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South Carolina athletics projects 2011 margin of $900K

USC's athletics department expects ticket sales to lag next year due to the economy. It also will pay more guaranteed money to visiting football opponents.

Those factors will contribute to an expected decline in the department's surplus for the 2010-11 fiscal year that begins July 1.

USC anticipates being in the black by a little more than $900,000, according to a budget presentation made by athletics director Eric Hyman to the USC board Friday. The department had a surplus of $2.4 million for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Projected revenue for '10-'11 is $76.9 million, an increase of $2.4 million from last year. Projected expenses are $76 million, an increase of $3.9 million.

Most of the increase in revenue is projected to come from an approximate $2 million jump in gifts and donations. Conversely, ticket sales are expected to decline, from $19.9 million to $19.2 million

"I think everybody is sensing the economy," Hyman told the board.

Hyman said the YES seat-license program has had a small impact on decreased ticket sales. YES was instituted two years ago to boost revenue. The premium seat payments generated $3.7 million this past year and are projected to bring in $3.6 million next year.

Despite losing about 1,000 Gamecock Club members, Hyman said the club has seen a net increase of 542 members.

USC also will pay more this year to its three nonconference football opponents: $850,000 to Southern Miss, $800,000 to Troy and $230,000 to Furman. That is an increase of 43 percent over last year, when the highest payout was $800,000, to Florida Atlantic.

"It's just very difficult out there right now," Hyman said. "The dollars that some of these schools are charging us is just outrageous. Obviously, with Furman and The Citadel and those schools, that has helped us out a lot as far as keep the money in the state."

USC received an unexpected boost when it received a $17.5 million payout from the SEC; it was projected to be $16.2 million.

That's a big reason there's little chance an SEC school will be tempted to leave the league, even as conference realignment continues. Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten on Friday, a day after Colorado fled the Big 12 for the Pac-10.

Hyman, previously the athletics director at Texas Christian, said the move toward bigger conferences was "unsettling." He based that in large part on his time at TCU, which was a member of a 16-team league when Hyman arrived, an unwieldy arrangement that quickly collapsed.

"You hate to see some of this take place," Hyman said. "Being a member of a 16-team conference is very cumbersome. With the WAC (Western Athletic Conference), when I was originally out there, it was very difficult logistically, getting people on the same sheet of music. You've got 16 different perspectives. It's extremely difficult."

Of note: Hyman said the USC is down to two candidates for the men's tennis coaching job and will announce a hiring "in the near future." Hyman said he is weeks from hiring a replacement for longtime softball coach Joyce Compton.