Ray Tanner knows he has a lot to learn on his new job.
So much, in fact, that he admits he doesn’t know what will present the biggest learning curve yet. What he does know is where he’ll go when he has a question.
“Eric Hyman has left a great staff here,” Tanner said Friday as he was introduced as South Carolina’s new athletics director. “There is a great deal of comfort in that.”
Six of the athletics department’s top lieutenants from Hyman will remain on Tanner’s staff. Only deputy athletics director Marcy Girton has gone to join Hyman at Texas A&M. Charles Waddell, who served as associate athletics director under Hyman, and Kevin O’Connell, executive associate athletics director under Hyman, were named athletics deputy director and chief operating officer, respectively, under Tanner.
“All I really have so far is a change in title,” O’Connell said. “Coach Tanner and I will talk in the days to come about what he foresees as my role on a day-to-day basis.”
Waddell hopes to retain his role as chief administrator for the football team, he said, but echoed O’Connell’s opinion that the exact structure of Tanner’s department won’t be known for several weeks.
“Eric did a wonderful job of bringing in good people, and Ray values that as well,” said Waddell, who was the only other person to interview for the athletics directors job. “We have a good plan. In the SEC, you have to advance. You can’t be sitting here trying to maintain, and I think we will have the people in place that will keep us advancing.”
O’Connell has been the sport administrator for the baseball team for the last seven years and has come to know Tanner well in that time, he said.
“We spent a lot of cold February nights together,” he said. “We talked at length about philosophy. He was always interested in administration.”
South Carolina president Harris Pastides believes the Gamecocks’ staff will help Tanner make up for his lack of administrative experience.
“When I had a question for Eric about something technical, whether it be financial or facilities, you know what his most common answer was? ‘Hold on, let me call Kevin or let me call Marcy. I’ll get that answer for you,’ ” Pastides said. “You might have looked at another candidate and they might have had more years of senior administrative experience but less of something else.”
Tanner will be more than a figurehead, though, O’Connell said.
“Ray brings wonderful attributes to the job,” he said. “He’s a visionary. He’s a hard worker. He knows how to build a team. That is transferable from the field to administration. He’s wonderful in the community. He will do great things for us in fund-raising. He has a great feel for how facilities are built. He brings wonderful attributes to the job, and he has a veteran team that stands ready to help him in any way.”