The recommendation for South Carolina football to have a new video board at Williams-Brice Stadium was in the works before some members of the Board of Trustees wanted the project re-evaluated and an indoor football practice facility explored. This even though the funding was in place for USC to move forward with the video board project.
South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman was in support of a new video board at Williams-Brice Stadium and still is.
At the most recent meeting, there were three major items set for discussion for the Board of Trustees at it relates to athletics.
-A new softball stadium ($8.5 million)
-Practice field renovations (over $1 million if the National Guard lease was renewed)
-The video board ($6.5 million)
The Board of Trustees elected to move forward with the softball stadium. USC needed to make this move to make sure it is in compliance with Title IX, the federal law that guarantees equality in higher education. They also will move forward with the practice field renovations once the lease with the National Guard is extended.
Contrary to speculation by other media outlets, there was never a decision between the new softball stadium and the football video board. It was also the Board of Trustees' decision to re-visit the video board at a later date.
Some members of the Board of Trustees did not want to move forward with the video board, electing to study the issue further, and also asked that the athletics department look into building a 100-yard indoor football practice facility. Clemson, the Gamecocks‘ in-state rival, announced plans to build an indoor practice facility this spring. South Carolina has a 20-year old 60-yard indoor facility located across from the Dodie Anderson Academic Center on Heyward Street.
USC’s Board of Trustees is expected to take up the issue again during its June and/or August meeting.
The estimated cost of a 100-yard indoor facility is somewhere in the neighborhood of $15-20 million, based on the cost of such facility plans at Florida State University and while there are private funds in place for the video board project, some earmarked specifically for that project, there are no such funds in place for an indoor facility. Putting the cost of the facility toward USC’s total athletics facility debt could very well push the total liability/debt of South Carolina for athletics facilities over a comfort zone, which could downgrade its bond rating, resulting in higher interest on its debt payment.
Members of the athletics department, along with several members of the Board of Trustees, felt that an upgrade to the video board would have been a way to reward the South Carolina fans with something they can enjoy on Saturdays at Williams-Brice Stadium, which currently has one of the most outdated video replay boards in the Southeastern Conference. That opinion was not shared by all members of the BOT. There was staunch support for the video board, however, from several prominent members of the BOT. Those members were not opposed to an indoor practice facility, though. South Carolina fans may question why the Gamecocks athletics department can’t continue to pile on the debt and accept the potential lower bond rating.
The answer is simple- there are other projects that are going to need to be funded and having to pay more interest on more debt could negative impact the department’s ability to take care of future projects.
Among these are a football staff, which is among the lowest paid in the SEC as a whole. Outside of assistant head coach Ellis Johnson, who is the second-highest paid defensive coordinator in the league, only one other assistant coach position ranks in the top half of the conference in terms of salary. In other words, if you compare the salaries of the other eight assistants to the No. 2-9 assistant coach positions at other SEC schools, the Gamecocks rank toward the bottom of the league in all but one position. With the improvement South Carolina has made on the field, including the SEC East championship in 2010, the current coaching staff will see increased demand for their services and will likely demand a higher salary in the coming years. The USC athletics department needs to be prepared to meet their needs moving forward.
There are other potential expenses that come up- coaching changes, etc., that money will be needed for. Risking the bond rating being lowered puts those funds in question.
South Carolina athletics fundraising has risen to unprecedented levels in recent years. That has coincided with drastic upgrades/additions across the board at an unprecedented pace. Perhaps no school in the country has added the volume and quality of facilities than South Carolina has in the last half decade.
According to sources, athletics director Eric Hyman and company have raised $28.5 million in private donations from 2005-11, which is more than 10 times the amount of previous 10 years. That being said, there currently is very little in the way of private funds that have been dedicated to an indoor practice facility at this time because the money has been spent on other projects.
If the BOT does decide to move forward with the indoor facility, the athletics department would be charged with raising the majority of the money through private donations.