COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s national championship coach Ray Tanner has hung up his baseball uniform to become the Gamecocks’ new athletic director.
University President Harris Pastides made the move official Friday. A short time before the announcement, the school’s board of trustees approved a five-year deal worth $675,000 a season for Tanner’s new role.
“It’s kind of funny you change one uniform for another and this one makes you a lot more nervous,” Tanner said in front of several hundred fans, dignitaries, administrators and coaches at a reception room in South Carolina’s football stadium.
Tanner, 54, is replacing Eric Hyman, who resigned after seven seasons to become the athletic director at Texas A&M. Pastides appointed a five-member advisory committee to give input on possible interim AD candidates. Instead, the president said he had the best man in Tanner ready and willing to take over.
“Sometimes you can search the world over for the right person,” Pastides said. “And sometimes you have the right person in your own bullpen.”
Tanner steps into a prosperous and successful situation – plenty of it from the performance of his baseball team. The Gamecocks won the College World Series in 2010 and 2011 and reached the championship series in Omaha last month before losing to national champion Arizona.
Steve Spurrier’s football team won a record 11 games last season. The women’s basketball team, led by Dawn Staley, was back in the NCAA tournament for first time in nine seasons. And in March, Hyman hired Kansas State’s Frank Martin to turn around a sagging men’s basketball team.
The department’s athletic progress report (APR) was the highest it’s been across the board since the NCAA began keeping track. And it is well into a $200 million overhaul of the department’s aging facilities.
Pastides wanted someone who could build off the blueprint Hyman laid down. Tanner showed evidence of that right away, naming two of Hyman’s trusted administrators to key posts: Charles Waddell as deputy athletic director and Kevin O’Connell as chief operating officer.
Staley, a member of Pastides’ advisory panel, said Tanner quickly became the top candidate.
“And that did not change throughout our quick but thorough search process,” she said.
Tanner will name his baseball successor on Monday and his top assistant Chad Holbrook is expected to get the job.
“I’ll be a very short search,” Tanner said.
Tanner let Pastides know of his interest in the open AD job soon after Hyman resigned. Pastides wanted to make sure Tanner was prepared to step away from the diamond – and that Gamecock fans wouldn’t be too upset at losing a national championship coach.
But Tanner promised the president he was ready for the next stage of his career. Tanner served as an assistant athletic director at North Carolina State and had long had a goal of returning to administration.
“My move to this chair comes as a surprise to some, but not to those who know me well,” he said.
Tanner understands he won’t have all the answers in this high-dollar, fast-paced new world of college athletics.
“The things I don’t know, there’s a staff here that will,” he said.
Men’s soccer coach Mark Berson has worked with his new boss since Tanner was brought on as baseball coach in 1996. Berson said Tanner has the people skills and the knowledge of the job to bring South Carolina athletics even more success. “You can’t coach at this level without having management skills,” Berson said.
Tanner felt two years ago after his first national championship he was ready to move. He was interested in the job back in 2005 before the Gamecocks selected Hyman. Tanner didn’t want to let this latest opportunity slide by.
“I never wanted to be a coach who stayed until it was too late,” he said.