**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**
Confirming the rumors that have been swirling around for the past day, South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner announced on Friday morning that Mark Kingston will be the next Gamecock baseball head coach.
The Board of Trustees held a conference call where they approved a six-year contract for Kingston, who served the past three years as the head coach for South Florida. Kingston's base salary is $475,000, and he'll receive an extra $125,000 in annual media/personal services compensation to bring his yearly salary to $600,000.
"I'm extremely impressed with his background as a baseball coach (and) the path that he has taken," Tanner said of Kingston during the conference call. "Throughout this vetting process with numerous candidates, it has become very apparent to me that he is extremely poised in the ability to communicate, relate and motivate the student-athletes of today.
"He's an outstanding coach. His recruiting prowess has been demonstrated throughout his career, certainly in the last couple of years with a top-five recruiting class at his previous institution. I continue to be impressed with his ability to be so well-rounded to handle the challenges and meet the expectations that we have here at the University of South Carolina."
Kingston's contract takes effect immediately, expiring on June 30, 2023. He will be owed $3 million by the university if he's terminated without cause during the upcoming contract year, but that number will fall each successive year. Kingston will owe $2 million to begin with if he terminates the contract. He'll receive the same monetary incentives as Holbrook did, such as if he hosts a regional, Super Regional, makes a College World Series appearance, etc.
There will be a press conference on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. to formally introduce the new coach.
Kingston comes to the Palmetto State from Tampa, where he immediately made a difference with South Florida. In his first season in 2015, Kingston led the Bulls to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. He spent three seasons with the team, leading USF to two NCAA Tournaments.
The Bulls won 42 games this past season, which was the first time that had happened at the school since 1996. They defeated both Florida and Florida State on the road that year, the first time in program history that had happened in the same season.
South Florida was strong on the mound during Kingston's tenure, twice setting the record for strikeouts in a season. The 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 2017 led the nation.
Prior to USF, Kingston was the head coach at Illinois State for five seasons where he twice set the single-season wins record for the team. The Redbirds won two regular season Missouri Valley Conference championships, one conference tournament championship and Kingston was the conference coach of the year twice.
Kingston spent a lot of time as an assistant coach for successful programs, most notably as part of the Miami staff that won the 2001 College World Series title. He also spent six years with Tulane, helping it to six postseason appearances, two NCAA Super Regional appearances and a berth in the 2005 College World Series.
Kingston is known around the ranks as a top-level recruiter and excellent developer of talent. While his South Florida teams excelled on the mound, he's also known for throwing out good offenses year in and year out. This past season, USF shortstop Kevin Merrell set an American Athletic Conference record with a .384 batting average and was the 33rd overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.
"I'm very confident that our players and our fan base will be excited to have him as our next head coach," Tanner concluded.