The Scoop on South Carolina vs. UNC

Like many of you, I’m looking forward to our football game against the University of North Carolina.  Seeing the teams face off on the gridiron two years ago was exciting and definitely created a buzz in both states. There will be an announcement forthcoming that the scheduled game between the two Carolinas, originally set for Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia in 2010, will be moved to 2013. With that, many are wondering why the athletics department allowed the Tar Heels to reschedule and how it helps the Gamecocks.

Because South Carolina is a partner of ESPN and Chick-fil-A through the Southeastern Conference, the network approached Athletics Director Eric Hyman about moving the UNC game in order to allow ESPN to schedule UNC against LSU in next year’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Hyman was adamant that our game would not be moved unless it was a “win-win” situation for the Gamecocks. For him, it was a decision that had to make sense for the program because he wants to see this UNC game happen just as much as any South Carolina fan.

So what makes it a win-win? First, Hyman and Coach Spurrier wanted next year’s new game and the game against North Carolina in 2013 to both be the opening Thursday night games on ESPN.  Coach Spurrier believes the opportunity for national exposure on Thursday night to kick off the college football season is a huge benefit for recruiting and the program. In the first five years of the Spurrier Era, the Gamecocks have played in the season’s opening game four times. I’m sure that some of the strength of our recent recruiting classes can be attributed to the national exposure our program has received. In addition, as part of the ESPN TV package, the SEC will compensate every league team that plays at home on a Thursday night $200,000 per game. That’s an extra $400,000 generated from the two games for Gamecock Athletics.

Secondly, ESPN had to find another opponent for the 2010 season. Third, they had to help move the Gamecocks’ 2010 bye week to the middle of the season instead of the week before the annual Clemson game. Our last win against Clemson came when the team played the weekend before and not had two weeks off before facing the Tigers. Moving the bye week also gives our players a vital week of rest in the middle of the always-challenging SEC schedule.

The result? The Gamecocks will host the Tar Heels in 2013 at Williams-Brice Stadium on the opening Thursday night on ESPN. The Gamecocks will host the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on Thursday, September 2, to kick off the 2010 season on ESPN. South Carolina will not have to return the game in Hattiesburg and ESPN will pay $50,000 of the $900,000 guarantee to Southern Miss.

The network also worked with Troy to move its game in Columbia in 2010 from September 4 to November 20, the week before the Clemson game. In addition, Carolina has moved its game against Furman from October 2 to September 18, leaving the Gamecocks with their open week in the middle of the season (October 2). If that’s not the definition of a win-win, then I don’t know what is.

And for those of you who think the Tar Heels will never appear in Columbia, UNC committed to a larger buyout should they pull out of that contest. Let’s give the Heels the benefit of the doubt on this one – otherwise, why would they agree to an increased buyout?

How else can this help South Carolina? The willingness to be flexible with two major partners (ESPN and Chick-fil-A) could provide additional benefits to the program in the future. If it’s a toss-up as to what game to provide more coverage to or whom to put on primetime television, ESPN might look at the Gamecocks more favorably. Putting the Gamecocks in either the Chick-fil-A Bowl or asking South Carolina to play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game might be a more attractive option for Chick-fil-A because of this willingness to accommodate.

Some of you might wonder why we aren’t the team playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Hyman has discussed the possibility about the Gamecocks playing in Atlanta sometime in the future, but he is reluctant to do so because he understands the vital economic impact of a home game for Columbia and the surrounding areas and wants to maintain a seven home game schedule. If an opportunity arises for an eighth home game and it made economic sense, he would certainly consider all of the options.

You can be assured that when this decision was made, it was done with the best interests of the university, athletics program and the fans in mind.  Don’t worry fans – the Heels are still coming to Columbia.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “The Scoop on South Carolina vs. UNC

  1. Ed

    Southern Miss!?! That’s the marquee opponent ESPN got us!? Great, a C-USA school that does absolutely nothing for our strength of schedule.

    I was all for this when it appeared we’d get a good school to play in the first week, but not now.

    • Josh

      I am not very excited about So. Miss either, or the fact that UNC does not come here until 2013, but I think the AD did the best they could. We are talking about next year’s schedule being shuffled, not a schedule 5 years away. I am a big fan of a mid-season bye as well. I support EH securing 7 home games every year!

    • Milton

      This is a pretty good team.

    • Jon

      Larry Fedora is turning Southern Miss into one of the best offensive teams in the country. If they can get their defense back up to par like they used to be, they will be a consistent top 25 team. I would not be surprised to see Southern Miss win this game to start next season.

  2. Brittany

    Thanks for the detailed info! I was wondering how this would be resolved. Great news.

  3. Chip

    Ed,
    We play in the SEC East. Strength of schedule is the least of our problems.
    Moeny is a problem for us relative to our conference opponents. This is a good deal for us.

  4. Gene

    Chip,

    How does this help with money? It leaves USC $650,000 to pay out of pocket for Southern Miss.
    I believe they usually pay about $500,000 or less for our lesser competition.

  5. Tyler

    Southern Miss is a pretty good football team; Troy has also been pretty solid, their showing against Florida doesn’t show just how good they have the potential to be. Furman should be no trouble. The conference games are extremely tough, but if we want to start winning, we’ve got to prove ourselves against the biggest competition on the national stage. I love the direction of the Gamecocks and can’t wait to see what these guys do this year and in the coming years!! Go Gamecocks!!

  6. Jim Long

    I would rather tell UNC good bye and never play them. They have never been a friend of USC. If SOS is so determined to play another ACC school every year then let’s alternate NC State and Georgia Tech. Both would love to play in front of 80000+ and we would like to travel to Atlanta and Raleigh and both have helped us in the past. We can get good teams to play us for less than $650,000 and UNC would have had to pay us $900,000 (which ESPN would have paid for them) if they just canceled the contract. I say Hyman has been snookered.

  7. Conway

    I think this is horrible. We pay enough money to have season tickets and now the home schedule is even more watered down. Hyman should not have allowed UNC out of their contract without getting an ACC team in return. Maryland needs a team for 2010.

  8. Paul

    Let’s not end up with our foot in our mouth too soon. Southern Miss is a great program and getting better under Larry Fedora. We’d better have our “A” game on against them or we’ll get easily whupped! You are exactly right Jon.

  9. Trey

    Playing a decent mid-major like Southern Miss is the right level of competition to start off the season. If we really want to attack the strength of schedule, it’s the games against the in-state FCS schools we should be talking about.

  10. Jbow

    NC State or Ga Tech as regular opponent rather than UNC? Agreed.
    UNC being a pain in our @$$ and really not partnering in this? Agreed.
    So. Miss being a “lesser opponent”? Not likely.
    The Terps being a better advisary? Maybe 5 yrs ago but they just got a wake up call from JMU of all people.

    The long and short is it does give us heightened national exposure & makes both ESPN and Chick-fil-A owe us one.

    Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second;
    Lose to UNC = step back in regional recruiting particularly in the Carolinas.
    Lose to So. Miss = no real setback in recruiting and easily recoverable with SEC victories.

    Keep the faith people that we’re heading in the right direction….slowly,…but surely.

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