Toman answers the question: Why Liberty?

GamecockAnthem caught up with departing USC assistant baseball coach Jim Toman, who has been named the new head coach at Liberty University. Toman has been an integral part of USC's baseball success for 11 years. With Florida choosing as a new head coach another high-profile assistant like Toman, USC fans wanted to know why Toman would choose mid-major program Liberty. Read inside to find out why.

Liberty University is a member of the Big South Conference, a respectable but unquestionably lower level conference in baseball than the SEC, which is consistently one of the strongest baseball conferences in the country. The SEC is also home to the defending national champions in football and basketball as well. So why would Jim Toman choose a school in the Big South, and Liberty in particular? Let's ask the coach:

"My wife and I visited up there, and we visited Thomas Road Baptist Church, and we visited Liberty Christian Academy where our kids would go to school." He said. "Then we visited the school, and basically we found a big-time Christian atmosphere and environment. We thought this would be a great place to live and for the kids to grow up." Toman was outspoken about his faith as a Christian and everyone can understand wanting a good place to raise one's family. But what about baseball, Coach?

"The baseball program is being upgraded, and they're working to do real well in baseball. They're putting resources, the budget, everything in place, and made it too hard to refuse. Everything set perfectly for me. (It) couldn't be any better situation for me."

Toman will still be making regular trips to the Palmetto state, as there are currently three South Carolina teams in the Big South: Charleston Southern University, Coastal Carolina University, and Winthrop University; and soon there will be a fourth, as Presbyterian College will be joining the conference in the 2008-09 academic year. Don't be surprised if Liberty pops up on the USC schedule in the near future.

Toman was hired by Liberty University Director of Athletics Jeff Barber, himself a long-time former Gamecock, who worked as an associate athletic director at USC for many years. In the official announcement of Toman's hiring, Barber said, "I am elated for our University, and more specifically our baseball program, to have Jim Toman become our sixth head coach. He has spent the last 18 years under one of the top head coaches in the country, and is fully prepared to run his own program.

"Furthermore, after talking to dozens of college coaches, major league scouts and front office personnel, it became quite apparent Coach Toman carries with him the reputation as one of the top evaluators of baseball talent in the country. This is a great day for Liberty baseball." he continued.

South Carolina head baseball coach Ray Tanner knows a good thing when he sees it: in 1990 when he was still at NC State, he hired a little known coach named Jim Toman to be his assistant. At the time, Toman only had one year coaching experience at the college level under his belt. Toman quickly proved his worth and was promoted to associate head coach in 1993. The two friends made the trip south to Columbia together. Now, seventeen years later, the dynamic duo is finally being split up, as Toman moves up to a head coaching position of his own.

"Liberty has hired one of the great men in all of college baseball," said South Carolina head baseball coach Ray Tanner. "He is a fantastic coach and a great recruiter. He will take the Flames baseball program to great heights."

"We are extremely appreciative of all the great years of service that Coach Toman has dedicated to Carolina Baseball," added Tanner. "We will miss Coach Toman and his family being a fixture with our Carolina family."

Toman said of his time at South Carolina, "I have enjoyed my 11 years at the University of South Carolina and take away many fond memories. I appreciate the opportunity Ray Tanner gave me to be a member of his staff."

Stay tuned to for all the latest as USC begins the search to find Toman's replacement.

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