Remembering former USC Athletics Director Mike McGee
Former University of South Carolina Athletics Director Mike McGee died Friday at his home in Montrose, Colorado. He was 80.
McGee, a College Football Hall of Famer from his playing days at Duke, served the Gamecocks for 12 years and is perhaps best known for his excellence in coaching hires. He brought Lou Holtz, Ray Tanner, Curtis Frye and Steve Spurrier to Columbia before retiring in 2005.
“I owe so much to Dr. McGee for trusting me to lead his baseball program when he hired me in the summer of 1996,” said Tanner, who moved from two-time national champion baseball coach to USC AD in 2012. “I learned so much from him about athletics, administration and life, in general. He’s not only a legendary coach and administrator but a Hall of Fame person as well.”
McGee, an AD at Cincinnati (1980-84) and Southern Cal (1984-93), was viewed as the major face — and stabilizing force — of a South Carolina athletics department that was revived in the 1990s through the early 2000s.
“I never looked at any of the jobs I’ve been on as I’ve owned them,” McGee said upon his retirement.
McGee was replaced by Eric Hyman. He’s survived by his wife of 56 years, Ginger, their four children — Kathy, Michael, Jr., Matthew and Jerry — 19 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Among South Carolina’s accomplishments with McGee in charge:
▪ The Gamecocks emerged as a highly competitive athletics program, across the board, with consistent top 20 national rankings for a majority of its 20 varsity teams. A record 17 teams competed in postseason competition in 2001-02, with 16 teams qualifying in 2002-03 and 15 teams advancing in 2003-04. South Carolina posted its best-ever finish in the Learfield IMG College Director’s Cup in 2002 with an 11th place finish and followed it up with an 18th-place finish in 2003.
▪ The football team won three straight bowl games, including back-to-back Outback Bowl championships against Ohio State. Those two victories catapulted the Gamecocks to consecutive Top 20 national finishes, a first in the history of the program. Before McGee arrived, South Carolina had one all-time bowl win. It now has nine.
▪ McGee hired high-caliber coaches at South Carolina during his tenure, including Holtz (football), Tanner (baseball), Spurrier (football), Dave Odom (men’s basketball) and Frye (track and field). In McGee’s final eight years at South Carolina, 13 Gamecock head coaches earned either national or SEC Coach of the Year awards.
“I think I’ve been persistent in going after people,” McGee said when he retired. “Hopefully, from that standpoint, the university was well served as far as coaches and staff during that time.”
▪ Athletics department revenues almost tripled during his tenure as athletics director, rising from approximately $18 million when he first came to South Carolina, to $52.8 million for fiscal year 2004.
▪ The women’s track team won the school’s first-ever national team championship, claiming the 2002 NCAA Outdoor title.
▪ In 2000, for the first time in the history of the SEC, South Carolina had three of its athletes named National Athlete of the Year in their respective sports: Kip Bouknight (baseball); Terrence Trammell (men’s indoor and outdoor track); and Miki Barber (women’s outdoor track).
▪ South Carolina won nine SEC team championships, including baseball (3), women’s outdoor track (3), men’s basketball (1), softball (1) and women’s golf (1).
▪ McGee oversaw more than $110 million in facility improvements at Carolina, including the 18,000-seat Colonial Center (now Colonial Life Arena) and major improvements and additions to Williams-Brice Stadium.
▪ McGee was a leader in addressing gender equity progress, as Carolina added two women’s sports (soccer, equestrian), upgraded Olympic sports facilities and provided for major increases in budget and additional staff under his direction.
▪ He served for the SEC on the NCAA Management Council, a position he also held for the PAC-10 Conference when he was the athletics director at Southern California.
▪ McGee served on the SEC Task Force Committee for Compliance and Enforcement; as a member on the NCAA Academic Reform Committee on Incentives and Disincentives; and was a vice-chairman of the board for the Columbia Urban League.