Josh Kendall

USC’s pro-athletics president is leaving. What he thinks is next for Gamecocks

The tenure of perhaps the most athletics-friendly university president in the Southeastern Conference ends July 31, and that man hopes his successor loves the Gamecocks as much as he does.

“I don’t think at our university you can be anything but that,” USC president Harris Pastides told The State following his final appearance at the conference’s spring meetings last week in Destin, Florida. “If people see you as brooding, and ‘Oh my gosh, who do they think they are?’ I just don’t think that’s a recipe for success really at any of these SEC schools.”

Pastides became the school’s president in 2008. The Gamecocks have had two national baseball championships, three straight 11-win football seasons in football, a national championship in women’s basketball and a Final Four appearance in men’s basketball during his tenure. All along the way, Pastides has been a vocal supporter of the school’s athletics department and its coaches.

“People get all puffy and proud of that,” Pastides said. “There are places where athletics and academics are viewed competitively, where the faculty gripe a lot about the money that gets expended in athletics. We are not that way at South Carolina because athletics is like a lubricant. It leads to more applications and better enrollment. At South Carolina, we have a good understanding.”

The school has named Brendan Kelly as it interim president, and Pastides doesn’t know when a permanent successor might be named, he said, but he will advise that person to embrace athletics just as he did, he said.

“That doesn’t mean athletics without control or athletics without values or athletics without budgetary constraint — we do have that — but I think it would be wrong for the university to select someone who says athletics is out to lunch and we have to fix that thing,” Pastides said. “I don’t see that happening, by the way.”

Pastides threw his support behind football coach Will Muschamp on his way out the door.

“My responsibility and that of (athletics director) Ray Tanner is to put him in a position to compete successfully, to win the East, to beat our rivals, to win the conference and to go all the way,” Pastides said. “If we don’t do what it takes to put him in position to do that and then he doesn’t do that, I don’t think that’s his fault, but I think we’re giving him what he needs. The rest is up to him as his staff, and I think he’s going to be successful. I truly do.”

Muschamp is 22-17 in three seasons at South Carolina, and the Gamecocks just opened a $50 million football operations facility.

“One thing is a reality, though, every other team is getting better so if we only hang out in Columbia and watch what (Muschamp) is doing, we might say, ‘He’s going to win it all, getting better every year, recruiting is getting better, facilities are getting better,’ but so is every other team,” Pastides said. “He does have a value system and a method to his preparation. He’s trustworthy, so to me those ingredients predict great success, but it doesn’t happen overnight and I think the fans know that, too.”