South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman said that nothing is final, but serious conversations have been held to discuss the possibility of moving the Gamecocks' 2010 football game with North Carolina to another season.
In an interview with a Columbia radio station today, Hyman said an "ESPN-driven" deal to pair LSU and North Carolina in Atlanta could cause the Tar Heels to move their meeting with the Gamecocks.
But he repeatedly said nothing had been "etched in stone."
"We've had deep conversations about it," Hyman said on 107.5 The Game (WNKT-FM). "It's got to be a win-win for South Carolina on this deal. If we didn't play the game next year with North Carolina, then it would be postponed for a year or two. We'd be playing them in the very near future."
Here are the two "wins" that Hyman is referencing.
One, if the game is rescheduled, ESPN has assured South Carolina that it would have the season-opening game in 2010 against a to-be-determined opponent. And USC would also get the season-opening game against North Carolina, in whatever year that it's rescheduled.
Since Steve Spurrier's arrival five years ago, the Gamecocks have regularly played the game to open the college football season. They'll do so again this year, going to Raleigh, N.C., to play North Carolina State on Sept. 3.
Secondly, ESPN could rework USC's schedule to include an open date during the middle of the season, which is to Spurrier's liking. He has lamented having an open date before the Clemson game and not earlier in the fall.
Many perceive this as North Carolina pulling out of the game. But not Hyman.
"I don't think that's an issue at all," he said, referring to ESPN being the driving force. "I don't think North Carolina feels that way. I don't sense that at all."
That said, Hyman fully expects the Heels to play at Williams-Brice Stadium - and play there relatively soon.
It's the return end of a home-and-home deal; USC played in Chapel Hill in 2007.
"It would be over my dead body that North Carolina wouldn't return the game," said Hyman, himself a UNC grad. "And I wouldn't want that game returned in 2030. No, that's not the way it works."
If the schedule is shifted, who then would move on the 2010 slate in North Carolina's place?
Because ESPN has moved into such a high place with the league - and since the UNC-LSU game is ESPN's idea -- Hyman said it would be up to the network.
"That's their responsibility," he said. "They've got to be able to bring a game in."
Hyman reminded fans, again and again, that until further notice it still says North Carolina on the 2010 schedule.
"Until something else happens, that's who we're going to play," he said. "Obviously there's been a lot of dialogue and conversation with people on this. But nothing's in stone."
Reach Travis Haney at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out the South Carolina blog at www.postandcourier.com/blogs/gamecocks.
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