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Aug. 2, 2010

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Ray Tanner and Jerry Meyers

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The University of South Carolina has announced the hiring of Jerry Meyers as assistant head coach for the baseball team. Meyers, who served as an assistant at South Carolina from the 1997-2004 seasons, returns to Carolina to coach the pitchers following six years as head coach at Old Dominion.

“It is great to welcome back Coach Meyers to the Gamecock baseball program,” said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. “Coach Meyers was with me at the beginning of my tenure at South Carolina, through the first eight years that included three College World Series appearances. I’m excited to have him returning to lead our pitching staff. His wife, Chris, and daughters, Audrey and Riley, are very much a part of our family and we are ecstatic to have them back.”

Meyers helped turn around the Old Dominion baseball program in his previous six seasons (2005-10) leading the Monarchs to the top of the Colonial Athletic Association including a co-regular season championship in 2007 and the top seed at the CAA Tournament. That 2007 squad featured the top pitching staff in the CAA with a 3.97 ERA and 471 strikeouts. In his second year at ODU in 2006, the school enjoyed one of the nation’s biggest improvements with the squad compiling a 39-17 overall record and finishing second in the CAA. That season ODU climbed back into the national top 15 for the first time since the mid 1980s. Meyers earned CAA Coach of the Year honors with four of his players selected in the MLB draft and the team breaking or tying eight school and individual records. He compiled a 167-158 record during his tenure with the Monarchs.

Meyers also served one summer on the staff of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team that won a gold medal in the 2008 FISU World Championships in Europe and finished the summer with a 24-0 record and an impressive 0.88 earned run average. Among the pitchers he worked with that summer included current MLB pitchers Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals) and Mike Leake (Cincinnati Reds). Along with an earned run average under one, his staff also struck out 268 batters to just 72 walks in 224 innings pitched with opponents batting just .154 as well.

“I’m thrilled to be back in the Gamecock family,” said Jerry Meyers. “When the opportunity presented itself to rejoin this program, I couldn’t say no. My family and I have deep roots in Columbia and it’s wonderful to be part of this great community once again. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Coach Tanner. He is the best baseball coach in the country, leading the best baseball program in the country, with the best fans. I’m looking forward to working alongside him, Coach Holbrook and Coach Esposito to compete for many more championships. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and go to work.”

“I had a great experience in my time as head coach at Old Dominion,” added Meyers. “I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the people at Old Dominion – the staff, the players, the fans, the administration. It was an invaluable experience and I am very much indebted to them. It allowed me to be me even more prepared as I step back onto the campus here at South Carolina.”

Meyers joined Ray Tanner in Columbia in the summer of 1996 after Tanner was announced as the school’s new head coach. In eight seasons with the Gamecocks, Meyers built one of the top pitching staffs in the country and coached 10 All-American pitchers along the way. The Gamecocks reached the NCAA Tournament in six of eight seasons while Meyers was here along with a national runner-up finish (2002) three College World Series appearances (2002, 2003, 2004), two Southeastern Conference championships (2000, 2002), four SEC Eastern Division titles (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003) and one SEC Tournament title (2004).

Among the stars that learned under the helm of Meyers was Kip Bouknight (1998-01), who garnered National Player of the Year honors in 2000 along with the Golden Spikes Award, presented by USA Baseball to the top amateur player in the country. Bouknight put together one of the greatest single-season years in college history in 2000 posting a 17-1 record to help lead the Gamecocks to a 56-10 record and an SEC Championship. His 17 single-season wins is a school record and is tied for the most wins in a season by an SEC pitcher. Bouknight joined with Peter Bauer and Scott Barber to form the “Killer B’s,” a dominant trio that saw all three pitchers earn All-America recognition. The 2000 pitching staff posted a 3.51 team ERA.

In 2001, the Gamecocks again had one of the top pitching staffs in the country with the group finishing with a 3.41 team ERA. The squad featured All-America closer Lee Gronkiewicz, as well as a pair of 10-game winners in Bouknight and left-hander Gary Bell. That year, Bouknight rewrote the record book at South Carolina as the winningest pitcher in school history, compiling a career record of 45-12 in a four-year span, also setting a school records for strikeouts (457) and decisions (57).

When the Gamecocks returned to Omaha in 2002 to play for a national title, the pitchers were right at the forefront – chief among them was right-hander Blake Taylor, who set a school record and led the nation in saves with 21 on the year on his way to All-America honors. The 2003 staff was another star-studded group that reached the College World Series and led the SEC with a 3.57 ERA. The staff featured David Marchbanks, who tallied a 15-3 record and was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year in addition to All-America honors. Marchbanks was one of three USC pitchers drafted and signed by professional baseball in 2003. Steven Bondurant signed with Oakland and Chris Hernandez with Pittsburgh. In Meyers final season at Carolina in 2004, the Gamecocks made a third straight trip to Omaha with the pitchers putting together a 3.40 team ERA, the school’s best earned run average in the last 28 seasons. Left-hander Matt Campbell was a first round MLB draft selection by the Royals with right-hander Billy Buckner selected in the second round by the Royals and right-hander Chad Blackwell also a sixth round choice by Kansas City. Blackwell became the Gamecocks’ fourth reliever in five seasons to pick up All-America honors as he led the nation in saves with 20 with right-hander Aaron Rawl also picking up All-America accolades with a 13-4 overall record.

Meyers came to Carolina after one year at Old Dominion as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Prior to his first stint at ODU, Meyers spent four years as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington where he worked with pitchers and catchers. The 1995 Seahawk staff ranked 11th nationally in earned run average at 3.37 with two pitchers ranked among the nation’s top 15 in strikeouts per nine innings.

Meyers also coached at Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Fla., 1989-91 (ranked 4th nationally in 1989) where several pitchers went on to sign professionally or with Division I schools including Tim Davis (Seattle Mariners) and former Gamecock pitcher Scott Pace. Meyers managed the 1994 Winchester, Va., team in the Shenandoah Valley league to a second place finish. He is also a popular clinician and has worked camps at a number of institutions.

He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of South Alabama from 1988-89. Born Jerald Ray Meyers March 8, 1965 in Harvey, Ill., Meyers grew up in Chesterton, Ind., where he attended Chesterton High School, earning four letters in baseball and basketball. He was a second team all-state selection in basketball.

Meyers was a four-year starting pitcher at Iowa State University where he was named to the All-Big Eight Conference team as a senior. He was the team captain as a junior and senior and was named the team’s Most Valuable pitcher his senior year.

Meyers received a bachelor of business administration degree in management from Iowa State and the master of education in physical education from South Alabama in 1989 with an emphasis in exercise and movement technology. Meyers and his wife, Chris, have two daughters, Jaye Riley born July 31, 1999, and Audrey Reese, born December 31, 2001.


Head Coach Ray Tanner
A few weeks ago, when it was apparent that we were going to need a new pitching coach, I immediately picked up the phone and called my friend and colleague, Jerry Meyers, to gauge his interest. He didn’t say `yes’ right away, so I continued to talk really fast, and I told him it was time to come home. His two children were born in Columbia, and he made three trips to the College World Series, among other things. And so I hung up before he could say too much and told him I would be in touch – quite often. I proceeded to go through the process and visited with some other people, but we continued to have dialogue. Our chief recruiter, coach Chad Holbrook, got involved, he put his two cents in and stayed in touch as well. In the end, it all worked out that we got Coach Meyers to come back and be a part of this program once again. Eight years he was here with us, we did a lot of tremendous things. He had a lot of success at Old Dominion, he was on the USA coaching staff, he was Coach of the Year in the (Colonial Athletic Association). Certainly, resume-wise, he’s got to be one of the top pitching coaches in the country. I’m ecstatic, I’m delighted, to now have him back in the Carolina family. He will now be the assistant head coach, he’ll have his hand in on the pitching staff, and we’re just excited to have him back. We’re delighted to have him back in our family, and we look forward to great things in the future.

Assistant Head Coach Jerry Meyers
First of all, it’s a tremendous honor to have Coach Tanner make that kind of phone call and to have me in mind. I think a lot of it goes back to the eight best years, not only in my coaching career, but in our lives with our two daughters being born here, and my wife and I being so well-received the first time we were here. When Coach Tanner calls, you’re going to listen long and hard to what he has to say. I’ve always had an affection for the program, the area and the media, and we’re excited to get back and have this opportunity. The way we were treated here the first time is the main thing. The people we were surrounded by, all the help that we got in trying to make that move the first time… Lot of tremendous memories. I guess the only thing I regret about taking the job this time is that I didn’t take it about six months ago and get to experience everything that’s happened. But our goal is going to be to do everything we can to hit the ground running and try to do my part to do the best I can to get us back to that situation again. A lot of things went into the decision, and it all comes down to what Coach Tanner’s done along the way for me and my family… It’s great to be back.

On how long it took to make the decision to return to Columbia…
To say I knew 100 percent that I would come back … I knew I wanted to come back at some point in time. But it’s all about timing and knowing that family-wise, career-wise, that it’s the best move to make. I’m one to make sure that I prioritize decision-making that way. Family is going to be toward the top, if not at the very top, of every decision that I make. The tradition here, and all that we have to offer here as a program, obviously was a good move in all ways that you can look at it.

On giving up a head coaching job to return as an assistant coach…
That’s a great question. Coach Tanner called, that’s why. The thing you have to keep in perspective, there’s a lot of opportunities. Being a head coach is being a head coach. We had a lot of positives going at Old Dominion, and some of those resources were going to continue to improve there with new leadership within the athletic department. It was as exciting a time to be at Old Dominion as any, and that’s what made it a little tougher. But it’s not all about being a head coach. I’d like to be here for quite some time. I’m not making this step to make another quick step out to another “better” position. I’ve not made a wrong move yet professionally, and this is not anything but the best move right now for us and, hopefully, for the program.

On working with the Gamecocks’ pitching staff…
I’m extremely excited about that. You make yourself a very good coach if you have very good players around you, and you don’t mess them up. We’re hopefully going to have an opportunity, just like we’ve had the last several years… Who’s not going to be interested that we’re going out there to recruit? A lot of things have to fall into place; we’re not going to get every player, every pitcher that we’re trying to recruit, but I think we’d have a chance at just about all of them.

On having big shoes to fill as Mark Calvi’s successor…
Absolutely. The ultimate level of success was the last game this program played. That being said, that’s why we do this. We love to play the game, we love to coach the game, we love to be in those settings. And that’s part of the reason that I’m back. The program’s been in those kinds of settings, those kinds of games… And I want to be back in that situation with this program, and I want to do everything I can to help it achieve that.