Matt Connolly

What makes USC’s baseball program one of the nation’s best?

Some of the top names in the college baseball coaching world are being thrown around for the vacant South Carolina job by national media members.

Why? Because USC has one of the top programs in the country.

Oklahoma State’s Josh Holliday, Arizona’s Jay Johnson, Clemson’s Monte Lee, Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan and TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle are some of the names that have been mentioned by D1Baseball and Baseball America as possibilities for the USC job.

Each of those coaches is currently in a good spot, but South Carolina’s program provides advantages that few others do.

The Gamecocks have one of top facilities in the country in Founders Park, a stadium that was ranked third nationally by college coaches and sports information directors that were polled by D1Baseball.

USC also has a fan base that creates an incredible home-field environment, especially when the team is excelling.

South Carolina underachieved mightily from its preseason expectations in 2017 and still finished the year ranked No. 5 in the nation in attendance with an average 7,178 fans per game.

Yes, that number accounts for tickets sold and not for people in seats, but even during midweek games as South Carolina was in the middle of losing eight consecutive conference series there would be 3-4,000 fans in attendance.

For comparison, Florida, a program that has been to the College World Series five times since 2010, averaged 3,845 fans despite being ranked in the top 10 for most of the season and earning a national seed.

Only five programs in the nation averaged more than 7,000 fans this year and South Carolina was one of them even as it went from preseason top five to out of the NCAA tournament.

There is also tradition at USC that few programs can match.

The Gamecocks rank 12th in College World Series appearances with 11 and six of those have come since 2002.

USC is also tied for ninth with two in national championships, both of its titles coming in the past decade.

The facilities, fan support and history are big advantages in recruiting and there is tons of talent in South Carolina and the surrounding states.

Add in the fact that you can work under Ray Tanner, one of the most respected and accomplished college baseball coaches in the country who you know will support the program, and it is easy to see why the South Carolina job is very attractive to potential candidates.

“It is a great opportunity. It has tradition. It has great history. We have a wonderful fan base. We have great opportunities here to be successful, and that has been realized. Hopefully it will be certainly going forward,” Tanner said. “We’ve got a lot of things here to be excited about with our baseball program… It is an outstanding program, and in the next few days I’m looking forward to visiting with some people and sharing information about our Gamecock baseball program.”