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Sorensen prepares for final SEC meeting

DESTIN, Fla. — As he stood in a hallway of the Sandestin Hilton, a Florida fan walked by Andrew Sorensen and said hello.

But good-byes were the order of the day for the South Carolina president.

Attending his final SEC spring meetings before his July 31 retirement, Sorensen has bittersweet feelings about leaving the conference after 18 years — six as Florida’s provost followed by six-year stints as the president at Alabama and USC.

“It’s been a terrific run. I’ve made a huge number of friends. I’ve seen a lot of coaches and AD’s come and go, a lot of presidents come and go,” Sorensen said Thursday. “So I’m going to miss all those people and all those events, but it’s time for me to turn the reins over to somebody else.”

Sorensen will preside over today’s business meeting, the last act of his two-year term as SEC president.

An ardent sports fan who would join the band with his trumpet at football and basketball games, Sorensen believes his hiring of athletics director Eric Hyman, whom he handpicked to succeed Mike McGee in 2005, will be his lasting athletics legacy at USC.

“I think Eric has done a tremendous job. I think there have been improvements in the efficiency of the operation. His integrity is unimpeachable,” Sorensen said. “And the two most recent coaching hires, I think, are extraordinary. Darrin Horn and Dawn (Staley) are two absolutely first-rate hires.”

But Sorensen also will be remembered for his handling of the Clemson-USC brawl in 2004 in Lou Holtz’s final game. Sorensen and Clemson president James Barker agreed both schools would forfeit bowl bids.

More than three years later, Sorensen stands by his decision.

“If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t do it any differently,” he said.

Broadcast news. SEC officials have been working on a new television package to replace the existing deal that expires at the end of the 2008-09 school year.

Commissioner Mike Slive said the conference is exploring two options — going the traditional route by granting broadcast rights to a group of partners (CBS, ESPN and Raycom/Lincoln Financial have the football rights) or following the Big Ten’s lead and launching its own network.

“It’s clear we’re going to leave Destin with both of the primary options open,” he said. “Obviously, nothing is the same as the past. Times have changed. You have issues of new media. We’re in a technological revolution and all those things factor in.”

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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