How To Become a Professional Athlete with Ray Tanner

Ray Tanner / Former 2x National Champion and Head Coach of the Univ South Carolina Baseball Team, Current Athletic Director of the Univ of South Carolina, Founder of Ray Tanner Foundation

December 01, 2021

Guest Bio

Ray Tanner / Former 2x National Champion and Head Coach of the Univ South Carolina Baseball Team, Current Athletic Director of the Univ of South Carolina, Founder of Ray Tanner Foundation

University of South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner is in his ninth year guiding the Gamecocks' athletics programs. After a long and highly successful career as Carolina's baseball coach, Tanner officially began his new duties on Aug. 2, 2012.

On April 29, 2019, Tanner was awarded a contract extension by the USC Board of Trustees, keeping him in the athletics director chair until 2024.

In addition to his athletics director duties, Tanner has taken an active role on campus, taking a leadership position with the University's response to the recent COVID-19 pandemic as well as serving in a formal capacity as a student mentor at South Carolina.

Tanner's tenure is the third longest as athletics director in Gamecocks history, behind only Rex Enright (13 years) and Mike McGee (12 years).

Under Tanner's watch, Gamecock student-athletes have achieved tremendous success in intercollegiate athletic competition, in the classroom and in the community.

Gamecock student-athletes excel in the classroom. They have posted a cumulative 3.0 grade point average or better in 27-consecutive semesters. More than 1,700 Gamecock student-athletes have earned SEC Academic Honor Roll status since 2015, the most in the league during that time. The departmental GPA of 3.700 in Spring 2020 was a school record, topping the previous mark of 3.338 set in Spring 2019.

Under Tanner's watch, the Gamecocks have won two national championships (2014 equestrian, 2017 women's basketball), 15 SEC regular season and tournament championships and have posted three of the top six finishes in the Learfield IMG College Directors' Cup All-Sports Standings in school history. In 2016-17, the Gamecocks placed 21st and followed that up in 2017-18 with a 26th place finish before logging a 22nd place finish in 2018-19.

As either the head baseball coach or athletics director, 20 of South Carolina's 27 SEC regular season and tournament championships and four of the Gamecocks' seven national championships have come under Tanner.

For each of the past five years, Carolina has claimed the Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series, sponsored by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. The series consists of athletic, community service and academic points in head-to-head matchups against Clemson. South Carolina has never lost the series to the Tigers since it became a sponsored event.

During Tanner's first eight years as the athletics director, the Gamecocks have had 34 teams finish in the Top 10 and 72 finish in the Top 25. During the 2019-20 school year, including sport seasons that were stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carolina had four teams ranked in the Top 10 and six teams in the Top 25. Women's basketball concluded the season ranked number one in the nation, while equestrian finished fourth, women's soccer was sixth, women's golf seventh, softball was 15th and men's tennis was 23rd.

In September 2014, Tanner spearheaded the development of "The Gamecock Student-Athlete Promise," a document that showcases the depth and breadth of the commitments the South Carolina Athletics Department has made to its student-athletes.

As part of the document, USC became the first school in the SEC to guarantee four-year scholarships for all qualifying sports. It also offers former student-athletes the opportunity to return to campus to complete their undergraduate degree as part of the "Gamecock Degree Completion Program."

In fulfilling The Promise, the Gamecock athletics department launched "Beyond Sports," a professional development and internship summer program for student-athletes, who wish to get "real world" experience in their field of study.

As part of giving Gamecock student-athletes a "championship experience" at USC, the commitment to develop the finest facilities in the nation continues.

Since taking on the athletics director role, every athletics program at USC has been the beneficiary of either a new or significantly upgraded practice or competition facility. These include such projects as Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center, Springs-Brooks Plaza and the Bignon Game Day Center, Jerri and Steve Spurrier Football Indoor Practice Facility, USC Soccer Complex, Wheeler Beach Volleyball facility, Carolina Softball Stadium, practice courts, training rooms and weight rooms for basketball and volleyball, and locker rooms in Carolina Natatorium. Carolina hosted the 2017 SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the newly-renovated Cregger Track.

The 2020 football season will see a $22.5 million renovation to Williams-Brice Stadium. The project includes upgrades in premium seating for the East Side, West Side and South Lower as well as a new "2001 Club" which is next to the team entrance onto the field.

Tanner has pushed initiatives meant to recognize and honor South Carolina athletics history and great moments. In 2019-20, South Carolina retired four jerseys during ceremonies for each sport including baseball's Earl Bass, track and field's Miki Barber and Terrence Trammell and softball's Trinity Johnson.

Tanner has negotiated contracts for Gamecock Athletics that have created additional exposure and revenue for the department.

As part of a 10-year agreement with IMG, a new center-hung scoreboard and 360 degree LED ribbon board was added to Colonial Life Arena in 2018. South Carolina's IMG marketing arrangement, finalized in 2016, was ranked as the seventh-largest in college athletics by the Portland Business Journal.

The Gamecocks have a 10-year contract with Under Armour as its official outfitter, which was signed in 2016. At the time of its commencement, the contract was one of the 10 largest in college athletics, ranked by Forbes magazine.

During Tanner's tenure, revenues and expenses for Gamecock athletics have increased more than 52 percent. While the costs of sustaining a major college athletics department is increasing, Tanner has balanced the ledger while continuing to build first-class facilities, recruiting and maintaining outstanding coaches and student-athletes and giving Gamecock student-athletes a "championship experience."

Tanner served on the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee for four years and was its chair for two seasons.

A dedicated community leader whose charitable organization, The Ray Tanner Foundation, 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.

Tanner gained valuable experience 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. He was named the U.S. National Coach of the Year for his work that season.

Tanner was named the South Carolina head coach June 14, 1996, after nine successful seasons as head coach at his alma mater, North Carolina State. He will celebrate his 25th year at South Carolina during the 2021-22 academic year.

Tanner has a bachelor's 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, NC, Tanner grew up in Benson, NC. He is married to the former Karen Donald, a native of Charleston, SC. The Tanners have two daughters, Bridgette Grace ("Gracie") and Margaret Pearl ("Maggie") and one son, Joseph Luke ("Luke").

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