University of South Carolina president Dr. Harris Pastides announced July 13, 2012, that longtime Gamecock baseball coach Ray Tanner had been selected as the university's new director of athletics. Tanner began his new duties August 2.
"Sometimes you can search the world over for the perfect candidate and at times you know you have the right leader within your organization," said Dr. Pastides. "For USC, we knew we had the right person on our team already. Ray exemplifies all the qualities I am seeking in an Athletics Director: integrity, a winning attitude, a confident leader and manager and an individual who puts the well-being of our student-athletes above and beyond all other things."
In his first season as AD, Tanner experienced a wealth of success. The football team turned in its highest national ranking in school history, while women's basketball, men's and women's golf, men's and women's tennis, women's indoor and outdoor track & field, men's outdoor track & field, equestrian, men's and women's swimming and diving, softball and baseball all reached the NCAA postseason.
A dedicated community leader whose charitable organization has made a difference in many South Carolina families, a three-time National Coach of the Year and Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, Tanner completed 16 years as head coach at the University of South Carolina, establishing one of the premier programs in college baseball prior to being named AD. He led the Garnet & Black to two NCAA Division I Baseball Championships, a pair of national runner-up finishes, six College World Series appearances, three SEC championships, six SEC Eastern division titles, a SEC tournament crown and 13 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
Under the direction of Tanner, South Carolina's postseason success from 2010-2012 is arguably the greatest run in collegiate baseball history. In the three-year span, the Gamecocks established NCAA records with 22 consecutive postseason wins and 12 consecutive wins in the College World Series. The Gamecocks won the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship in 2010 and 2011 with a national runner-up finish in 2012. South Carolina's 30-4 (.882) record over the past three seasons in the NCAA Tournament is the fifth best three-year postseason record in NCAA history.
In addition, the 2012 CWS trip marked the sixth time in 11 years that South Carolina had reached Omaha. No Division I baseball team has made more appearances than the Gamecocks over the last 11 seasons.
Tanner and the Gamecocks have created one of the top environments in college baseball at Carolina Stadium. After a successful run at Sarge Frye Field through 2008, the Gamecocks made the move to the new $36 million Carolina Stadium where college baseball has continued to grow. South Carolina's total attendance of 295,389 in the 2012 season was second highest in the nation. The average attendance of 7,574 also was a Carolina Stadium record, besting the previous mark of 7,431 in the 2011 season. The Gamecocks also set a record for sellouts in 2012 with 15 games at a capacity of 8,242 fans. In addition, South Carolina set a record for season tickets sold with a total of 5,580 sold in the preseason before the 2012 campaign.
Under Tanner's leadership, South Carolina owns the longest current streak of NCAA Regional appearances among the 14 SEC schools with 13 straight trips to the tournament dating back to the 2000 season. In that span, Carolina has 10 NCAA Super Regional appearances (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012). South Carolina is one of only two schools in the nation to make at least 10 NCAA Super Regionals in the last 13 years and one of only six schools in the country to have reached the NCAA Regionals every season from 2000 to the present.
For all of his accolades, Tanner's uniform No. 1 was retired and the street outside Carolina Stadium was renamed in his honor. He was also inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in May 2013.
The 2012 season was Tanner's 25th year as a collegiate head coach. He posted a 738-316 record at South Carolina with a .700 winning percentage, second highest all-time among SEC coaches. His career record was 1,133-489-3 for a winning percentage of .699. His final 12 teams featured 23 All-Americans.
Tanner gained valuable experience at an international level in his association with USA Baseball. He has served five stints with Red, White and Blue, including in 2003 as head coach for the USA National Baseball Team. At the helm of some of the top freshmen and sophomores in the country, Tanner's club finished with a 27-2 record, the best record for a U.S. National Team (.931 winning percentage) and won a silver medal at the 2003 Pan American Games. He was named the U.S. National Coach of the Year for his work that season. Prior to his head coaching stint, Tanner served as an auxiliary coach under Tommy Lasorda for the 2000 Olympic Team that won a gold medal at the XXVII Olympiad in Sydney, Australia. He was also an assistant under former LSU coach Skip Bertman with the 1995 and 1996 USA teams that culminated in a bronze medal win at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. Tanner also served alongside current Mississippi State coach Ron Polk on Bertman's staff. Tanner's first stint with USA Baseball came as an assistant coach to the national team in the summer of 1993.
Tanner was named the South Carolina head coach June 14, 1996, after nine successful seasons at North Carolina State. At NC State, Tanner led his alma mater to seven appearances in the NCAA postseason tournament and ranked second for most wins in school history. He was the 1990 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year and in 1993 was named Atlantic Region Coach of the Year when his team won 49 games.
Tanner was affiliated with the Wolfpack baseball program for more than 20 years. He came to the Raleigh campus in the fall of 1976 as a player following an outstanding career at South Johnston High School in Four Oaks, N.C. A four-year starter at shortstop and third base, he earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors his senior season and still ranks among the Wolfpack's all-time leaders in several categories. Following his playing career, Tanner served as an assistant for NC State coach Sam Esposito, overseeing recruiting efforts and coaching third base. During his tenure as an assistant, the Wolfpack reached the NCAA Tournament twice. He had additional duties as assistant to the athletics director and as assistant athletics director in charge of game operations.
After Esposito's retirement, Tanner was named head coach at the age of 28 by the legendary late Jim Valvano, becoming one of the youngest head baseball coaches in the nation.
Tanner has a bachelor of science degree in recreational administration from NC State (1980) and a master's of public affairs, public administration (1983).
Born Donald Ray Tanner, Jr., March 25, 1958, in Smithfield, N.C., Tanner grew up in Benson, N.C. He is married to the former Karen Donald, a native of Charleston, S.C. A University of South Carolina graduate, she was formerly head women's athletic trainer at NC State. During the summer of 1997 she served as trainer for the Charlotte Sting in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). She is the former director of athletics and director of sports medicine at Columbia College.
They have two daughters, Bridgette Grace ("Gracie") and Margaret Pearl ("Maggie") and one son, Joseph Luke ("Luke").