Next month will represent six years since Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich made the decision to fire Jack Leggett as the Tigers’ head baseball coach.
In his 22 years at Clemson, Leggett became a Hall of Fame head coach as he guided the program to six College World Series and to 21 NCAA Tournaments overall. He never posted a losing record while winning 955 games. He still ranks ninth all-time in terms of total victories in the history of college baseball.
“This decision was not an easy one,” Radakovich said at the time. “There is no denying the successes of our program in the past have placed Clemson baseball in position to compete for championships. So, after my evaluation it came down to this. I think we can do better.”
Is Clemson a better program today?
After reaching the College World Series in 2010, Leggett’s final five teams did not win a regional and did not host a regional after the 2011 season. Though the Tigers continued to make the NCAA Tournament, only one of his final four teams won 40 games with his last team posting just a 32-29 record.
Of course, it also needs to be pointed out Leggett was competing his final years without some of the recruiting advantages other programs were taking advantage of, such as the academic common market, the Hope Scholarship in Georgia and large endowments being used to get around the 11.7 scholarship limit the NCAA allows for a 27-man roster.
Clemson was also in the process of finishing its start-of-the-art baseball facility, so Leggett never had an opportunity to recruit off the new facility.
“As I look outside and beyond (the program) it talked a little bit about, and I hate this word, but it kind of plateaued in where we trended over the last couple of years,” Radakovich said regarding the program’s direction under Leggett. “College baseball is very difficult right now. Major League baseball rules and NCAA rules have created some real parity in college baseball.
“But as I look beyond that, we have a great university. We have a great history and tradition. We have good facilities that are about to get better. We play in one of the best leagues in the country. Where is Clemson’s place there? I think it needs to be at or near the top competing for championships.”
In 2016, the Tigers did win an ACC Tournament Championship. From 2016-’18, Clemson won 44, 42 and 47 games respectively and hosted a regional all three seasons. However, in 2019 the program slipped to 35 wins. Over the last two years, including a shortened 2020 season due to the pandemic, the Tigers are a combined 38-30 heading into today’s season finale against Georgia Tech.
Clemson still has not made it out of regional and no matter what happens today the program will wrap up its first losing season since 1957 and will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first since 2009. Prior to this season, Clemson had made 32 of the previous 33 NCAA Tournaments.
From a recruiting standpoint, Clemson is still dealing with the same disadvantages Leggett had, with the exception of having the new baseball facility. It also has new problems with the transfer portal and the NIL rules that are about to begin in other states where schools compete against Clemson for the same recruits.
Six years later, is Clemson baseball a better program? The program, right now, is not better and an argument can be made that it is worse.
Nothing can be done about the past, but Clemson can focus on the future and how going forward it can make the program better. Over the next few weeks, The Clemson Insider will turn its attention to the future and will look into the many areas on how the program can get back to where everyone expects it to be.
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