Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley stated that the red flags were raised a year ago. No kidding. A national championship runner-up that returned at least six position players, three key pitchers, and the staff intact should have fared far better than 28-28. One season later with a similarly eerie season ending result, the captain went down with the ship.
It was all too obvious that the pressure was squarely on now former head coach Pat McMahon as the Gators opened conference play. McMahon never uttered a word, but we all saw it. He knew that he had to win this year.
It was all but confirmed by his former boss, Mississippi State head coach Ron Polk, who was hurting for his friend and wanted in some way to reach out to those who cover the team on a regular basis. Commenting after one of the Bulldogs games against the Gators in mid-March, Polk added that they (Florida) needed to let Pat see this thing through. He said that he felt for Pat because he knew what he was going through.
However, Florida’s struggles continued and upon completion of the season, Foley assessed the program just as he does with each sport. Obviously, just as there was a year ago, there was a seriousness to this meeting. The tone to this meeting would be labeled urgent.
“I told Pat (McMahon) when the season was over I wanted to meet with him and sit down and have an evaluation of the program and I wanted to get a sense of where he thought we were headed and have a meeting on Thursday,” Foley said Thursday. “We were going to meet again. I went back to Destin and came back after the Billy (Donovan) thing broke and then of course, on Monday and Tuesday the whole time was consumed with Billy. We met with Pat again yesterday and then spent last night thinking about this as well as dealing with the Billy situation and just came to the conclusion that this is a change we needed to make.”
“When we’re hiring a new coach, we’re always looking at where we’re going to be five years from now,” he added. “And I think that if you look at the last two years, we’ve taken a step back and again it goes back to that confidence factor that I was alluding to and the consistency issue I was alluding to.”
It appears that Foley gave McMahon an opportunity to impress upon him and convince him that the program was indeed on track to compete for a conference title, which in the rough and tumble SEC is an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
What is not clear is if McMahon was expected to offer replacing pitching coach Ross Jones, assistant coach Tim Parenton, or both as a means of trying to demonstrate improvement?
What is obvious is that McMahon was unable to convince Foley that he was indeed the man to take the Florida program to the next level, consistently. Based on his own comments, Foley needed a detailed explanation of ideas that he could agree with- he did not get that and sought to make the move.
“When you look at Florida baseball through the years since I’ve been here it’s been good season, okay seasons, great seasons, not so good seasons, in the tournament, out of the tournament. I just think that has got to change. And again, I accept full responsibility for that. I’ve made two coaching hires here with Andy (Lopez) and Pat (McMahon) that didn’t work out as we’ve envisioned and I have nobody to blame for that but myself. So, we’ve got to look at what we’re doing. I’ve got to evaluate how we’re going about this.”
“You ask me what I wanted for Gator baseball?,” he added. “I would say consistency and I would say being in the NCAA Tournament every year. To say that we’re one of the top 64 in the country, I don’t think that’s unreasonable at the University of Florida. With the resources we have here and this academic institution and the commitment, the facilities, the recruiting base, the weather, you name it. I think this is a program that can achieve on a consistent basis. I just don’t think those are unreasonable expectations and I’m sure those are Pat’s expectations. I don’t doubt that at all. It hadn’t happened here recently and candidly, as I said as we evaluated, I just didn’t see it happening in the future.”
The recruiting base.
“There are reasons that the University of Florida has had the seasons that we’ve had the past two years,“ Foley stated. “I think there are some legitimate reasons in terms of injuries and what have you. I think that’s (recruiting) a factor. I think that any time at this level at the end of the day it comes down to recruiting. And I don’t want to be disrespectful to the athletes that we have in our program because we’ve got some good ones and I know they care and I know this is important to them. It’s important to the University of Florida. At the end of the day it’s recruiting that is the key.”
Recruiting was the responsibility of Ross Jones. Look at the Gators roster and there are half a dozen or so players who, shall we say, have less than achieved in the Florida baseball program. Most of those are veteran players. There are a few others still who were seemingly moving forward, but did not progress as expected. I can only assume that had to have been a major problem.
The recruiting issues is old news. It had improved. The freshmen are an outstanding group of players that will require more time to develop. The signees are seemingly yet another terrific group. But, when the AD has lost confidence in the staff all bets are off.