Pigskin perk not out of bounds

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley greets fans before an NCAA college football game between South Carolina and Mississippi State, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

The odds against meaningful ethics reform in our state, like the odds against the Gamecocks winning a Southeastern Conference football championship, have long been daunting.

Yes, last month Gov. Nikki Haley signed two ethics reform bills passed by the General Assembly. But those measures, while advancing needed changes on a couple of fronts, still fell short of the full-accountability goal line.

Maybe the Legislature will gain more ethics ground next year.

However, its focus should be on something more substantial than nitpicking USC’s practice of giving governors use of season football tickets and Williams-Brice Stadium executive suites at the Gamecocks’ home games.

The State Ethics Commission ruled last September the governor could use the tickets and suite for any purpose, providing the “priority” was state-related. Then on Wednesday, the commission revised that decision.

As reported in our Thursday story, Ethics Commission attorney Michael Burchstead explained the update: “Rather than saying ‘using the tickets for state-related purposes is a priority,’ the opinion states these tickets need to be used for state-related purposes, period.”

However, commission member Frank Grimball, who had asked for the review of last year’s opinion, found the change insufficient. He wanted the rule to restrict use of the tickets to “economic development.”

Chaney Adams, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Wednesday that as in previous gubernatorial administrations, Mrs. Haley has strictly used the suite “for state-related purposes, including economic development and business recruitment, because there’s no better way to showcase the great things going on in our state.”

Mrs. Haley, a Clemson graduate, also has a Death Valley suite, provided by that university’s board members and others, for the Tigers’ home games.

And as long as those tickets and suites for either school’s games aren’t being sold to benefit Mrs. Haley or anybody else, this gubernatorial perk hardly seems excessive or corrupting.

Instead, it seems like a home-field advantage for the state’s top elected official in the big game of bringing more business investment — and good jobs — to South Carolina.

As for the Gamecocks, their chances of winning an SEC title in their first season under coach Will Muschamp look even slimmer than usual, coming off a 3-9 season that included a loss to The Citadel.

On the other hand, USC has won five out of its last seven games against Clemson.