Josh Kendall

What Pastides’ retirement might mean for USC athletics

Something happened Wednesday that on some level has to trouble South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp, and it had nothing to do with the health of starting quarterback Jake Bentley’s knee.

USC president Harris Pastides announced during his regular State of the University address that he will be stepping down effective July 31, 2019. Any time there is a change at the top of university leadership, it makes athletics directors and football coaches nervous. That’s especially true in the case of Pastides, who was as big a public supporter of his school’s athletics program as any president in the SEC.

Having Pastides at the helm gave Mushamp and Tanner a sense of security. That security will be gone next summer. South Carolina’s next president might be just as friendly to the athletics department as Pastides has been, but that’s going to be a high bar to match. Who else could get Muschamp into Mini Cooper?

Pastides even clucked about the school’s athletics during his speech Wednesday.

“In the decade ahead we will add to the three NCAA championships we won during the last decade and we will win more SEC championships and more bowl games when compared to the last 10 years, which were in total more than all prior years in this university’s history,” he said. “It’s not an exaggeration to say we’re enjoying the greatest period of success in Gamecock athletics history, and I have no doubt that we’re poised to continue and improve on this in the next decade.”

South Carolina’s next president will be selected by the USC Board of Trustees, which is packed with pro-athletics voices, so there’s little worry that the school will bring in someone hostile to the department. Still, Tanner and Muschamp will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings.

Hiring Tanner as athletics director in 2012 was a bold move by Pastides and the board. Hiring the popular ex-coach as the athletics director used to be the way of the world in collegiate athletics, but these days its counter cultural. Many more athletics departments are run by bean counters than baseball coaches these days.

None of this is to suggest that Tanner or Muschamp will be replaced by the new boss. Tanner has lots of support among the USC board, and Tanner supports Muschamp, but there’s no question that both men will be sad to see Pastides go and wonder what’s coming next.

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