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February 11, 2012
South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman doesn't usually listen to sports talk radio, so he hasn't heard most of the grumbling over the airwaves about USC's new man in charge of making sure the school complies with NCAA rules.
Come to think of it, that might be a good thing.
Hyman's decision earlier this week to hire Chris Rogers as USC's new Associate Athletic Director for Compliance has been questioned, even criticized, by skeptical media and Gamecocks fans alike.
The condemnation has rarely been directed at Rogers personally. Instead, the move raised eyebrows because of where Rogers is coming from - Ohio State.
Yes, that Ohio State. The Goliath of a university recently sanctioned by the NCAA because of a cash-for-tattoos scandal that swallowed up former head coach Jim Tressel (forced to resign in disgrace) and resulted in the Buckeyes being handed a one-year bowl ban.
According to his profile on the Ohio State web site, Rogers was the primary compliance contact for the Ohio State football program, making him an easy target for critics when the Buckeyes ran afoul of NCAA rules and regulations.
Hyman defended the hire on Friday afternoon, contending Rogers was the best candidate for the job despite Ohio State's predicament after a thorough background check.
"We did an exhaustive study, we cross-checked, we talked to the NCAA, we talked to Commissioners, we talked to a lot of people around the country," Hyman said. "He is highly, highly respected. He wasn't part of the issue at Ohio State. As a matter of fact, some people who were directly involved said without him it would have been worse. They raved about him."
Rogers will guide USC's 10-person compliance department that oversees about 600 athletes and more than 50 coaches. According to USC, he will report directly to both the university president and athletics director.
USC senior associate athletics director and interim compliance director Judy Van Horn worked with Rogers on the Big Ten compliance administrator group when she was at Michigan. Prior to working in Columbus (he held his position at Ohio State since November of 2007), Rogers worked in the compliance departments at Utah (when Urban Meyer was head coach of the Utes) and Minnesota.
Hyman believes Rogers and Van Horn together will give USC as strong leadership in the compliance department as there is in the country.
"We are very fortunate to have him," Hyman said. "He has had an opportunity to be involved in a high level program. He knows the system and the way it works. Having somebody like him with his expertise is something that could be beneficial to us. With Judy and Chris working together, we'll absolutely have as good of a (compliance) program as there is in the country."
Pointing go the current staff that works under him, Hyman insisted he seeks to hire people with "good values" and "good work ethic," and rejected the "guilty by association" tag some have sought to place on Rogers.
"He falls into the category of what we need in our compliance office," Hyman said.
Rogers is expected to travel to Los Angeles next week with Hyman, USC President Harris Pastides, head coach Steve Spurrier and other coaches and USC officials for the two-day hearing in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
"Just so he can see and get a sense and feel for us," Hyman said, explaining why Rogers was making the trip. "At that point, the hay is in the barn."
Hyman maintained the reaction from around the country to the Rogers hire has been overwhelmingly positive even though the local response to the move has been tepid at best based on where Rogers last worked.
"Perception is perception and it isn't reality," Hyman said. "If you go and find out exactly (what's going on), people raved about him. They said he is absolutely terrific. Don't we want to get the best person after an exhaustive national search? He is the one who rose to the top."
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