David Cloninger

Tanner made the winning call on new play-by-play man

Derek Scott
Derek Scott

It was a tough choice. When looking for a new play-by-play voice for South Carolina men’s basketball and baseball, should Ray Tanner get a professional broadcaster, an individual already ingrained into Gamecock athletics or a mix of both?

He was lucky to find choice “C” in Derek Scott, a seasoned radio caller who’s broadcast a number of USC events since 2007. Scott seamlessly transitioned into the full-time slot when basketball season began and plans to do the same when baseball comes around.

Scott will do a fantastic job, and he already has a that-will-live-forever call in his corner after P.J. Dozier sank a buzzer-beater over Monmouth. This isn’t to suggest USC could have done better, because Derek’s a friend and extremely qualified.

When it comes to fans, the constant battle is whether it’s better to have a broadcaster or a Gamecock broadcaster?

“We vetted it out and really had some outstanding candidates. Derek is a guy that’s done very well in the broadcasting field. He had the other intangibles to go with it,” said athletics director Ray Tanner. “Derek was someone we felt was extremely qualified, and he’s already a Gamecock.”

This began years ago, when Charlie McAlexander replaced the legendary Bob Fulton. I thought Charlie Mac was a wonderful play caller who never failed to give an accurate representation of what was happening on the field.

But many fans didn’t like Charlie, because he wasn’t enough of a homer. This happens all over college athletics and college media, because many want to read or hear only the good news. In football, I believe, USC fans wanted somebody like Larry Munson, the fabled Georgia announcer who exulted and agonized over every play.

Todd Ellis took over main football duties, and Andy Demetra was found first for women’s basketball, then men’s basketball and baseball when he returned to USC after a brief hiatus.

I like and respect both, as friends and colleagues. Just like Charlie Mac, each were loved or scorned by the message-board faithful. The homer crowd wanted Demetra to be more like Ellis; the play-by-play lovers wanted Ellis to be more like Demetra.

Demetra didn’t graduate from USC, but he left one USC position and chose to come back, where he immersed himself in athletic history with radio calls for back-to-back national championships. His passion for USC was evident.

Demetra left just before football season for the play-by-play job at Georgia Tech. He didn’t seek it, they called him; but he made it clear, and Tanner confirmed, that calling football was a big attraction in trading garnet for gold.

“We discussed it, and we met on a couple of occasions,” Tanner said. “That certainly played a factor.”

To the fans that thought Demetra deserved football, this was a slap. To fans that wanted a Gamecock above all, it was a loss but a bump in the road.

For Tanner, it was the way things are. As AD, he knows every decision he makes is going to please some and annoy others. He has to try and placate folks while doing what’s best for USC, and in this case, there were outside factors involved.

Football is football and the other sports are other sports. The job was never going to be offered with the caveat of football.

“When (Tech) contacted (Demetra), they included football, which doesn’t apply here,” Tanner said. “Some thought that would make our situation not as attractive. I don’t see it that way. It works for us.”

Tanner said there was a lot of interest in the job, and narrowed the search to eight candidates, then three. Scott was always going to be a top candidate and has proven why.

Tanner is satisfied with the performances of Ellis and Scott and was a big fan of Demetra.

All factors were weighed. Tanner’s decision was sound.

“There was some fan input, we engaged in conversations with people. The most important factor to me was the identity,” Tanner said. “When it was said and done, we ended up in the right place with the perfect candidate.”

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