Monday, February 6, 2012

Eric Hyman: Great leader or Lucky timing?

Almost any Athletic Director has his or her critics, especially at a school that spends lots of money on sports and has passionate fans.   It’s one of those jobs where you almost never get credit for the good and always get the blame for the bad.  But even that doesn’t seem to capture the intense split of opinion over the tenure of Eric Hyman in Columbia.  I don’t know him personally or anything so I cannot offer any first-hand testimony on what kind of “guy” Mr. Hyman is.  I just know that almost everybody has a strong opinion about his job performance, good or bad as they see it.
When I talk to folks who like Hyman, usually there are three main arguments they all include:  1. When Hyman took over at USC, the finances and facilities were a mess and he has clearly turned that around; 2. He has USC competing in the SEC through big money and investment from his YES program; 3. Outside of men’s hoops, athletics at Carolina have never been better. 
Then there are his critics who also generally include three arguments:  1. While Carolina does have more money on athletics to spend, it was raised by driving out loyal fans who backed the school when they were perennial losers; 2. Spurrier and Tanner were already here when he arrived so he just inherited a really good situation; 3. His only men’s major sport hire, Darrin Horn has been a disaster. 
I am simplifying the arguments obviously, and maybe there are other small ones but you can get an idea of where the split is among the fans.  So was it just a lucky timing situation where any idiot with an accounting background could have come in and been just as good as Hyman?  Or is Hyman a great leader who puts results ahead of making people like him? 
Both sides appear to be entrenched too.  Take baseball’s success as an example.  “Supporters” of the AD would say that Mr. Hyman is the one who finally got the new stadium built and that’s why we got over the hump and won the titles.  “Critics” of the AD would say that the stadium was for all intents and purposes a done deal when Hyman arrived and Tanner’s program was already among the national elite. 
There is also a background argument about Hyman relating to his relationship with Ray.  Again, I have no insider knowledge on this subject when I write this, but I have had many Gamecock fans tell me that the two don’t get along.  The heart of this seems to be a buzz that Coach Tanner wants to be the next AD while turning the baseball reigns over to Chad Holbrook.  Even if you assume that is the case, it doesn’t mean Tanner has a personal problem with Hyman or that he is trying to “push him out the door.”  Maybe Ray does want that but is happy to wait until Hyman leaves?  Who knows?
The “Vanilla Tarheel” attracts attention no matter how you cut it.  It’s a debate that may only be settled after he leaves for another job. 

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