Booster club's parking payment plan raises ire of Gamecock Club donor

COLUMBIA -- Joseph Rosen has coined a word for his dealings with the University of South Carolina athletics department and the Gamecock Club: "arrogancy."

Rosen, his father, Harvey J. Rosen, and his niece, Rebecca Nurick, are suing USC and the Gamecock Club for breach of contract, claiming school officials have taken away their right to free parking at Williams-Brice Stadium -- a right they say they earned between 1978 and 1984 by contributing $140,000 to the Gamecock Club for three lifetime Silver Spur memberships.

The suit, filed Tuesday by Columbia lawyer J. Lewis Cromer, seeks $500,000 in actual damages from the university, and a total of $1 million (including tripled punitive damages) from the Gamecock Club.

Cromer said the amounts sought are based on estimated appreciated value of real estate donated to USC, the potential loss of use of their Silver Spur benefits (including 24 football season tickets) and other damages.

"I hate that (USC and the Gamecock Club) forced us to do this," Cromer said Wednesday. "From day one, the Rosens had hoped to avoid this. But (USC officials) have never contacted us" since Cromer informed the school Aug. 3 of his clients' intent to sue.

"The point of the suit is, they've jerked everyone around and not responded to us," said Joseph Rosen, 54. "My father even wrote (USC president Andrew) Sorensen, but he never heard from him.

"I don't want to hurt USC, but they didn't want to deal with us. No one believed we'd file suit. (But) 'arrogancy' goes a long way."

No response, no comment

Cromer said he has not had a response from USC since hand-delivering the suit to Gamecock Club director Chris Wyrick on Tuesday. Toni Karl, Wyrick's assistant, said Wednesday the club will not comment on the suit.

USC athletics director Eric Hyman also declined comment. "Any time there's a lawsuit, I respectfully have to withdraw from the equation, per school policy," he said Wednesday.

The bone of contention is the Rosens' three premium parking spots -- Nos. 390, 491 and 492 -- located near the stadium and adjacent to George Rogers Boulevard. According to the suit, the Rosens, who are Columbia real estate appraisers, received letters July 3 from the school's director of parking stating they would have to pay $595 per space, a total of $1,785, to maintain their parking privileges.

The parking fees are part of recent restructuring of Gamecock Club benefits instituted to generate additional income.

The Rosens contend the parking spots were part of their package as lifetime Silver Spur members -- and unlike Silver Spurs who renew their memberships annually, their benefits were to be in perpetuity, including the right to will their memberships to family members.

The suit claims the Gamecock Club has "improperly and illegally modified the agreements by which it was bound and has attempted to hold hostage the (Rosens) ... for the purpose of enriching itself and its sponsor, USC, with revenue to which neither is entitled."

Joseph Rosen said that in a meeting with Wyrick, he was told "(his membership) doesn't say free (parking), so you have to pay. He was just arrogant."

The Rosens said a document outlining their right to free parking -- dubbed "Exhibit A" by USC officials, according to Cromer -- is mentioned in their lifetime membership contract. The document was supposed to have been included in their original contracts but never was sent, he said.

"No one has a copy of that," Joseph Rosen said.

Rosen said the conflict with USC has been troubling for his 78-year-old father, who suffered from polio as a child and would have difficulty walking to the stadium from more distant parking.

"The Rosens have been trying to work out a resolution," Cromer said. "It's important to them. They love USC.

"They're not real fond of the Gamecock Club right now."