University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides believes he will have no problem attracting candidates for his vacant athletic director position. But don’t expect Pastides to make a hire in the coming days.
Pastides is traveling to England and Germany as part of an economic development trip for the state of South Carolina. He won’t return to his office until July 11. Moreover, his outgoing athletic director, Eric Hyman, is still technically on the job until the end of the July.
Friday’s announcement of Hyman’s resignation to become Texas A&M’s athletic director said USC would name an interim replacement within a week. But Pastides indicated Monday that doesn’t necessarily need to happen.
“I think I’ll either have to have an athletic director by the end of the month, when Mr. Hyman moves away, or appoint an interim,” Pastides said. “I’m just not decided yet.”
This will be Pastides’ first athletic director hire. He arrived at USC in 1998 and was promoted to president in 2008. He had never previously been a university president. Hyman arrived at USC from Texas Christian in 2005.
Since then, USC’s sports profile rose considerably, with financial and facilities improvements spearheaded by Hyman, and on-field success, mostly notably the football team’s 11-2 season in 2011 and the baseball team’s national championships in 2010 and 2011.
“I believe that South Carolina is now — and we hope this is sustainable, and I do believe it will be — considered more in the higher rung of the (Southeastern) conference in many sports,” Pastides said. “We used to be kind of closer to the bottom. Now, when people talk about the top schools in the conference, they mention South Carolina as well. I think this is probably one of the most, or ought be one of the most coveted AD positions in American collegiate sports right now.”
Pastides isn’t talking specific candidates or qualifications that he and his five-member advisory panel are seeking. But he did acknowledge that 16th-year USC baseball coach Ray Tanner even being mentioned as a potential candidate is a testament to Tanner’s accomplishments. Tanner has said he would eventually like to work in the administrative side of an athletic department, and he has some experience in that area, with his previous employer, North Carolina State.
“I think (people) realize that an AD, like a president, has to connect with people,” Pastides said. “In addition to the impressive skills that Eric Hyman had, that the next AD will need, they need to start with somebody who will have the respect of all constituencies, somebody who is a leader — kind of looks, acts, speaks, thinks like a leader — and someone who people can rally around. I think it’s a great compliment to coach Tanner to hear that some people out there are thinking of him in that way.”
Tanner in February received a $140,000 raise, to $650,000. Hyman made about $500,000 at USC and will reportedly earn about $1 million at Texas A&M.
A USA Today database listed Hyman’s total pay in 2011 as $504,000. That ranked No. 34 among all athletic directors and No. 11 in the 14-team SEC if you count the league’s two newest members, Texas A&M and Missouri, both of which ranked ahead of USC’s athletic director pay.
Former Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne’s $690,000 total pay ranked No. 15. Hyman’s reported $1 million salary would put him at No. 7 overall, based on the 2011 USA Today list, and behind only Vanderbilt and Florida in the SEC. Those schools rank No. 1 and 2 overall.
The database lists all but nine Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Among those left out were Southern California and Stanford, both of which have wealthy, high-profile athletic departments.
The move to Texas A&M also will put Hyman closer to his two children, who live in Fort Worth. His first grandchild is due in November.
Hyman’s mind was made up about going to Texas A&M even before he met with Pastides on Friday afternoon. Hyman is 61, and this is almost certainly his last job before retirement.
“He didn’t really dwell on that (family),” Pastides said, when asked what reasons Hyman gave him for resigning. “He handed me the type-written field (resignation) letter. It wasn’t like, ‘Can we talk?’ It was like, ‘This is what I’m here to talk to you about.’ He was very professional. He talked about the challenge briefly, one more challenge. He talked about integrating Texas A&M into the Southeastern Conference.
“But it wasn’t specific. It certainly wasn’t about salary or specifically about family. I’m sure a decision like that had multiple facets. We spent most of our time talking about the Gamecocks, not the Aggies. He just said it was the right thing for him and his family.”