2019 Hall of Fame Inductee: Jim Schaper
In a sport that can center around the individual, former track & field standout Jim Schaper (1971-74) has always been more of a team guy. When he’s back on campus for induction ceremonies as part of the 2019 class of the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame sponsored by the Association of Lettermen, Schaper simply can’t wait to catch up with some of the folks that made his college experience so memorable.
“I’m going to get to see some of my teammates that I haven’t seen in a while,” Schaper said. “I know there’s some that are coming from some pretty far distances. It’s the people, man. It’s always the people.
“I was surprised when they called me about the Hall of Fame. After I had chance to let it sink it, I was incredibly honored to be in this class along with the other great athletes that have been inducted before me. I’m greatly honored.”
Schaper was not only a two-time All-American for the Gamecocks, but he was also a member of the 1974 NCAA Championship indoor two-mile relay team. To this day, Schaper still holds the school outdoor record in the 1,500-meters with a time of 3:42.48, in addition to being part of the team record holders in the two-mile relay and the distance medley relay. While he’s proud of his accomplishment, he’d love to see his individual record broken.
“I’d love to have that record fall. It just hasn’t happened so far,” Schaper said. “I really hope somebody breaks it. It’s been around way too long.”
As a senior in 1974, Schaper was selected to represent the United States in an indoor meet against Russia after qualifying at the AAU Championships in New York. He won a gold medal in the AAU Championships in the sprint medley relay, and a silver medal in the 880-yard run against the Russians in Moscow.
“That was a unique experience,” Schaper recalled. “I’ve been back to Russia a couple of times in my business career, and it’s a lot different now. When I was there in ’74, we were the first U.S. team to run indoors in Russia. It wasn’t very westernized. It was very hardcore communist. You checked into your hotel, and when you left your room, you gave them your key and told them where you were going. Same thing when you came back, and you knew darn well you were being followed.
“When we were driving to the meet, somehow they got lost. Can you imagine that? They kept us on the bus a couple of hours before we ran. It was an interesting time. It was quite an experience for a kid in his 20s.”
“South Carolina offered me first. They were trying to build a program from nothing, and that intrigued me.”
– Jim Schaper
Originally from New York, Schaper moved to Atlanta when he was six. Former South Carolina track coach John West began recruiting Schaper when he was in the tenth grade, and while other schools wanted his services, the team and program building concepts with the Gamecocks were appealing.
“When I was being recruited, he was the first college coach that actually spent any time with me,” Schaper said. “I was fortunate in that I could have gone to a lot of places, but South Carolina offered me first. They were trying to build a program from nothing, and that intrigued me. I wanted to be a part of it.”
In addition to the joy of achieving on the track, Schaper’s best memories of his college days consist of moments that don’t appear in the record books.
“I don’t want to be outing some of my teammates, and I’d be afraid they’d retroactively expel us and take our diplomas away,” Schaper said with a laugh. “I have so many great memories, though. I was so fortunate to make the decision to go to South Carolina. My fondest memories are about the guys that I ran with. They’re still my friends today. Whether it was the road trips that we took, staying out of trouble; we did it together.
“One of my fondest memories was when we took five guys to the NCAA Indoor Championships in ’74. We had five guys qualify, and we ended up getting third as a team. We won the two-mile relay, so I got the chance to share that with my teammates. I’ve got a picture in my office, and there are these three guys that were really happy, and there was me, who was just relieved that I didn’t blow it!”
Following his record-setting career, Schaper didn’t slow down in his professional life.
“I’ve been in the technology business my entire career,” Schaper said. “I ran a company (Infor) the last ten years I was working; a company that I had started. It was in software. We built that company from about $40 million to about $2.3 billion over a ten-year period. The company continues to grow. It turned out to be a sweet gig.
“Every time I say I’m retired, my wife disputes that. I used to run a company, and I don’t anymore, but I do sit on four different boards for public and private companies. I do a good bit of consulting for private equity firms that I’ve done business with, in the past.”
With all his success, Schaper is still looking out for his team with the generosity afforded to his alma mater. He and his wife, Rebecca, were presented with the Garnet Award from the University of South Carolina Athletics Department in 2016. The Garnet Award is the most distinguished and highest honor given to a member of Gamecock Nation as it recognizes an individual for outstanding service and dedication to South Carolina, and it pays tribute to the recipient for unwavering loyalty, sacrifice and commitment to the building of a championship program.
“I could never give back as much as I was given,” Schaper said. “It’s just the right thing to do. I’ve been incredibly lucky in my life. I love college athletics in general, but seeing South Carolina continue to build their facilities and their programs is very important to Rebecca and me. It allows me to hopefully provide opportunities to some, like I was provided, because it made a world of difference to me.”
The Schapers have two grown daughters (Kim and Lauren), and he currently enjoys playing golf and going to the beach, and of course coming back to watch Gamecock athletics events. As he comes back to be honored in the Hall of Fame, Schaper is thankful to the University that not only created memories, but also helped in his path for success on and off the track.
“There were classes that I remember to this day that I used in my career,” Schaper said. “What I really learned was work ethic and commitment. The ability to balance a fulltime athletic career and go to school at the same time; doing what I needed to do to get things done to graduate with a decent GPA. All the student-athletes today know that it’s a fulltime job. It taught me a lot about how you balance and set priorities.
“What really set me up was not just my degree, but what I learned about what it takes to be successful and applied that to a different endeavor once I got out of college.”
To read more about the 2019 Hall of Fame class, click here.