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Hyman: Pastides gets value of athletics

Eric Hyman had a brief conversation Friday with Harris Pastides — long enough for Hyman to learn what USC's new president expects from his athletics director.

"I understand he wants me to start mowing the grass," Hyman said jokingly shortly after Pastides was introduced as the university's 28th president.

Kidding aside, Hyman said he expects to have the same type of symbiotic relationship with Pastides as he did with Andrew Sorensen, the man who handpicked Hyman to succeed Mike McGee as the head of the Gamecocks' athletics department three years ago.

"He wants a cooperative working arrangement, and he understands the value of what athletics can bring to an institution," Hyman said.

Hyman and Pastides served on Sorensen's administrative council but do not know each other well. Hyman said he expects to meet with Pastides in the near future to articulate his vision for the athletics department, which includes fielding top-25 programs across the board and moving forward with his sweeping, $200 million plan for new facilities.

USC leaders have praised Hyman for his willingness to work in lockstep with the university — a trait McGee's administration was not known for.

"I will reject the premise, if I hear it, that it's academics versus athletics. It will not be that way," Pastides said. "I believe that great and successful athletics contribute to great and successful academics, and vice versa."

During their brief exchange Friday, Hyman said Pastides told him he looked forward to having a direct line of communication with the athletics department.

Hyman said he does not believe in operating the athletics department "as an island."

"I try to do what's right for the university. I've always been that way," he said. "The values of the university are the most important thing. You have to represent those. I've always been that way through my professional career. That's a measurable track record."

Pastides said his track record reveals a lifelong sports fan who believes in physical fitness — for himself and the campus community.

Gamecocks track coach Curtis Frye likes that USC promoted one of its own.

"He's been here a while and he's been in the SEC and seen what athletics does at all the SEC schools and what athletics means to us in the South," Frye said. "I would think someone familiar with Carolina and our history is going to be a benefit for all of us."

Wearing his trademark bow tie, Sorensen was a familiar figure at USC football and men's basketball games, often joining the pep band to play his trumpet. Beginning Aug. 1, Pastides said he would become the Gamecocks' new No. 1 fan.

"Athletics, whether it's at Williams-Brice or the Colonial Center on in the swimming pools or golf courses, is a huge, huge asset to the capital campaign, to the quality of the life and to the feeling and the belief that this is one of the greatest universities in the United States.

"We will be working like this," Pastides said, intertwining his fingers, "as a family."

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.