COLUMBIA -- Eric Hyman's close association with North Carolina had nothing to do with getting the Tar Heels on South Carolina's football schedule.
But going back should be nice anyway.
"I'm sure I'll run across people I'm kind of familiar with, even after 34 years," USC's athletics director said. "I've competed more against them as a coach or administrator than I did as an athlete playing there."
Hyman was a UNC linebacker from 1971-73, making all-ACC in 1972 and helping the Heels to two ACC championships. He went on to coach football at Furman and N.C. State before breaking into athletic administration.
He played his alma mater several times when he was coaching and the Heels popped up on the schedule when he was the AD at VMI and Miami (Ohio). He didn't face them when he was at Texas Christian, but once he took the job at USC, he found the school had worked out a tentative agreement to play the Tar Heels.
The first game, resuming a series that's produced 54 games already, is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The next is in Columbia on Sept. 18, 2010.
Any games after that will depend on if the two schools can work out a contract. USC's already scheduled four in-state schools (S.C. State, Wofford, The Citadel and Furman) for games through 2014 and Troy, East Carolina and N.C. State, plus the annual rivalry match with Clemson, take up a lot of the other non-conference spots.
"It does make a lot of sense from the geographic angle, schedule-wise, to play Clemson and to go out and play a team in the region," Hyman said. "The schedule is tough enough as is, without inviting any Big Ten or Pac-10 teams to play.
"This game and 2010, we discussed, and decided it really had to make sense."
So far it has. The No. 7 Gamecocks are looking forward to giving several of their North Carolina natives a chance to play a home-state school.
"We're all about the same," coach Steve Spurrier said. "Big state universities. I didn't want to particularly play Oklahoma or one of those-type schools. I thought it would be a nice game for the fans."
Hyman said his best memories of playing for the Tar Heels were the relationships he made and the success he was a part of. The Heels played in the Gator Bowl and the Sun Bowl while Hyman was there, and he was selected for the senior all-star Hula Bowl in 1973.
The series with USC was competitive when the two teams played each other as ACC members, UNC holding a 34-16-4 series lead. Hyman never played the Gamecocks, but he did recall one part of his football career that shines a little brighter these days.
"We never lost to Clemson," he chuckled. "Now that I've been at South Carolina, we never lost to Clemson."
Hyman's hoping the series can continue after 2010, although UNC officials at this time "aren't too enthusiastic." The subject has been approached about possibly playing at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium, such as the two games against East Carolina USC will play in 2011 and 2014.
That will have to wait until an agreement is reached. As of now, the series ends after the 2010 game.
"Gamecock football in Columbia is an economic engine," Hyman said. "I don't want to take that economic engine somewhere else."