OMAHA, Neb. — When he saw the videos and pictures of the Clemson basketball team wearing the baseball program’s famous “Omaha Hats,” former Tigers’ head coach Jack Leggett smiled proudly.
At the time, he did not know the story of how the Tigers, who arrived in Omaha on Wednesday, received the hats following their Sweet 16 clinching win over Auburn last Sunday in San Diego. However, it meant a lot to the Hall of Fame Coach to see them wearing them.
“If there is ever a team that deserves to wear them, it’s this team,” Leggett said to The Clemson Insider. “They are Omaha Worthy.”
Clemson’s baseball program put Omaha, running through the middle of the Tiger Paw, on the back of its hats in 1994, Leggett’s first of 22 seasons in Tigertown.
“It started out with a dream,” Leggett said. “When I first took the job, the dream was to get to Omaha and do it consistently. Be a contender to get in the regionals, super regionals and then get to Omaha. So it started out as a dream.
“We put the Tiger Paw on the back and put Omaha in the middle of it. The idea was to stare at it every day. Let’s make it a part of our thought process every day.”
Clemson went to Omaha, home of the College World Series, in two of Leggett’s first three years. Then they went four more times after that. From 1995-2010 Clemson made it to the CWS at least once every four years under Leggett’s direction.
During his time as the head coach at Clemson, the Tigers made the NCAA Tournament 21 of his 22 years there. His teams also played in nine Super Regionals.
Clemson’s last appearance in the CWS came in 2010.
“All of my teams were Omaha Worthy,” Leggett said. “We played hard. We played tough. We were consistent and we made big plays at the same time. That’s what I see from this basketball team. They play hard all the time. They are tough. They have been consistent all season and they make big plays when they need to.
“They are worthy of wearing our hats. They are Omaha Worthy.”
When Brownell became Clemson’s head coach in 2010, he and Leggett quickly hit it off. Along with football coach Dabo Swinney, they all quickly became good friends and still are today. Leggett texts with Brownell just about every day and he always sends him a text, win or lose, after a game.
“I have always thought Brad had an exceptional ability to coach,” Leggett said. “He has that blue collar, Midwest basketball mentality that I always thought would be successful at Clemson if given the chance and given the opportunity.
“So I am so glad for him and his players and I was so proud to see them wearing our hats and seeing our hats brought into the fold twenty four years later for the same meaning.”
It’s all a part of the dream … getting to Omaha.