“This team has been battling all year long and the people that have hung with us, they still have a chance to be on board for a good ride. Those who have bailed out can’t get back on board. But we’ve got a good group of fans and a good group of people who believe in this team, and we certainly in our dugout believe in it and we are going to keep working hard and make our dreams come true.”–Jack Leggett to SportsTalk 5/21/14
Enough of this nonsense. Seriously, enough. Everyone needs to leave Jack Leggett alone. This talk about bouncing one of one of the all-time great college baseball coaches is absurd. The season isn’t even over yet and people have their pitchforks out, ready to run off a guy that has made Clemson one of the elite teams in college baseball.
Okay, so it’s been three years since Clemson made it to the College World Series. Oh my, three whole years! This means program is in shambles? Look, just because Clemson stiches its goal of Omaha on the back of its hats doesn’t mean the season is a complete bust if they don’t make it there.
No one is denying the past few seasons have been disappointing, especially by Clemson standards. However, to cite this has grounds for the termination of a hall of fame coach is asinine. Lots of programs, established ones at that, have downticks. Texas is an example; Augie Garrido’s team is a national power, but in 2012 the Longhorns finished 30-22 and missed the postseason. Last year they were even worse, finishing with a 27-24 mark, 7-17 in the Big 12. Garrido’s team has rebounded a tad this year. The finished the regular season at 37-16, but they were a very pedestrian 13-11 in the Big 12. They should be back in the postseason this year, but are far from a favorite to go to Omaha. Do you think Garrido forgot how to coach?
UCLA is the defending College World Series champs and another program that is a perennial power that, like Texas, never has a shortage of talent. This year the Bruins finished with a 23-29 record and only won 10 league games. Someone needs to be fired, right?
By contrast, Clemson has only missed the postseason once since Jack Leggett took over the program in 1994. That was in 2008. Two years later he had them back in Omaha.
The point here is that it is completely unfair to say Leggett’s program is in the dumbs because it has been 408 months since they’ve made the trek to Omaha. Omaha is, and should be, the goal every year at programs like Clemson, Texas and UCLA, but the fact of the matter is getting there is tough. And with the growing amount of parity in college baseball today, it’s only getting tougher.
Here’s another issue people have with Leggett, and frankly this might be the biggest beef: He’s been losing to South Carolina. Apparently Dabo Swinney is the only Clemson coach who gets a pass for losing to the Gamecocks. But the fact that USC went directly though Clemson en route to its first CWS title still stings for a lot of Tiger fans. That’s natural. That’s justified. But that is not a reason to fire a coach. Yes, Clemson is in a rut against the Gamecocks. Then again, a lot of team are. If struggling against the USC baseball program was grounds for firing the past four years, well, there would be a lot of unemployed coaches around the country.
Clemson fans need to remember this: USC also had a downtick right before it went on this huge run. After the Gamecocks made it to the CWS three straight years, they went four years without making it. Teams with talent too. Players like Justin Smoak and Reese Havens didn’t sniff Omaha. USC lost in Regionals in Atlanta and Raleigh; they lost Super Regionals in Athens and Chapel Hill. These weren’t bad teams by any stretch, but that didn’t stop some USC fans from screaming that changes needed to be made. Ray Tanner was feeling some heat from fans to make changes on his staff. Does “Fire Calvi!” ring a bell? Instead, Tanner held steady and the rest is history. Clemson should do the same with Leggett.
It is sad that someone has to defend Jack Leggett here, because frankly, his record speaks for itself. He’s intense, yes, but that’s not a bad thing. He’s got his own style and it has and continues to work. What is disappointing is how many fans that have enjoyed the success that Leggett helped build, have turned on him.
Jack Leggett stats:
- 1,299 win career wins, 10th most in D-1 history
- 922 wins at Clemson since 1994. That is the 7th most wins of any coach in college baseball in that span.
- Leggett has led Clemson to a winning record in the ACC regular season in 20 of his 21 years.
- Leggett has 235 wins over top 25 teams, 127 wins over top 10 teams and 62 wins over top five teams.