COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As college baseball teams across the country prepare for Super Regionals, the search is on to fill the vacancy left by Chad Holbrook in the University of South Carolina's dugout. Some have argued that expectations were too high following former head coach and current USC athletics director Ray Tanner after winning two straight national championships. However, Tanner dismissed the notion with the reminder that he, too, followed tough acts in the coaching ranks as well.
"I came here many years ago with the legacy of Bobby Richardson had and the tenure that June Raines and the success, the tradition, and the history of this program," Tanner said. "I don't think much about that. What I think about is that it is a great opportunity. It has tradition as I mentioned. It has great history. We have a wonderful fan base. We have great opportunities to be successful and that has been realized. Hopefully, it will be certainly going forward."
The expectations from fans and those closest to the baseball program will always remain high and the next man to fill out the lineup cards for the Gamecocks will somehow have to find a way to meet, or preferably exceed, those expectations.
Take note. Holbrook and the Gamecocks finished the year 35-25 while ending the year with a tremendous run in the SEC Tournament as a double-digit seed. Most teams would take a finish like that in a heartbeat. However, South Carolina isn't most teams and the standard the program holds itself to is simple: Omaha or bust.
So what type of coach can get South Carolina back under the lights of TD Ameritrade Park?
"A coach that is much like the ones that have been here in the past," Tanner said. "Coaches that embrace this tradition, embrace this fan base, embrace the expectations, embrace a wonderful atmosphere here at Founders Park with opportunities galore to compete at a high level. And you always hear people talk about the cliché of someone who fits and I think that can be used broadly but someone that understands our culture and maybe has experienced it one way or another being in this region or in the Southeast."
Although a timeline on when the new coach would be hired was not given, Tanner has made assurances that the Gamecocks will be competitive in finding the best fit for the program while remaining in, or possibly surpassing, the salary range of SEC coaches.
"It's way early in the process," Tanner said, "but it's important that we're in the marketplace. I think that you can look at our coaches today across the board and we're pretty close in all of our situations. If those are the numbers in baseball that we're dealing with based on experience and their résumé, I can tell you that's a possibility."
Many programs may go through the process of using a search firm to hire coaches, but Tanner made one thing absolutely clear about Carolina's next coach. The search for that person will start and end with him.
"We will not be hiring a search firm,' Tanner said. "So, I think that I haven't lost the connections maybe that I've had over the years being part of the NCAA Selection Committee. It's enhanced that in a lot of ways. I've had a lot of coaches and athletic directors call me throughout the season telling me how good their teams were as we were starting to pick the teams. But I feel like that is a little bit of an advantage with the relationships that I have created over the years as we pursue hiring a new coach as soon as possible."