Since Eric Hyman was hired as South Carolina’s athletic director in 2005, he has, for the most part, flown under the radar, making little to no changes to the university’s athletic program.
While many perceived Hyman as passive and unwilling to take a chance early in his Gamecock career, it turns out Hyman was simply setting the stage for a solid foundation.
Rather than rushing into poor decisions, Hyman got to know the culture at USC, and now Hyman has officially put a stamp on his tenure at South Carolina.
Over the last month, Hyman has silenced the critics by landing two up-and-coming basketball coaches—and paying top dollar for them as well.
The Colonial Center, where Gamecock basketball is played, is one of the best venues in the SEC, and possibly in the country. Finished in late 2002, the state-of-the art complex seats 18,000 and contains several luxury suites, club rooms, an expansive hospitality room, and plush seating.
A fancy arena is great, but not when the teams playing in them are terrible, as Gamecock basketball teams have been in recent history.
Now the level of play will presumably match the venue.
Back in April, Hyman nabbed Darrin Horn, whose former team, Western Kentucky, had just completed a tournament run to the Sweet Sixteen. Horn is only 35-years-old, a tireless recruiter, and is respected by all who interact with him.
Horn’s salary, a five-year $750,000 deal, is by no means a bank-buster, but is competitive with SEC coaches.
This week, Hyman stole 38-year-old Dawn Staley, a Philly native, from Temple University, signing her to a lucrative five-year deal of $650,000 per year, incentives included.
But Staley’s salary is getting more publicity than her success as a basketball coach.
And that, fellow droogs, is a shame.
As a player at Virginia, Staley led her teams to three consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances. In the WNBA, Staley was a five-time all-star and led the Charlotte Sting to the WNBA Finals in 2001.
When Staley took over the Temple program, the team did not have a winning record in the decade before her arrival. In her eight seasons as head coach, Staley racked up four Atlantic Ten tournament titles, six NCAA appearances, the program’s first national ranking, and an overall record of 172-80.
While Horn was somewhat of an unknown, he won over Columbia in less than 24 hours after his arrival. Staley, however, is an absolute slam dunk of a hire—and every analyst agrees that South Carolina got the best possible candidate to fill their vacant spot.
Clearly, Eric Hyman is out to make a statement.
By hiring Staley, Hyman is now paying his women’s basketball coach more than his veteran baseball coach—and himself.
South Carolina baseball is a big deal in Columbia, as well it should be. Ray Tanner’s teams have churned out successful seasons year in and year out, with this season serving as no exception.
But there is such a thing as a good ole boy left in South Carolina, and when a 38-year old black woman gets paid more than the 50-year-old baseball coach with a mile-long list of achievements, feathers get ruffled.
And that’s what makes this hire so beautiful.
Hyman is not catering to anyone with this move. He had the opportunity to improve his women’s basketball program, and he took advantage of it.
In the past, South Carolina was generally regarded as a school with poor facilities and the unwillingness to pay its coaches.
That trend appears to be changing—and might just be completely gone in a few years.
The Colonial Center should be bubbling over with excitement for the next few seasons. Spurrier’s team seems poised to finally get over the hump.
In 2009, a multi-million dollar academic center, named “The Dodie,” will open on campus. Next season, the baseball team will begin play on its brand new field.
Expectations are higher than ever in Columbia. Now it’s up to the teams and coaches to meet them.
It’s official: The Eric Hyman era has started at South Carolina.