Streamlined athletics approval path clears first hurdle in S.C. legislature

Bill would also lessen legislative oversight on privately funded economic development and research projects

The new WestZone video board under construction at Clemson Memorial Stadium

Photo by Mark Crammer

The new WestZone video board under construction at Clemson Memorial Stadium

COLUMBIA — A bill that would permit Clemson University to move more quickly on privately funded athletics, economic development and research cleared two key legislative hurdles Tuesday.

A special subcommittee and the state Senate Finance Committee passed the measure calling for creation of the Clemson University Enterprise Division, which would be subject to a reduced level of state oversight. The bill now moves to the Senate floor, where it needs to receive approval by May 1 to have a decent chance of making it through the General Assembly before this year’s session ends in early June.

Tuesday’s approvals came after several changes were made in the legislation.

Clemson officials originally sought authority to shift a broader range of activities such as housing and food service to the enterprise division. Under an amendment adopted Tuesday, only athletics, economic development and graduate-level research could be transferred to the division by the university’s board of trustees.

Besides giving the state Budget and Control Board responsibility to approve procurement rules for the enterprise division, the amendment would require Clemson to submit plans for the division’s building projects to another state panel for “review and comment” before construction begins.

Clemson officials also would have to file annual reports detailing any property acquisitions or sales involving the new division.

Sen. Ray Cleary, a Republican from Murrells Inlet who led the subcommittee that considered the enterprise division measure, said Clemson officials deserve more flexibility since state funding accounts for only 10 percent of the university’s overall budget.

Cleary also said the bill could serve as a model for South Carolina’s other public colleges and universities.

“I think it is a bill that will move the state forward,” he said.

Clemson officials were pleased to see the measure advance Tuesday.

“The bill as amended will give Clemson the opportunity to prove that we can generate efficiencies and opportunities while still maintaining full accountability back to the state,” said Angie Leidinger, the university’s director of government affairs.

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