South Carolina is going to Orlando, Fla., but will not be stopping at Disney World or any of the other amusement parks in the theme-park Mecca.
This will be a business trip for the Gamecocks, who will visit Central Florida in 2013 as part of a home-and-home football series with the Conference USA school.
USC will play the Knights on Sept. 28, 2013, at Bright House Networks Stadium, a 45,301-seat facility that replaced the Citrus Bowl as UCF’s home in 2007. The Knights will return the game Sept. 26, 2015, in Columbia.
USC associate athletics director Charles Waddell said the series with a team from a midlevel conference was attractive financially. Such teams are commanding $1 million guarantees to travel to bigger schools for games.
The Gamecocks will pay Navy a record $950,000 to come to Williams-Brice Stadium in 2011 and will dole out $900,000 to UAB to play in Columbia the following year.
USC will give UCF a $300,000 guarantee in 2015 to cover travel, hotel costs and other expenditures — the same payout the Gamecocks will receive for the 2013 game.
“It’s a good regional matchup, and you don’t have to pay that $1 million to get someone in,” Waddell said Friday.
Waddell pointed to other reasons for scheduling the Knights, who lost to USC 24-15 in 2005 in Steve Spurrier’s first game with the Gamecocks. Waddell said Florida is one of USC’s prime recruiting areas, and coaches can use the 2013 trip — the Gamecocks’ only visit to the state that season — as a selling point to prospects from the state.
And then there is Spurrier’s history in the state where he won a Heisman Trophy as a player and a national championship as a coach with the Florida Gators.
“To get coach back down there, other than in Gainesville, had some appeal for the people there at Central (Florida),” said Waddell, who handles football scheduling. “Coach was OK with doing the game, and it fit with what we were trying to do.”
Asked if Spurrier would be at USC in 2013, Waddell noted Spurrier is under contract through 2014.
This is not the first time USC has scheduled a series with a Conference USA school under athletics director Eric Hyman. The Gamecocks have five upcoming games with East Carolina: two games in Charlotte, two in Columbia and one in Greenville, N.C.
Waddell said the UAB game in 2012 should be finalized soon. The schools have agreed to play Sept. 15, 2012, to fill out the Gamecocks’ nonconference schedule that season. USC will host East Carolina and Wofford and travel to Clemson in 2012.
Waddell said the rising guarantees for nonconference games are a concern but will not send USC’s athletics budget into the red.
“We are fortunate enough that we can pay a million dollars and not go in the hole. A lot of people don’t have the ability to do that. So they have to do the home-and-home versus losing money,” he said. “If you’ve got a 40,000-, 50,000-seat stadium, you’re going to be hard-pressed to make money paying a guarantee of $1 million.”
USC senior women’s administrator Val Sheley has left to pursue other opportunities, media relations director Steve Fink said. Sheley returned for her second stint at USC in 2005 after serving as Presbyterian’s athletics director for three years and spending two years at Maryland.