May 26, 2018

Defining Season for Leggett & Clemson Baseball

Editor’s Note: This page contains occasional opinion pieces on a variety of topics that are of interest to the author.

2015 is as an important, perhaps legacy defining, season for Jack Leggett at Clemson.

After nearly climbing the mountaintop in 2010 the Tigers have disappointed the last 4 postseasons and had a string of trips to Omaha every four years snapped, not to mention the embarrassment of last year’s regional in Nashville.

At the end of the 2014 season many Tiger fans felt the time was right for a change. The team had grown stale and underperformed for a team that entered the season ranked 13th and brought back a solid nucleus of players including several that are now playing professionally.

One of the most difficult decisions an athletic director has to make is to determine when it’s time to make a change when the current coach is a well-respected Hall of Famer who has over two decades on the job.  Firing a guy four years into his first job is different than firing a coach 21 years into it with a Hall of Fame plaque with his name on it.

There’s no easy answer as loyalists point to past accomplishments, some more distant than others, or the next recruiting class that will be disrupted if a change is made.  Some even go with more opaque reasons such as “class” and “loyalty”.

Those in the other camp point to embarrassing losses to Western Carolina, Georgia Southern, Oregon and Xavier, the latter two in the regional, as evidence that something needed to change.

It hasn’t helped Leggett that Clemson fans saw back to back National Championships in Columbia, not to mention series domination by the Gamecocks in recent history.  No longer being a national power is one thing.  Not being a national power while your in-state rival wins 2 national championships and dominates you on the field is another.

Change shouldn’t be made for the sake of change.  It should be made when it’s apparent that a team isn’t progressing, playing to the expected standard, appears to underperform consistently and there’s not an acceptable plan to fix the issues.

The college athletics landscape is littered with once proud programs in various sports that made a change because of some need, whether real or perceived, and ousted a long time, successful, coach in favor of change only to find out the grass is not always greener.  Decades have been lost trying to get back to the level at which the “legend” was fired.

On the flip side, letting past accomplishments obscure the current malaise can also set a program back years as other teams fill the void with facilities, recruiting and on field performance.

Once lost, momentum is a difficult thing to regain and rarely does a coach recapture the fan base once the relationship begins to decline.

It’s not always a simple equation of wins and losses, Super Regionals and CWS appearances when making decisions of this type, especially for a non-revenue sport, and many factors were weighed in the decision to bring Leggett back.

The players support their coach and I expected nothing less than loyalty to the man that decided he wanted them on his team.  That’s an admirable quality.

Dan Radakovich opted for cosmetic changes versus the overhaul many feel necessary. Time will tell if that was the correct decision, but come opening day when the Tigers run out to their positions Clemson baseball fans will cheer, pull for the Tigers and hope they win.

Not long ago they expected to win.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I’m on vacation this week so there will not be the typical posts related to Clemson baseball metrics, but I did contribute my weekly Clemson baseball post for orangeandwhite.com earlier in the week and here’s a preseason post I did on the importance of this season for Jack Leggett and Clemson baseball. […]

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