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Debt worries will not hamper USC facilities

USC athletics director Eric Hyman is moving forward with his facilities plan, although one prominent trustee is concerned about the direction the athletics department is moving with its debt.

The board's executive committee on Thursday approved $71 million in athletic revenue bonds for the next phase in the facilities plan, but not before longtime trustee Eddie Floyd questioned the mounting debt.

"I think we're digging a big hole," said Floyd, the Florence physician who cast the lone dissenting vote. "Debt worries me personally, and it worries me with the athletics department."

Floyd balked at the bonds that will fund construction of the Farmers Market site, which USC plans to turn into a parking and tailgate area in 2011, and the second phase of the athletics village at the Roost.

The projects would increase USC's athletic debt to $136.7 million, below the $200 million ceiling but pushing Hyman's "comfort zone." Hyman said industry leaders told him low-interest rates make this a good time to borrow money.

Floyd also questioned whether upcoming projects, which include a tennis facility, coaches/administrative building and a parking deck, would help the school's recruiting efforts - a central theme in Hyman's facilities plan.

"I don't know that the tennis complex helps football recruiting and basketball recruiting," Floyd said.

But several board members backed Hyman. Chuck Allen, a former Gamecocks' football player, said facilities make a "substantial difference" in attracting prospective athletes. Herbert Adams said university leaders told Gamecock Club members that revenues from increased dues and a controversial seat license plan would go toward facilities.

"They're expecting us to improve our facilities," Adams said.

While conceding that ticket and seat license revenues could fluctuate, Hyman said the new TV deals have increased the revenue stream for SEC schools. Hyman said USC is expecting to receive $17 million from the SEC this year - up from $11.1 million in 2009.

But Hyman does not plan on using bonds to fund future facilities.

"From this point going forward, it's going to be philanthropy and money we can (raise) in the athletics department."

Free publicity

USC's victory against No. 1 Kentucky might have cost the school $25,000 when students stormed the court, but Hyman said the win was worth a lot more in publicity.

A public relations firm estimated the school's first win against a top-ranked team generated $588,447 in publicity for the Gamecocks. The agency, which did not charge USC for the study, said the Gamecocks appeared on 320 TV stations and 2,200 online sites after the game.

Secondary violations

USC reported six NCAA secondary violations during the seven-month period ending in January - none involving the football and men's basketball teams. The school said athletes' eligibility was restored in each case where it was affected.

The violations included two involving the women's basketball program, which had an assistant coach send an impermissible e-mail to a recruit. Also, a women's basketball signee was involved at Dawn Staley's summer camp before she was a full-time student.

Extra points

USC released the results of its drug testing program from the fall semester. In 536 random tests, there was one positive - for medication without a prescription. There were no positive tests in nine random checks for steroids. ... Hyman told trustees that all of USC's head coaches are now Gamecock Club members.

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