Ray.



"The Ray" is a living and breathing monument devoted to one of the greatest coaches in all of South Carolina's sports history.  It's walls bellow with history of Sarge Frye, Omaha, beta fish, and "rally caps". It's blood and heart fills the seats every spring.  It's lungs cheer the team that inspired an entire city, state, parts of the country and world. Ray Tanner, in every form of the word, is a living and breathing legend.  Upon arrival in 1997, the 3 time National Coach of The Year led the Gamecocks to a 33-24 record.   In 1998, Tanner led them to an NCAA Tourney birth.   The Gamecocks would make the College World Series in 2002, 2003, and 2004. However, they couldn't reach the ultimate pinnacle of a National Championship.  They came close in 2002 losing to Texas in the Championship Game (single game series back then).   The Gamecocks appeared every year in the NCAA Tournament since 2000, embellishing the longest streak of NCAA tournament appearances of any school in the Southeastern Conference.  Then arose a magical year...2010.  The Gamecocks almost looked beaten in the series against Oklahoma without some of JBJ and Brady Thomas's late game heroics.   They would then go on to play their arch nemesis.  Almost as if poetry was being written, the Gamecocks demoralized Clemson to advance to the Championship series against UCLA.  Michael Roth completely stonewalled Clemson's bats in the first game with the tigers.   The Gamecocks crushed UCLA in game 1 to take a 1 game lead in the series.  Needing only one more win and both teams knowing this, the 2nd game was very grinding and trying until that one swing and ding of the bat by Whit Merrifield.  From that moment on, Ray Tanner's legacy and Carolina's history was forever changed.  Ray would take the Gamecocks back to the College World Series and end in beating the Gators in the Championship Series to take back to back Championships.  Tanner would take the team back for a 3rd year to face Arizona in which they would ultimately lose.   Even with the loss, history had been made, spirits had been lifted, and most importantly national media minds had been changed about the athletics at Carolina.  The site inside the Colonial Center when the team came back from Omaha after the 1st National Championship was so overwhelming, I actually wept.   Ray Tanner changed the culture of Gamecock athletics.  Wouldn't you know, with the baseball team excelling, the women's basketball team began excelling, the football team began excelling.  Not that Spurrier or Staley ever needed any help, the motivation and ability to compare and contrast was helpful.   As if Ray hadn't done enough, he was hired as the Athletic Director to imprint his vision of winning over the entire athletic program.  Don't ever misunderstand me, Steve Spurrier and Dawn Staley are remarkable Hall of Fame coaches in their own right. We also surely can't forget about Frank Martin. I believe ultimately Steve Spurrier will lead South Carolina to that SEC Championship we've so badly been wanting....and maybe more. I truly can't wait to see Dawn Staley's team improve over the next couple of years, and I think Frank Martin will end up building a solid and tournament competing basketball team.  However, Ray Tanner gave Gamecock Nation something it had never tasted but thirsted for since, well forever...championship"S".  If you sit back and look at the landscape of Carolina Athletics over the past 3 or 4 years, you can't help but think it all began to change with the "cardiac cocks" and coaching of one man...Ray. 

Robbie McLain