Clemson University fired baseball coach Jack Leggett today after a disappointing 2015 season that saw the Tigers finish with a disappointing 32-29 (16-13) record. The Tigers surprisingly made the NCAA Tournament, but they were a #3 seed and the last team into the tournament. Leggett's firing means Clemson will be searching for their third head coach since 1957 when Bill Wilhelm was hired so coach Bob Smith could devote his full attention to the football team. As part of his termination, Leggett will receive a $200,000 buyout.
Clemson will begin their search for a new head coach immediately, the top internal candidate is likely current assistant and former Clemson shortstop Bradley LeCroy. Other potential candidates include Randy Mazey (WVU), Kevin O'Sullivan (UF), Tim Corbin (VU), Jim Toman (Liberty), Monte Lee (CofC), Jim Schlossnagle (TCU), and Terry Rooney (UCF).
Leggett's downfall came from a game that appears to have passed him by. He has not adapted well to the scholarship changes (Scholarships can no longer be divided to less than a quarter scholarship) or equipment modifications in college baseball.
Oftentimes, it seems he has the team wound up so tight that they can not hit the baseball. This year may have been the best example of that with a streaky offense that was able to beat South Carolina twice, but then lost to Winthrop and got rocked by Wake Forest and Georgia, teams hovering around .500. The Tigers lost games to six different baseball teams from South Carolina (SC, Winthrop, Coastal Carolina, Presbyterian, Charleston Southern, and Wofford). They ended the season with a road sweep over Florida State, but then went just 1-4 in ACC and NCAA Regional play before finally getting eliminated by #4 seed Pepperdine.
Even with such a streaky offense, Clemson's defense was even worse. The team committed an astounding 94 errors, absolutely inexcusable given Leggett's background as a defensive coach, and wasted many quality starts from the pitching staff. The errors were the culmination of a troubling trend over the past 4-5 seasons that has seen Clemson waste quality opportunities thanks to poor fielding.
Clemson has gone from a CWS semifinalist in 2010 to a Regional Finalist in 2011 (Lost to UConn) and 2012 (Lost to SC), to Regional participants in 2013, 2014, and 2015 going just 1-6 in those three most recent Regionals - including an embarrassing 18-1 loss to Oregon. Clemson has been slowly declining ever since that CWS appearance and athletic director Dan Radakovich finally made a hard decision, the first he's ever made in his tenure at Clemson.
Many high school coaches in South Carolina are also frustrated with him and there have been far to many reports from kids going to South Carolina where they say that they were never contacted by Clemson. These same kids led South Carolina to two straight CWS titles and within a hair of three straight. Though Clemson has been able to recruit well over the past few years, it is inexcusable that Clemson was not making more of an effort to recruit the top talent in South Carolina. Even if these kids still ended up at other schools, Clemson should have made some sort of effort with them.
As for the Jack Leggett's legacy at Clemson, it is one of great Clemson teams that ultimately fell short. When Leggett arrived at Clemson the goal was to win a College World Series. And yes, Leggett came closer than Wilhelm by advancing to the CWS semifinals, but the Tigers are still the most successful baseball program to never win a CWS title. Under Leggett, Clemson amassed a .665 winning percentage en route to 4 conference titles, and 6 CWS appearances.
Now Clemson must look to a coach that can not only return Clemson to the winning ways of the past, but also someone with the ability to get the team over the hump and finally win a CWS title. The team has 39 NCAA tournament appearances, 12 CWS appearances, 22 conference titles, and 9 conference tournament titles. Along the way the school has amassed over 2,600 wins for a win percentage of .638. It is a program full of success and tradition, making it one of the most attractive jobs in the country. Clemson should be able to hire almost anyone they want, assuming Radakovich is willing to spend the money required. Clemson used to win 40+ games with regularity and host a regional with a good opportunity to make the CWS. That should be the standard here and right now it simply isn't being met.
Be sure to check the site over the next week as we profile Clemson's potential coaching options.