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February 4, 2010

Dodie already pays off for USC

It was a packed room, filled with coaches and players extolling the virtues of USC's new academic center for athletes.

It was a packed room, filled with coaches and players extolling the virtues of USC's new academic center for athletes.

But the biggest statement on "The Dodie" came not at Wednesday's dedication ceremony. It was a couple hours later by football recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer.

"I think the Dodie was the reason we got some of these guys," said Beamer, holding a roster of the 24 players who inked letters of intent on National Signing Day.

And those impressions were formed before the building actually opened.

USC broke ground on the $13 million academic center in spring of 2009, and it was completed last month. The ribbon-cutting ceremony came Wednesday, drawing school president Harris Pastides and most of the athletics department.

The whole event seemed to overwhelm the center's namesake, Dodie Anderson, the Greer resident and USC booster whose donation made the building possible.

"I had no idea it was going to be such a big deal," Anderson said.

The building's aim is to give players a central location for their studies. A few years ago Anderson approached USC, asking what was needed, and they jumped at the chance to build the enrichment center.

Athletics director Eric Hyman, in praising the architecture, quoted Winston Churchill: "I'm easily satisfied with the very best."

Hyman, football coach Steve Spurrier and men's basketball coach Darrin Horn each spoke, extolling what the academic center will do for USC athletics. Horn hit at the crux of it when talking about Anderson.

"She likes those Ws. And if you want to beat the No. 1 team in the country and if you want to sign the No. 1 running back in the country, buildings like this are essential," said Horn, referencing recent accomplishments in basketball and football.

Anderson made that clear in her own speech.

"I'd like to see more 34-17s and some more 68-62s," Anderson said.

Junior Cliff Matthews represented the football team and freshman Lakeem Jackson, the men's basketball team. Blakely Mattern, an outgoing member of the women's soccer team, spoke for players at the event.

"I remember two years ago standing in that parking lot over there, and I was a witness to that groundbreaking of this very building," Mattern said. "And since then my teammates and I have watched the construction from our soccer stadium across the street in great anticipation for this day. And as you can see from this beautiful building, it was well worth the wait."

One future Gamecock was on more than a few people's minds. Pastides alluded to the previous night's events, when star recruit Marcus Lattimore picked USC in a high-profile ceremony at his church.

In saying there should be no paradox between athletics and academics, it was like playing "Sandstorm" at Silver Hill Methodist Church.

"It will be a recruiting tool, make no mistake about that," Pastides said.

Spurrier said a few hours later at his signing day press conference that The Dodie should be among the finest such buildings in the country. At the dedication ceremony, he also alluded to his newest signee.

"In fact I think the other day Marcus Lattimore said I really love that new academic enrichment center at South Carolina," Spurrier said, as the room laughed. "So thanks Dodie."

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