Normally when a change of guard takes place within an athletics department, whether it is an administrator or a coach, the selection committee hires to the weaknesses of his or her predecessor.
In other words, if an athletics director was not a sound fundraiser, his replacement should possess those particular skills above all else. If a men’s basketball coach departed because of a deficiency in recruiting, the next coach better be able to land top-level talent.
The problem USC faces is finding the weaknesses of Eric Hyman’s tenure as South Carolina athletics director. He established a solid foundation for the athletics department that should serve USC well for years to come. His administrative skills were second to none. He raised money at record levels. He put his coaches in position to win.
Beyond all that, Hyman stood up to the old guard by disregarding the general thinking that had permeated the athletics department: “That’s the way we’ve always done it at USC.” In charting a new course, Hyman and USC found unprecedented success, on the athletic fields and off.
For that reason, Harris Pastides, USC’s president should seek and find a new athletics director who continues Hyman’s way, who mimics Hyman’s vision for an athletics department on par with any in the SEC and who can polish Hyman’s blueprint rather than redesign it.
It is natural to first consider candidates who have some connection to USC and its athletics department. Hyman proved that should not be a requirement, even though there was much initial consternation at his hiring. He was first perceived as being an outsider and not part of the USC family.
Seven years of sound stewardship of the program dispelled any belief that Hyman had loyalties elsewhere. By the end of his tenure, he delighted in referring to USC as “Carolina,” even though he was a graduate of the other “Carolina,” located in North Carolina.
So, the likes of Brad Edwards, Dan Radakovich and Chris Massaro might get their names on an early list of candidates. But their USC connections should not make them any more of a candidate than someone from, say, TCU, where Hyman worked prior to USC.
Edwards was a football star at USC and worked in the USC athletics department before becoming the athletics director at Newberry College. Radakovich, the Georgia Tech athletics director, was a USC associate athletics director from 1994 to 2000. Massaro, who spent 20 years in the USC athletics administration, is the AD at Middle Tennessee State.
While all three might be uniquely qualified for the position, all three also worked and learned much of their trade under former USC athletics director Mike McGee. Unfortunately for them, USC’s athletics department can least afford at this juncture to take an avenue that leads it back to that distant past.
Then there is Ray Tanner, the coach of the premier program in college baseball with back-to-back national championships and a runner-up finish over the past three seasons. Tanner has expressed interest previously in moving to an administrative position.
Now is not the time for that. Essentially, USC would weaken itself in two areas by making Tanner the athletics director. He is considered among the top baseball coaches in the country, so whoever succeeds him will face the prospect of the program dropping off some, if not greatly.
Also, just because Tanner is an outstanding coach does not mean he would be a standout athletics director. Long gone are the days when football and men’s basketball coaches made a smooth transition into athletics administration.
Athletics directors today are well-schooled businessmen, first and foremost. They are CEOs of multi-million dollar corporations. In USC’s case, the athletics director overseas a nearly $80 million budget with some 200 employees and about 500 athletes.
Tanner’s experience in athletics administration came while he was an assistant baseball coach at N.C. State and, more recently, by dabbling in fundraising for Pastides. That is well and good, but it hardly matches the kind of experience and expertise in athletics administration that Pastides is likely to find by combing the country for candidates. Through his work, Hyman has made this job much-coveted.
In 2005, Pastides’ predecessor, the late Andrew Sorensen, promised to find the best available candidate in the country to lead USC athletics out of a 100-year-old malaise and into the future.
Few in South Carolina had heard of Eric Hyman. He had no ties to USC. He had earned a sterling reputation as athletics director at Miami of Ohio, Virginia Military Institute and TCU. He brought with him to Columbia a vision never before seen for USC athletics.
This time around, Pastides would do well to find another Eric Hyman, someone who could keep USC athletics on the same path to success that Hyman paved during his seven years in Columbia.
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