USC Athletic Department to donate $15 million

The University of South Carolina announced an agreement Monday for the athletics department to commit $15 million over 15 years to university academics. The agreement for the athletics department to donate the $1 million annually is designed to help offset the $39 million in budget cuts the university is facing this year.

"There are economic clouds above us, but today the sun is shining on the University of South Carolina," said university president Harris Pastides. "I want to emphasize that these discussions were not difficult. At a time when the spirit of giving and volunteerism has taken greater importance in our country, I express again gratitude to Eric Hyman for his commitment to this university."

"The University and athletics department have been in discussion about the allocation of funds," said athletics director Eric Hyman. "The agreement is to share $1 million to a need based scholarship program for families with limited needs. It's going to be primarily focused on students with need basis. Our student body has been incredibly supportive of our student-athletes, and this gives us the opportunity to give back to those in need."

The funding will go toward the Gamecock Guarantee, which provides assistance for students who qualify to the university but whose family income is less than $25,000, assistance for graduate students to meet their health insurance premiums, and assistance for residence students who have severe family circumstances. Preference will be shown for students from the state of South Carolina, but the manner of allocation of the additional funds has not been decided.

"That will be worked out," Pastides said. "What we wanted to do is, before the year ended... we wanted them to know their university is working on ways to help them."

The money comes from the recent 15 year, $2.25 billion dollar agreement between the SEC and CBS and ESPN for broadcast rights. Hyman estimated that the new deal will mean an increase of about $6 million in the amount of money South Carolina receives from the SEC, bringing the total to about $16 million. The concept of using the money from the deal to help offset budget cuts was first broached in October at a meeting of the presidents of the twelve member institutions. Pastides added he expects the other SEC schools to make similar announcements in the future, but the severity of the economic downturn in South Carolina led to USC being the first to reach an agreement.

"I do want to emphasize there was no tug of war between the numbers," said Pastides. "We thought this was a wonderful contribution."

Pastides and Hyman were adamant that the athletics department would not suffer over the loss of $1 million annually.

"When we did arrive at the number, I said, Eric is there still enough? Can you build Gamecock athletics, supporting the coaches, supporting the academics, and supporting the facilities? Can we still do that or do we have to put that on hold, and he said, ‘Absolutely not.'"

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