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USC top coaches, administrators taking 10% pay cuts to aid with coronavirus cash crunch

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South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, with Athletic Director Ray Tanner, after a University of South Carolina victory. The two, along with other top officials at the scholl are taking 10 percent pay cuts. File/Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina

The University of South Carolina's top athletics coaches, along with school President Bob Caslen and other top administrators, are taking one-year 10 percent pay cuts to help ease losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gamecocks football head coach Will Muschamp, men's basketball coach Frank Martin, women's basketball coach Dawn Staley and Athletics Director Ray Tanner are among 12 top university officials who volunteered to reduce their paychecks to save $1.2 million at the state's largest college, USC announced Tuesday.

As a group, the four athletics department leaders taking pay cuts earn $10.2 million a year.

Coaches and administrators at several other colleges — including University of Wisconsin, University of Virginia, University of Arizona, Kansas University, University of Louisville, West Virginia University and University of Oregon — have taken salary hits to ease coronavirus related costs.

University of Missouri is the only Southeastern Conference school other than USC where coaches and other school leaders have accepted pay cuts. University of Georgia has proposed cuts for administrators.

USC is forecast to lose up to $40 million from the spring and summer semester after the coronavirus closed campus in March and pushed classes online. The university had to refund students for dorm and food fees.

The losses are expected to grow with uncertainties about the fall semester, even as students are expected to resume in-person classes. 

USC is considering broader pay cuts to faculty and staff, as well as potential academic program changes, to help get through a financial crisis described by a faculty leader as twice as bad as the recession a decade ago.

Clemson University, the state's second-largest college, has no plans to seek temporary pay cuts for athletics coaches or administrators, a spokesman said. The Upstate school is expecting to lose $20 million from spring semester class disruptions. 

Speaking after a meeting of his coronavirus recovery task force, Gov. Henry McMaster said Tuesday that colleges need to make their own decisions about how to handle financial challenges.

USC has been a step ahead of other S.C. colleges in reacting to the COVID-19 outbreak, choosing first to take classes online and then deciding to bring back in-person classes in the fall. 

The coaches of USC's biggest athletics programs are among the highest paid employees in state government. 

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Muschamp earns $4.4 million. Martin is making $3.1 million, while Staley earns $1.7 million. Tanner brings in $1 million a year.

Caslen, the retired West Point superintendent who arrived to lead USC last year, earns $650,000.

The one-year pay cuts that start July 1 also include seven top USC administrators. Among them are Senior Vice President for Administration Ed Walton, Chief of Staff Mark Bieger and former state Rep. James Smith, special assistant to the president.

COVID-19 has stricken more than 9,000 South Carolinians, killing close to 400, according to the latest state data.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced a number of changes at USC's Columbia campus, including canceling spring sports midseason.

The presidents and chancellors of the SEC will vote Friday whether to re-open their athletic facilities on June 1, which would clear the way for football players and other fall athletes to return to campus and begin training for the season.

USC is studying several models about how to have fans at Williams-Brice Stadium and still adopt social distancing.

Meanwhile, the school decided to scrap plans for a postponed in-person commencement ceremony in August. USC will hold a virtual ceremony for spring graduates at a later date, a school spokesman said.

On Monday, USC unveiled an altered class schedule that cancels fall break and ends in-person classes at Thanksgiving in an effort to slow an expected second wave of the COVID-19. The Columbia campus also will hold online classes on typical school holidays of Labor Day and Election Day, to help manage what is expected to be a challenging semester.

David Cloninger contributed to this report.

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