money.”

Yeah, you knew that. I knew it, too. But it’s worth repeating, because a lot of people don’t know it. I’ve already heard from one on Twitter. She was incredulous. (Did I already say “incredulous” once today? Seems like it. Good word; don’t want to overuse it.)

Knowing that is one reason why I don’t write all that much about the Gamecocks here. If I thought it was costing us money, I’d go ahead and fight the tide and say we have better things to spend the money on. But since that’s not the case, since this a case of misplaced public priorities, I have few opinions to express. And since I know Gamecock success actually does boost the local economy, I’ll say “Go Cocks!”

I don’t have to understand why so many people are so football-crazy. I just have to acknowledge the fact.

By the way, there were some other interesting facts that Mr. Hyman threw out: that football generates 70 percent of the athletic revenue, that basketball generates 18 percent, that baseball (while he is deeply, deeply appreciative of our back-to-back national champs) is actually “expensive.”

At least, I think he said those things. The only thing I wrote down (and I had to borrow a pen to do it, having left mine at the office) was the above quote.

31 thoughts on “USC athletic director’s message to Rotary today

  1. Steven Davis

    If the Athletic Department Does. Not. Get. Any. State. Money… why do you see coaching staff receiving state salaries.
    – Steve Spurrier – $257,500
    – Darrin Horn – $250,000
    – Bradley Lawing – $250,000
    – Dawn Staley – $250,000
    – Steve Spurrier, Jr. – $250,000
    – Goes on for 3 pages

    27 coaches at USC receive $100,000+ in state salaries

  2. Mark Stewart

    He meant the Student Athlete’s. Don’t. Get. Any. State. Money.

    (Oh, wait, that’s not quite true either.)

    Why do people always have to reduce things to the point of absurdity? Before reading this, I didn’t think that there was a thing wrong with the state’s support of University activities, including athletics. But the Director ought to be honest about it.

  3. bud

    I propose the players get a cut. They are the ones whom the fans come to see, not the high paid coaches. Wouldn’t that be a testament to the success of capitalism?

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Do they pay rent for their facilities? Licensing fees for the use of the USC name –after all, a freestanding college football team–one with no actual college, is impossible, while excellent colleges do not always have them (University of Chicago, Emory)

  5. Steven Davis

    @Mark – So is Hyman a student-athlete? If not, and he meant just student-athletes, why did he say “we”. We implies including himself. “They” might have been a better choice of word.

  6. Brad

    Hey, I can’t even figure out why people (fans) who aren’t on the team talk about “we” when talking about the team. But they do.

    That is to say, I CAN figure it out. I just don’t find the answer entirely satisfactory.

    I should probably admit this, though: I think that sort of vicarious identification indicates that the people who practice it may be more generous people than I am. I don’t take as much joy in the accomplishments of others, and I don’t think that reflects well on me.

    I have on occasion (say, when talking about the Braves when they’re doing well, or the Gamecocks’ back-to-back championships) used that idiom and referred to “we.” One does like to blend occasionally. But I always see the flaw in it, and that takes away from the satisfaction that I think others take from saying it.

  7. Steven Davis

    Just a FYI, if Spurrier coaches for 10 years and retires at or after 65 years of age, his SC state retirement will be more than $46,000.

    I used the state retirement calculation using his low state salary of $250,000. And we all know that retirement is based on the highest 12 quarters… so it’ll probably be closer to $50,000.

  8. Andrew

    FWIW, many students athletes also get Federal Pell Grant money as well.

    Also, security is provided by university police. Utilities come from university budgets, insurance comes from university budgets. They are governed by university boards.

    And as has been pointed out, virtually all the employees of the athletic program are state employees, with positions funded by the university – including taxes.

    Hyman needs to be worrying about the NCAA investigation on USC athletics, not making the sort of declarative statements that would make him a front runner to be Texas governor.

  9. Brad

    Andrew does point to one of the things that has always concerned me about football — the cost of all the traffic control and security. I’ve looked into that in the past, and right now don’t recall all the details.

    But hey, people are going to gather in huge crowds for something or other, and crowd control is going to be necessary. I guess we could get the solicitor to charge USC with maintaining an attractive nuisance. But then I wonder how long he would remain the solicitor?

  10. Herb Brasher

    You’re not the only sports cynic, Brad. But here’s a very conflicted one. Despite the fact that I despise the money and power of football over a college program–both athletics and academics, I still like to watch it. Cut the shrubbery most of the day Saturday, so I would avoid spending the whole day watching football and do something useful. Carried my CD player around, listening to an audio book.

    And still ended up in the evening watching OK vs Fl. State, until I gave up on Fl. State.

    What do I do? It’s in my blood; I grew up in West Texas. Nearly 30 years living in Germany didn’t get me cured. Now my son, he’s a Bayern Munich fan; he can’t figure out why anyone would like football.

  11. bud

    To use a recent perjoritive, of course the taxpayers have skin in the game. If folks aren’t spending money on athletics maybe they’d spend more on academics.

  12. Rose

    According to the University’s policies and procedures manual, and the SACS accreditation report, the Athletic Director reports to the President. The President reports to the Board of Trustees.

    The AD and the President and all of the AD’s employees are state employees. The University is a state institution. Athletics is a unit of the University. They are not separate, even if they are self-supporting from their revenues.

    There are teaching faculty whose salaries are paid from private endowments and grant funds. They are still University and state employees.

  13. David

    Everytime Queen’s “We Are the Champions” is played at a sporting event and everyone is singing along, don’t you just cringe? I mean, it’s like, “No! No; they are the champions, not us.”

    Those silly sports fans. Do they even know how ridiculous they sound?

  14. Greg Jones

    I think Emory actually plays Division III football, but frankly I don’t care enough to look it up. A successful college football program is usually a plus for the university it “belongs to”. I also believe it is good for the state. On an average football Saturday, how many times is the state of SC and our two largest universities mentioned? For FREE!

  15. bud

    I’m with Herb. It gets in the blood and it’s impossible to let go even if you know it’s irrational on an intellectual level. I can’t even imagine fall without football.

  16. Tim

    for what its worth, state law prohibits use of state appropriations for “Auxiliary Services” which includes athletics. They are self supporting by law. That means salaries, retirement contributions, health insurance and other benefits are probably paid by student fees, tickets, etc. I don’t know if its so granular that we can break out the light bill, or the phone bill for athletics offices, but it probably falls in some sort of Administrative Overhead line item. Same with all grant-funded activities and salaries. Currently the University gets about 11% of its budget from the General Fund, so It is essentially a state-sponsored, or state-associated agency. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but wanted to point it out so we remain in fact world.

  17. Kathryn Fenner

    I also declined to ask the question of what responsibility the Athletics Department and all the other “we”s felt for the brain-damaged former football players. Many have early onset dementia—in their 30s, or have violent outbursts that land them in jail because of the constant repeated impact of their brains on their skulls.

  18. Doug Ross

    “of what responsibility the Athletics Department and all the other “we”s felt for the brain-damaged former football players”

    No responsibility. The players aren’t forced to play. They choose to accept the risk the minute they put the helmet on.

  19. Steven Davis

    I guess Kathryn could talk to the football recruits and see if they would rather come to school on an academic scholarship. I’m sure the team is full of future scientists, doctors and business leaders.

  20. Kathryn Fenner

    The players are kids, especially when they start playing and getting clobbered. We do not generally as a society allow children to make decisions to engage in permanently damaging activities. Their parents are probably not aware of the dangers, and we all discount the dangers that actually threaten us.

  21. Steven Davis

    So high school and college athletes are unable to make decisions for themselves. Hmmm… do their parents dress them in the morning too? Does Marcus Lattimore’s mom drive him to school in the morning? Does Stephen Garcia’s dad make sure he does his homework at night?

    How many 8 year old kids make the decision to play football, play basketball, take up gymnastics, etc?

    We’re talking about 18-22 year old men. Men who if they weren’t in college very likely could be overseas making life and death decisions… all without their parents hovering over them.

  22. Kathryn Fenner

    By the time they get to college, a lot of the damage is done….

    I like the way Harvard does it: you get admitted on your academic merits and try out for the football team. Real student athletes, not athletes with a dressing of academics for show.

    I note that Hyman did not break out the types of athletes–I have no doubt that many athletes do well in school, especially if they study “sports medicine” or HRT, or some field that probably belongs in a tech school, but I doubt many football players are doing more than hanging on…..

  23. Steven Davis

    Kathryn, that’s because Harvard does not grant athletic scholarships. Which is what all colleges and universities should do. It would eliminate some of the more worthless in the real world degrees handed out such as Womens Studies; African American Studies; Sociology; Retailing; and most of the Liberal Arts degrees. Has anyone every seen a job posting requiring any of those degrees?

  24. Steven Davis

    Kathryn, so do you propose that we get rid of all contact sports in middle and high school? I know more people who have gotten hurt in basketball than in football. Should we eliminate basketball, how about track? High school can then just have two athletic teams, boys and girls tumbling… as long as they wear helmets and don’t stray from the padded mats.

  25. Steven Davis

    BTW – I knew two people who played hockey for Harvard… they didn’t exactly have to go the traditional route like other students attending Harvard. They were recruited just as if it were any other school. Coaches recruited, did home visits, etc to get them to attend Harvard, they just had to meet an admissions criteria that was much more stringent than say USC or Clemson. It isn’t like the athletes try out after getting on campus as if they were trying out for an intramural team.

  26. Steven Davis

    Phillip – How would you have prevented those seven deaths? The wussification of this country gets worse and worse every year. I guess these seven kids should have been inside an air conditioned living room practicing piano instead of outside at football practice.

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