Where does Alabama baseball go from here?
It’s a pertinent question for a proud program which has fallen on hard times. Consider these facts.
It’s been more than a decade since Alabama won the SEC regular season title (2006).
It’s been more than a decade since Alabama hosted an NCAA Regional (2006).
It’s been nearly two decades since Alabama went to the College World Series (1999).
Now the program faces a setback of its own making. Regardless of whether you think Greg Goff was a good or bad hire and regardless of whether you think he should have been fired or retained to build his team with his own players, the fact remains that he’s gone.
He wasn’t scooped up by another program. Alabama acted of its own volition.
Time will tell whether that decision was wise or foolish. But, in his first substantive action as UA director of athletics, Greg Byrne acted decisively. That’s a sign of leadership.
Byrne now is on the clock to make his first hire at the school, and all signs point to that he’ll attract a top, qualified candidate.
“If Greg Byrne felt like that program was going the wrong direction with (Goff) in charge, they probably saved more of the program by doing it now rather than doing it next year to when the situation is even worse than it is now,” Kendall Rogers of d1baseball.com said. “In reality they’re probably saving themselves more grief than they would have otherwise.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of interest. If you look around the country, I’ve already had two or three big-name coaches reach out to me getting my thoughts about what I think about the job. Alabama has a chance to get some pretty good names.”
It can be and maybe currently is an attractive job. A fertile state and region of the country in which to recruit helps. A $42 million stadium is a crown jewel.
A difficult task
An easy job, though, it is not.
The scholarship inequities the program faces is well known. Alabama isn’t able to supplement the 11.7 scholarships the NCAA allows with lottery scholarships that most other SEC programs get. Alabama also doesn’t allow in-state tuition to neighboring states that some schools allow.
All in all, Alabama is an attractive big-name job, but it’s not easy.
“It’s right there with Auburn,” Rogers said. “When you look at the jobs, obviously it’s not Tennessee, it’s not Kentucky, it’s not Missouri. I would say it’s a step above that, but I think there’s a lot of potential.
“Look at the facility. We were all blown away with the job they did with that facility. I think Alabama has a big-time facility to sell. If you look at the financial commitment that Greg Byrne is going to make. That’s certainly going to be impressive. I know Greg’s past and I know he loves college baseball and will make a strong commitment. So if you look at those two aspects I think it’s a very attractive job.
“Is it an easy job? Absolutely not. If it were an easy job Alabama would be more relevant than they’ve been over the last decade. But if they can get the right guy in there, I do think they can make a quick transition over the next couple of years. The pieces are finally there to be able to do that whereas before they had the facility the pieces weren’t really there.”
The right candidate
In meeting with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Byrne emphasized he’s looking for a coach with college experience. That candidate might be a head coach or he might be an assistant, Byrne said.
There is not timeframe either, which makes sense considering that many talented coaches will be busy with conference and NCAA tournaments for the next few weeks. Until that time, assistant coach Terry Rooney will handle the day-to-day operations, which will primarily consist of trying to keep the recruiting class together.
“Baseball season is going to go for a lot longer now so I would not be concerned if a week from now we haven’t announced who the new head coach is,” Byrne said.
Byrne is aware of the plusses of the program he is pitching ,and he is all too aware of the drawbacks. He focuses on the positive.
“The reality is, every single place you go has its strengths and its challenges,” he said. “There are a lot of strengths at the University of Alabama, and we’re going to be very focused on what those strengths are to give us the best opportunity to succeed at the highest levels of college baseball.
“We compete at the highest level at many of our sports, and our goal will be for that to be the case across the board. I think with the passion of our fan base, with the incredible resources we have here as a program, especially our beautiful stadium, that has a leg up. I mean, I think I’ve been to all the spring training homes in Arizona, I’ve been to a lot of minor league ballparks — our stadium doesn’t take a back seat to anybody. That’s important in recruiting.
“Are there challenges that you have? Absolutely. But we need to be as aggressive as we can with the resources that we have to work with to give us a chance to win. This is a great place to be, and I know there are a lot of coaches who will be interested in it.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.