In the second part of Joseph Person's Q&A with Eric Hyman, the USC athletic director addresses fundraising, the Gamecocks’ athletic success this year and his future at USC.
QUESTION: What’s the latest with adding lacrosse? Is that pretty well dead?
ANSWER: I wouldn’t say dead, but it’s (pushed) back because of the economy. What ended up happening in the Roost area, we initially put the lacrosse (field plans) where the baseball field was, and then it compacted tennis. So what we’ve done is put the tennis project where lacrosse was going to be. The university is going to buy some land in the near future, and that’s where the lacrosse field will go. We don’t have that land acquired right now.
Q: How has the economy affected fundraising for the facilities plan?
A: With fundraising, it’s two things: I think it’s relationships and timing. And the way I define a relationship is trust, vision – what you’re trying to achieve, what you’re trying to accomplish. And then timing. Timing’s an issue. But relationships, those take years. … I tell coaches, fundraising is very similar to recruiting. So you come into a program that’s never really done it, it’s like a basketball coach that’s got to start with the ninth graders. We’re having to go back and lay the groundwork and develop it, explain to people why we’re having to do this. When you have a program that’s been in place a while, that’s done a capital campaign, then you just build on it. Unfortunately, this isn’t the best timing in the world. But that doesn’t mean you stop. You continue to develop relationships.
Q: If the fundraising stays at its current level, will you be able to go forward with your facilities plan?
A: Here’s a key issue. It’s almost (like) you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t, because the Gamecock folks get upset if we’re not successful. If we don’t win football games, I get e-mails, phone calls – basketball, whatever the high-profile sport. So what do you try to do? I’ve always said to be successful it takes two things: It takes good coaching, it takes commitment from the university. And part of the commitment from the university is your facilities. Say what you want, if it wasn’t an issue, then nobody else would be doing it. But it is an issue, and we have to do it to attract the best and the brightest to the University of South Carolina.
Well, to do it, you have to have the dollars to do it. That’s why the YES program was so critical and that’s why I’m ecstatic about the success of the YES program. But right now is not a good time from a ‘cash is king’ (standpoint). But on the flipside, Alabama put out to bid, the estimated costs on their football renovations (was) $80 million. It came back at $64 million. The elementary school in Blythewood went out at $29 million. It came back at $22 million. This is a phenomenal time to build because everyone wants business and they’re willing to cut their costs. And if you look at it from a long-term standpoint, the interest rates are very low.
Q: Women’s tennis had a big year. Your baseball team’s in the NCAA tournament. Have you looked at the Director’s Cup (all sports) standings to see where you could end up?
A: Our goal goes back to my first year here: To have our programs top 25 in the country. For the first time ever to have baseball, men’s basketball and football at .500 or above in league play, that tells you a lot. That’s not good enough. What we’re trying to do is go past that point. I want to develop winners all the way across the board, and to give the resources to our coaches and student-athletes to where they can reach their potential. It’s a challenge when some of our facilities are literally the worst in the league. We don’t expect our coaches and our student-athletes to be miracle workers. But once we give them the resources, then our expectations change.
Q: Steve Spurrier gets this question a lot. I’ll ask it of you: How much longer do you think you’ll do this. Do you think this will be your last job?
A: I’m not planning on going anywhere else. I don’t operate that way. This is a helluva challenge, and I’m committed to making this the best possible athletic department we can make it. And I’m also committed (to ensuring) that when people look at the University of South Carolina, they look at it as class and they look at us as winners.