Tanner: USC Olympic sports need boost

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Gamecock Club spring meeting

By Robert Howey



The University of South Carolina Gamecocks have produced landmark success in recent seasons, and USC athletic director Ray Tanner said there’s room for more.

Tanner, the former USC baseball coach who led the Gamecocks to back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011, said USC wants to make strides in its Olympic sports.

The Gamecocks have experienced major bowl wins, NCAA postseason bids for women’s basketball and national rankings, but there’s room to grow for the school’s Olympic sports.

“Some of our facilities for Olympic sports aren’t what they need to be,” Tanner said. “Our women’s track team runs meets with porta potties beside the track. That doesn’t cut it. In some areas, we aren’t there, but we’re going to get there.”

Tanner’s remarks came during the annual spring meeting of the Lancaster County Gamecock Club at the Bradley Building at the University of South Carolina Lancaster on Thursday, April 12.

Tanner noted the USC Board of Trustees recently approved 53 million dollars for facility upgrades for the Athletics Village – the Weems Baskin Track, Field House, and Tennis Complex.

Tanner said the Gamecocks’ Equestrian team recently won the first Southeastern Conference championship.

The Gamecocks defeated No. 2 Auburn at AU’s horse center to capture the first SEC crown under Tanner’s leadership as AD.

On the horizon, the Gamecocks will add their 21st varsity sport with sand volleyball.

“It’s beach volleyball, the No. 1 emerging sport,” Tanner said. “It will start in the fall and be played in the spring. There will be about 30 teams in the country.”

Tanner said the Gamecocks are getting it done in class.

“We have 550 student-athletes and about 400 are on scholarship,” he said. “Our average GPA is 3.276.

“Our football team GPA was 2.91, highest in school history,” he said. “I’m extremely impressed by our young men and women away from the field and court.”

Tanner has been away from the field after yielding the baseball program to Chad Holbrook to become the Gamecocks’ AD.

“They are 27-7 overall and 8-4 in the conference and on pace to have a good year,” he said with a smile. “After all, they finally got a good coach.”

The USC baseball team, on a three-game road trip to Florida, was 0-2 in its first two games this weekend.

Tanner said the Gamecocks are blessed to have great fans.

“You are one of the reasons I decided to come here,” Tanner said. “You play a role. We appreciate who you are. We have great fans and great support.”

Tanner said when he was the Gamecocks’ baseball coach, the fans made a major impact.

He recalled the 2011 season when USC hosted UConn in the NCAA Super Regional for the chance to advance to the College World Series.

“UConn beat Clemson to win the regional and then came to Columbia,” Tanner said. “When they came here, they saw a packed house and I’m not sure they were used to that in Storrs, Connecticut. The passion and enthusiasm you have is tremendous. You have value as a fan.”

Tanner, during a question and answer session, touched on possible SEC expansion.

“We’re not seeking new members, but if a couple of teams came along, our commissioner might consider it,” he said.

Jay Brown, an assistant director with the Gamecock Club, noted the Gamecocks’ Fanfest is slated for May 1 at Knights’ Castle in Fort Mill.

“Coach Spurrier and coach Frank Martin will be there,” Brown said.

The Lancaster County Gamecock Club presented Tanner with a check for $2,000 and also a check for $1,000 to the cheerleaders, a team the Lancaster County Club supports.

Lancaster County Gamecock Club president Joe Grier also presented Tanner with a Gamecock sculpture.