Many in the Alabama baseball fan base were railing for the ouster of Crimson Tide Coach Mitch Gaspard following Bama’s ouster from the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament in Hoover last week. Unbeknownst to them, Gaspard had made the difficult decision to resign his position by the time he met with Alabama Athletics Director Bill Battle last Friday.
Announcement of the resignation of Gaspard following his seventh year at the helm of the Alabama baseball program came Monday in a statement issued by Battle. Gaspard informed the Alabama team and his staff of his decision Monday afternoon. Gaspard accumulated a 234-193 (.548) record as Alabama’s head coach. Gaspard's .548 winning percentage ranks among the 10 best among Alabama baseball coaches.
"Mitch and I met last Friday to discuss how the season has gone and possibilities for postseason play," Battle said. "At that time, he expressed to me his wishes to resign as baseball coach.
"While that conversation was supposed to serve as a prelude to our annual postseason discussion on the state of the program, I accepted his resignation only on the basis that it would not officially be in effect until our season had formally concluded. It's clear to me that Mitch had made up his mind, and I respect his wishes."
Alabama’s baseball season officially ended Monday when the Crimson Tide did not make the 64-team NCAA Tournament field. Bama was 32-26 in 2016, including a 15-15 record in SEC games.
Many had expected the future of Gaspard as head coach to be dependent on Monday’s NCAA Selection Committee’s decision regarding the Tide, but Gaspard had already made his decision. A segment of the Bama fanbase believed Gaspard needed to make a change in his coaching staff, notably replacing Andy Phillips as batting coach, as the Alabama pitching and defense were hampered in many games by a lack of offense. And there was also a segment that believed Gaspard deserved another year regardless of outcome based on a good recruiting year with the rebuilt (at cost of $42 million) Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
Although no mention was made of plans or timetable for selection of Alabama’s next head baseball coach, among the names suggested have been Dan McDonnell of Louisville, Dan Heefner of Dallas Baptist, and Mark Calvi South Alabama.
Battle said, "In seven seasons as our head coach, Mitch always represented us with class. He always fielded highly competitive teams and always conducted our program the right way. He has always been guided by the right principles, the kind of values you seek in a head coach and mentor of young people.
"Mitch leaves the program in good shape. He was a major factor in us being able to rebuild Sewell-Thomas Stadium into the nation's finest baseball facility and his players have competed hard and handled themselves well on and off the field. I am most appreciative of the leadership Mitch has provided and his effort and drive to prepare our team to compete at the highest levels on and off the field.
"Mitch and his family - his wife, Kim, and his daughters, Brae and Paeton - have spent much of their lives as part of the Crimson Tide family. They are first-class people in every way and have been wonderful representatives not only of our baseball program, but our entire athletics department and The University of Alabama.
"As a coach and, more importantly, as a man, Mitch gave his all to our program. I have the highest respect for him and his family, and all of us wish them nothing but the best."
Gaspard, very popular with reporters covering the Crimson Tide for his availability and insight, said in his statement that the decision “has not been an easy one, but something that I have been considering for awhile now.
"We have consistently fielded a competitive program in the nation's finest conference throughout our seven seasons at Alabama, but I feel this is the right time to make a change - not only for me, but for the program as a whole. I think a good foundation has been set for whoever takes over the program. And, with our new stadium, the chance to recruit at a high level is definitely there.
"I am thankful to so many people who made the opportunities that I have had possible. My family has been so incredibly devoted to me and my career, and I am looking forward to being able to spend more quality time with my wife and daughters as we embark on the next chapter of our life together.
"One of the special things about sports is the family bond you can develop over the course of your career. That has definitely been the case in my life, and will continue to be so. To our Alabama baseball family - our players and their families; our coaches and their families; and to all our fans and boosters who faithfully support the Crimson Tide, I want to express my undying gratitude for the privilege of leading your program."