Jan. 8, 2016
NASHVILLE, TENN. — South Carolina athletics director and former head baseball coach Ray Tanner was inducted to the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 8 in Nashville, Tenn. Tanner is one of four honorees in the Class of 2016 and is the first coach in Gamecock history to be named to the ABCA Hall of Fame.
Tanner was officially inducted at the ABCA/Diamond Hall of Fame/Coach of the Year Banquet at the ABCA Convention. Induction to the ABCA Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed by the organization. The ABCA was founded in 1945 and the Hall of Fame began in 1966. Alongside Tanner, entering the ABCA Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016 is Robert Babb, Augie Garrido and Sam Riggleman.
“I am humbled to receive this honor from the ABCA,” said Tanner. “I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to don the uniform and the honor is a result of the great student-athletes and tremendous coaches that I have had a chance to work with over the years. I want to thank my wife Karen and our three kids — Gracie, Maggie and Luke — for their continued love and support. They have made a lot of sacrifices and have embraced the life of a coach.”
Tanner worked 25 seasons as a collegiate head coach at South Carolina and NC State as well as seven seasons as an assistant with the Wolfpack. His career record was 1,133-489-3 for a winning percentage of .699 as well as a 738-316 mark in 16 seasons at the helm of South Carolina with a .700 winning percentage, third-highest all-time among SEC coaches.
“I am grateful to Dr. Mike McGee for bringing me to South Carolina and to the late Jim Valvano and Sam Esposito, who both took chances on me when I entered coaching at NC State,” noted Tanner.
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. He was a three-time National Coach of the Year and three-time SEC Coach of the Year.
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 those 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.
Tanner and the Gamecocks 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 flourish.
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.
Tanner also gained valuable experience and helped grow the game of baseball at an international level in his association with USA Baseball. He 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 27 by the legendary late Jim Valvano, becoming one of the youngest head baseball coaches in the nation.