Matt Price spent his Gamecock baseball career finishing what others started. As one of the most feared closers in program history, and a member of South Carolina’s 2010 and 2011 national championship teams, the All-American who left after the 2012 season to pursue a professional baseball career is now finishing what he started by earning his degree from the University through the Carolina Degree Completion Program.
“I was going to be the first one to graduate in my family,” Price said. “I knew I needed it later on in life, after baseball was done, so I wanted to go ahead and finish.”
The Carolina Degree Completion Program is part of the Gamecock Student-Athlete Promise and is for student-athletes who left the university in good academic standing to pursue a professional career, or did not complete their degree due to personal circumstances. The program allows those former student-athletes to apply to be readmitted to the university and come back to campus to finish their degree.
"Student-athletes are eligible for everything they had when they were on scholarship," said Maria Hickman, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Academics and Student Development. "The only parameters are that you have to be in good academic standing when you left the university, and that you also were on athletic aid."
Price isn’t alone. After the May commencement ceremonies, 28 former Gamecocks will have earned their diplomas since the Degree Completion Program’s inception six years ago. Former football student-athletes Fred Bennett and Marcus Lattimore will also be among those earning their diplomas in May through the program. Earning a degree from South Carolina gives them a chance at another career when their playing days are over.
“I want to pursue my plan of coaching at the college level,” Price said. “If that doesn’t happen, then I’ve always had the fall-back plan of teaching and coaching in high school.”
Price majored in sociology with a minor in education
Student-athletes are told about the program while they are in school in case they need it later, and Price has seen several individuals within the baseball program utilize it to earn their degrees.
“I heard about it when I was back here playing ball,” Price said. “Then I spoke to Drew Meyer and Brian Buscher about it, and a couple of other guys I played with. Adrian Morales and Scott Wingo also did it, so it was good for me to do it."
Price is now an advocate for other former student-athletes to come back and earn their degree, regardless of whether they are still playing professional sports.
“I know (Grayson) Greiner just finished his degree recently, and there are other guys I know who haven’t finished. If (pro) baseball isn’t going to help you finish, then come back here and the school will help out.”
While coming back to school can be an adjustment, the program has enjoyed a 100 percent graduation rate, and the returning students have access to all of the support and services that they had as student-athletes, such as the Dodie Academic Enrichment Center and tutoring.
Price noted that walking across the stage at graduation will mean a lot to himself as well as his family.
“It will be awesome,” Price said. “I’ve only seen my dad cry a couple of times. He’s always a big teddy bear, but when he cries, it gets me emotional. I think he’ll cry if I walk.”