'Honored and humbled': Ray Tanner leads Hall of Fame Class

nwhite@thestate.comMarch 25, 2013 

— Less than a year after moving from baseball coach to athletics director at South Carolina, Ray Tanner has earned a different kind of advancement. He’s going to be enshrined into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.

Tanner heads a group of eight inductees that also includes former Clemson athletics director Bill McLellan, Clemson quarterback Homer Jordan, former “Voice of the Tigers” Jim Phillips, South Carolina baseball great Hank Small, Furman basketball standout Clyde Mayes, The Citadel running back Travis Jervey, and legendary Bamberg-Ehrhardt baseball coach David Horton. Phillips and Small will be enshrined posthumously.

They will be honored May 13 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Tanner admitted to some surprise at getting the nod so quickly.

“When I got the call, I was certainly honored and humbled with the opportunity to go in with so many wonderful athletes,” he said. “It’s very special. There are a lot of great athletes who have gone into the Hall because of their performances and their accomplishments and their special play. I’m going in as a representative of our baseball players and our coaching staff. It’s not about me. It’s about the people who put me in a position to be inducted.”

In his 16 seasons as the USC coach, Tanner took the Gamecocks to 14 NCAA tournaments, including the last 13 seasons in a row, 10 Super Regionals, six College World Series appearances, four national championship games, and two national titles.

Tanner’s final season was his 25th year as a college head coach. He posted a 738-316 record at South Carolina for a .700 winning percentage, second highest all-time among SEC coaches. His career record, which included nine seasons at N.C. State, is 1,133-489-3.

Over the last three seasons, when USC reached the CWS championship series each time, the Gamecocks set NCAA records with 22 consecutive tournament wins and 12 consecutive wins in the CWS.

Tanner passed along credit for his success to the people who showed faith in him.

“It goes back to (former N.C. State athletics director) Jimmy Valvano, who hired me as a head coach at 27, and Dr. (Mike) McGee, who gave me the opportunity to be here,” Tanner said. “There are all these wonderful people I’ve been associated with. You can’t write a script any better so far for me. I’m very grateful to be at the University of South Carolina.”

Current baseball coach Chad Holbrook, who competed for many years against Tanner as a player and coach at North Carolina, feels fortunate to have worked for him as an assistant since the start of the 2009 season. Their last three seasons together proved most memorable, and Holbrook believes the S.C. Hall made a good choice.

“The consistency of the program over the years in this league is incredible, obviously culminating with two national championships,” Holbrook said. “What he has done for college baseball, and what he’s done for this university and baseball program in general, is unmatched. It was an honor for me to be able to witness it.”

Holbrook, who Tanner both a brother and a father figure, cites his off-field contributions as well.

“It’s not just about being a coach. He’s involved in the community here in the Midlands,” Holbrook said. “He’s a better person than he is a coach, and we all know how good of a coach he was.”

Tanner acknowledged colleagues like Holbrook, who was promoted to be his successor.

“Timing is very important,” Tanner said. “That’s something we all learn early in life. Surround yourself with great people.”

Tickets for the ceremony – a table of eight costs $500 - and program sponsorships may be purchased by calling the SCAHOF office at 779-0905. The event, which includes a reception and dinner, begins at 5:30 p.m.

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