The University of South Carolina’s choice to keep paying former head coach Steve Spurrier after he resigned this month could become – pardon the pun – a political football in next year’s budget talks, some state lawmakers say.
“It could be hard to get support for a bond bill (with university projects) and for other needs,” said Sen. John Courson, a Richland Republican and USC graduate who chairs the state Senate’s higher education budget-writing panel. “This type of thing makes things more difficult.”
Courson, who joked he has been called the senator from Carolina, said he would not have kept paying Spurrier when the coach stepped down Oct. 12 in the middle of his 11th season in Columbia.
“That’s what I would do in my business,” Courson said. “But that’s their call.”
USC’s winningest coach left after blaming himself for the team’s 2-4 start. Spurrier earns $4 million a year – $1 million in school pay and $3 million in proceeds from agreements with the school’s uniform supplier, Under Armour, and radio broadcaster, IMG.
Spurrier is scheduled to receive almost $1.3 million — $225,000 in school pay and more than $1 million in outside compensation — through the end of the year, according to his contract. The former Gamecocks coach will do some appearances and help with fundraising, a USC spokesman said.
State Rep. Chip Limehouse, a Charleston Republican and USC graduate who is first vice chair of the House budget-writing committee, expects some lawmakers to use the school’s decision to pay Spurrier to score points when the university makes requests for extra money. Last year, the university initially asked for $51 million in extra state money for various projects. USC received about $9.5 million of that request.
“Those questions are going to be asked,” Limehouse said. “ ‘Are you so flush with cash that you can pay a coach who’s not coaching?’ ”
But the school will have a simple answer, he added.
The money used to pay Spurrier does not come from state coffers. The athletic department is a self-sufficient operation that gets its money from contracts, tickets sales and athletic conference revenue.
Still, Limehouse – who called Spurrier a friend – added he would not have kept paying the ball coach.
“If you’re not working, the paychecks come to an end.”
Haley passes on Spurrier
Gov. Nikki Haley said last week she would not step into the debate about paying Spurrier for a job he no longer holds.
“That’s a USC decision, that’s a USC board decision, and that’s a USC alum decision,” she said. “It’s not mine.”
Really? As governor, Haley is a member of the USC board of trustees. She has appointed Lexington attorney Tommy Cofield as her designee, but the governor would chair any trustee meeting she attends, according to state law.
That said, the USC board did not have a say in keeping Spurrier on the payroll. Athletic Director Ray Tanner made the call with the support of university President Harris Pastides.
The rush for Biden’s backers
Four top S.C. supporters of Joe Biden said they have not chosen a new favorite in the days since the vice president decided not to seek the Democratic nod for president.
The quartet said they received calls last week from the long-shot campaign of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Former U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum said she got a call from O’Malley himself. “He talked about how he could win the campaign, and he talked about education,” said Tenenbaum, a former S.C. superintendent of education.
State Rep. James Smith, a Richland Democrat who met with Biden last week, said he expects to chat with O’Malley next week.
Among four S.C. Biden fans, only state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, said he had heard from a representative of Hillary Clinton.
Dick Harpootlian, who was invested in a possible Biden run and backed Barack Obama over Clinton in 2008, doubts he will hear from the camp of the 2016 Democratic front-runner.
“Things have been acrimonious,” the former S.C. Democratic Party chairman said.
S.C. speaks up for Paul Ryan
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has the backing of more than half of South Carolina’s six GOP congressmen in his bid to become House speaker.
U.S. Reps. Jeff Duncan of Laurens, Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg, Mark Sanford of Charleston and Joe Wilson of Springdale all say they will vote for the former Republican vice presidential nominee in this week’s election of a new House speaker.
“I believe that a Ryan speakership represents the best opportunity for conservative members to have their voices heard, to advance conservative policy, and to restore unity to the House Republican Conference,” said Sanford, a member of the Freedom Caucus, which played a role in pushing out Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Duncan, another Freedom Caucus member, also plans to back Ryan.
“We may disagree on some policy issues and some tactics, but at the end of the day I believe that he is an honest broker,” Duncan said. “He is someone whom I believe the conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus could work with to move the conservative agenda.”
Efforts to get an answer from the offices of U.S. Reps. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land, who also is in Freedom Caucus, and Tom Rice of Myrtle Beach were unsuccessful.
2016 in SC
Hillary Clinton: The Democratic front-runner will headline the Charleston branch of the NAACP’s Freedom Fund Banquet at 7 p.m. Friday at the North Charleston Convention Center