South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman has left after seven years to guide Texas A&M’s transition into the Southeastern Conference as the Aggies’ new AD.
The 61-year-old Hyman said Friday he looked forward to leading his new school in its transition from the Big 12 Conference into the SEC. Hyman will take over for Texas A&M’s Bill Byrne, who retired in May.
Texas A&M is officially joining the SEC on Sunday.
“I am very excited for the opportunity to help transition Texas A&M into the Southeastern Conference,” he said. “While this is a tremendous opportunity, the downside is leaving all the dedicated and loyal fans in Gamecock Nation and the best athletic department in the country.”
Hyman played a big role in the Gamecocks’ unprecedented athletic success during his tenure. The baseball team under coach Ray Tanner won two national titles and played for a third before falling to Arizona at the College World Series earlier this month.
Steve Spurrier’s football team reached its first SEC championship game in 2010, then won a program-record 11 games last fall.
Dawn Staley’s women’s basketball team made the NCAA’s round of 16 in its first tournament appearance in nine years.
In one Hyman’s final personnel moves, he lured successful Kansas State coach Frank Martin last March to revitalize a last-place basketball team.
Even when Hyman’s athletic program made mistakes, he led the department back on top. The NCAA uncovered three major violations including failure to monitor the department because of violations in the football and track programs. However, the NCAA in handing down its final decision complemented Gamecock administrators for the thorough and above-board approach they took during the inquiry.
“They wanted to ask all the hard questions of all the right people,” NCAA committee on infractions chairman Britton Banowsky said. “Even went beyond what the NCAA staff was doing. We see that less likely than we see the other approach.”
University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides thanked Hyman for his efforts and wished him well after the resignation became official.
“We will miss him on our team, but his legacy has made us stronger,” Pastides said.
Hyman has overseen a revamping of Gamecock athletic facilities. He finished a $35.6 million Carolina Stadium baseball field that has helped that team’s national rise. Williams-Brice Stadium, where the football team plays, has had massive upgrades, and a $6.5 million video board is currently being installed in time for this fall. A $30 million tailgate area in what was formerly the state Farmer’s Market across the street will also be finished by football season.
One of the first new buildings was a $13 million Academic Enrichment Center, known as “The Dodie,” which has done its job. South Carolina athletes posted their highest fall GPA (3.202) ever in 2011 and all 19 of the programs countable sports achieving multi-year scores or 950 or better in the NCAA’s latest Academic Progress Reports (APR).
Hyman, though, won’t get to enjoy the soon to be completed, $11.7 million coach’s support building. The athletic department is poised to move out of its crumbling, old facility, nicknamed “The Roundhouse,” in July.
Hyman and wife Pauline have a daughter and son, both married and living in Fort Worth, Texas. Son Ryan and his wife are expecting Hyman’s first grandchild later this year.
Pastides appointed a panel of five, including Staley, to make recommendations on the search process and help appoint an interim AD until Hyman’s successor is hired.
Former Texas A&M AD Byrne retired a year before his contract would have expired. John Thornton has served as interim athletic director since Byrne’s retirement.
The 66-year-old Byrne was hired at Texas A&M in December 2002 and the Aggies also saw unprecedented success and improvements in facilities during his tenure.
The school won 45 Big 12 championships in 13 different sports under his watch. Although he was the athletic director when Texas A&M decided to move to the SEC, he has said he was not involved in the final decision.
Byrne was a vocal critic of the Longhorn TV network that Texas and ESPN created, which was one of the factors that pushed A&M to seek a new conference home.
One of his biggest hires came in 2003 in women’s basketball coach Gary Blair. Blair built the Aggies into a contender and led them to a national title in 2011.
The improvement in Texas A&M’s basketball programs was also helped by the construction of a $26 million basketball practice facility that opened in 2008. The 68,000 square foot facility, which is used by the men and women, has two practice courts, a weight room and a player lounge.
Byrne was also proud of a $26 million renovation to the baseball stadium that was completed earlier this year.
Texas A&M developed into a powerhouse in indoor track in Byrne’s time at the school and both the men’s and women’s teams picked up three straight national championships from 2009-11, and the Aggies also saw success in several other sports.
The football team wasn’t able to keep pace with the other teams and was 58-54 in Byrne’s time at the school. A 27-25 loss to archrival Texas on Thanksgiving capped a disappointing 6-6 regular season that came after the team entered the season with a top-10 ranking.
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken from Houston contributed to this report.