This is what Mike McGee envisioned.
Luring baseball coach Ray Tanner from N.C. State in 1996 was the initial move. An $800,000 upgrade of South Carolina's baseball facilities demonstrated the Gamecocks athletic director's commitment to lifting the program to national prominence.
South Carolina's magical season on the diamond is the final step of McGee's ultimate quest -- giving the Gamecocks the shortest route to Omaha.
Fresh off a sweep of Tennessee, the No. 1 Gamecocks (50-6, 25-5 SEC) are virtually assured one of 16 regional sites to be awarded today at 3 p.m. South Carolina established a new mark for SEC wins in a season and should also have a lock on hosting a Super Regional if it advances out of the regional.
"We have taken a very aggressive approach with the bid," said McGee who refused to reveal the value of USC's bid. "Some schools take on a different competitive position, some have a different element of risk they're willing to take. We're not playing games with the process."
The NCAA spurned the Gamecocks' $110,925 bid in 1998. USC hasn't hosted a regional since 1985.
No. 7 Georgia Tech (42-14) will likely receive its first regional since 1993 and third in school history. Sterling Brown, Tech's senior associate athletic director, believes the Yellow Jackets' first ACC title since 1997 justifies their request.
"I think (the chances) are very good," Brown said. "I'd be surprised and hurt if we didn't get one."
Because regional sites are chosen prior to conference tournaments, the selection committee must decide which programs would warrant invitations without winning their league title.
"One of the key criteria is when the baseball committee feels that the team could certainly get an at-large bid," said Wayne Burrow, assistant director of (NCAA) championships.
Clemson associate athletic director Linda White said the Tiger's national rank and previous experience as a regional host will aid their quest to land another bid. The No. 6 Tigers (42-13, 17-7 ACC) have hosted regionals four of the past six years.
A bid for one of eight Super Regional locations also has been made by Clemson, who finished second in the ACC.
"I'm sure we're in (for a regional) but we don't have a clue who else has bid (for a Super regional)," White said. "We've hosted before and done a good job with it. We feel confident that will weigh favorably for us."
Georgia Tech and South Carolina are positioned for Super Regionals as well. The Gamecocks and Yellow Jackets may squeeze out the Tigers for Super Regionals because the NCAA prefers to spread the sites around the country.
"The only negative is the geographic location," White said.
South Carolina's recently resolved flag flap will not affect site allocations. The NCAA Executive Committee had threatened to cancel future NCAA Championships if action was not taken to remove the flag.
Clemson is selling reserved tickets for their yet-to-be-awarded regional for $50. Regional play runs from May 26-28 and will feature four teams per location. Super Regionals will be held June 2-4.
Reach Jimmy DeButts at (706) 823-3221.
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