June 22, 2012; Omaha, NE, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Ray Tanner and Michael Roth (29) celebrate after defeating the Arkansas Razorbacks in game thirteen of the 2012 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. South Carolina won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE
As you've probably heard by now, Ray Tanner was named USC's new athletics director today. He was hired on a five-year contract at $675,000 per.
Tanner was considered the top choice throughout the search process, and while Harris Pastides and the University reached out to some interested candidates, it appears that we did not engage in a rigorous, extensive search that included serious interviews. I'm a bit unhappy that this is the case. USC now touts an athletics program that is a big player in the revenue sports, with a solid SEC East contender in football; a well-known, up-and-coming new men's basketball coach; a solid, up-and-coming women's basketball program led by one of the sport's biggest names; and one of the nation's best, if not the best, baseball program. We've undergone major strides over the past few years in terms of updating our revenue models and our facilities to make us more competitive with elite rival programs like Florida and Georgia. Hiring the right AD to replace Eric Hyman was imperative to keeping us on the right track, and we should have made every effort to make sure that we got the absolute best candidate available. Even if a rigorous search process had been conducted solely to vet Tanner, we could at least be sure that the University did its due diligence to make sure that Tanner is competitively qualified.
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That said, I still think this is a strong hire, and maybe Pastides and the BOT are so rightly sure of Tanner that they didn't feel we needed to do any more vetting than we did. Tanner has served as a liaison between Pastides and the athletics department for the last year, apparently because Pastides felt that it would be a good idea to begin grooming Tanner in preparation for the day when Hyman hit the road. As such, it's not like Pastides hasn't had ample opportunity to vet Tanner.
One thing that I particularly like about the hire is how well-liked Tanner is by his fellow coaches and the people surrounding USC athletics. One of an AD's responsibilities is to cultivate relationships with donors and to keep star coaches happy. While we needed what Hyman brought to the table in terms of modernizing our ticketing models and updating facilities, Hyman rubbed some people the wrong way. With Hyman's work on the financial fronts taken care of, we can now look to Tanner to mend key relationships and keep our currently stellar coaching staffs in Columbia as long as possible. On that note, I found Steve Spurrier's response to Tanner's hiring notable: "I applaud the choice of Ray Tanner as athletics director. I believe the President made an excellent decision. Our athletics department is in very good hands with Ray Tanner. I look forward to working with Ray and President Pastides for several years to come." Some of this, of course, is simply customary media-speak, but, at the same time, Spurrier isn't one to blow smoke, and you have to like hearing him say he's planning on staying a few more years. Tanner will cultivate the kind of atmosphere where people will want to stay. If he can put good people around him to keep us on the right track financially, he'll likely be a very solid AD.