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Bowl game is a family battle for USC president

University of South Carolina Gamecocks practice Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008 at Thomas Jefferson High School in Tampa, FL in preparation to meet Iowa in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day. Here, USC president Harris Pastides, left, chats with head coach Steve Spurrier before warmups.
University of South Carolina Gamecocks practice Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008 at Thomas Jefferson High School in Tampa, FL in preparation to meet Iowa in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day. Here, USC president Harris Pastides, left, chats with head coach Steve Spurrier before warmups. Erk Campos

One grew up in Queens, the son of Greek immigrants from Cyprus. The other grew up five houses down the street from Corny Thompson in Middletown.

"First time I ever met Harris Pastides, he came home for Christmas with my sister," John Moore said. "My father had spliced together all our home movies into this three-hour feature. Harris sat there patiently, interested. I'm like, 'God, he sat through that? He has got to be a great guy.'"

The brothers-in-law have nothing - well, almost nothing - but praise for each other. What home movies hath joined together, let no Papajohns.com Bowl put asunder.

This doesn't mean a little family feudin' can't ensue.

Pastides is the 28th president of the University of South Carolina. He also is married to Moore's sister, Patricia.

"They met her first day of graduate school at Yale," Moore said. "He played the 'mentoring upperclassman.' They went for a picnic on East Rock."

Harris and Patricia were married in 1980. Their ties to Connecticut are long and strong. Moore, an attorney at Travelers, shares his love of Greek and Russian literature with Pastides.

What they don't share this week is a rooting interest.

"Harris is a very balanced and rational man," Moore said. "He also talks a little trash."

Moore loves UConn basketball, has expanded that love to football, has season tickets and, well, passionate comes to mind.

"Passionate would be one word," Pastides said. "Insufferable would be my word. We'd get together as a family, the kids would be ready to blow out the candles and he'd be like, 'Wait! There's only a minute left!' I'm like, 'John, UConn's up 27.'"

Because of family commitments, Moore cannot get to the bowl game. "It's killing me," Moore said. The Pastides did have him down for the South Carolina win over Clemson on Nov. 28. So how was it with more than 80,000 at Williams-Brice Stadium?

"Absolutely berserk," Moore said.

Harris and Patricia were in Connecticut for the holidays, returning to South Carolina on Tuesday before heading to Birmingham today.

"I'll try to shake hands with every alum and supporter I can and then tell them about our two Rhodes Scholarship finalists and the grants we've gotten," Pastides said. "Athletics are our front porch."

Got to ask two questions of an SEC president: UConn going major college football, good or bad idea?

"Wholeheartedly in favor of it," Pastides said. "UConn has had an amazing early start. I know having a competitive football program makes being the president (at South Carolina) a lot easier. I'm very sensitive to the costs, but football bonds the alumni and philanthropic fan base better than any sport."

And the ol' ball coach?

"Steve Spurrier is misunderstand to some degree," Pastides said. "Some people view him as self-important. Frankly, I think he is a great person to be with. He has a brilliant football mind. I like him. His wife Jerri is a phenomenal ambassador for the university. Look, nobody hates to lose more than Steve. At least nobody I ever met."

In 1998, Pastides moved to South Carolina where he rose from dean to vice president and last year to president. He cooks, is an amateur photographer, loves the Beatles and baseball. Patricia, who also got her master's at Yale, has worked in the health field and has written fiction and cookbooks. In an article last year in The State, a family friend said there's nothing like a four-hour meal at the Pastides.

Which brings us to the family wager. Winner gets to host the next family holiday get-together.

"We were busting each other's chops a little on Christmas Eve," Moore said. "I don't want to say too much. I think this is going to be the toughest defense we face all year."

"I don't want to eat my words," Pastides said. "I just think the SEC is a different level of football."

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