Baird, who is the special adviser to interim president Richardson for athletics, says that he talked to "eight or nine" current college head coaches about the Auburn job, but says that Slater was at or near the top of the list among the candidates concerning who was the most passionate about making a move to Auburn.
"I think his understanding of the expectations of the program at Auburn is important," Baird says. "I think when he sensed there was an opportunity, which was fairly late in the process, he was aggressive and took full advantage of it. He was not in any way concerned or fearful about the SEC or what is expected of a baseball coach here. I think that had something to do with it. He clearly knows Auburn. He has been in the league at two different schools. That is clearly an advantage for him."
Richardson, the interim president who joined Baird in announcing the hiring of Slater as the new head coach on Tuesday, says he also likes Slater's approach.
"I thought he was very straight forward," Richardson told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "This is a guy who is aggressive and he is confident and that is what we need in athletic program. I think he will represent Auburn well. I don't think he will do anything to embarrass Auburn.
"What really did it for me is that he broke down the program and showed where there are gaps with the personnel and if we don't do something about it they are going to show up as major weaknesses in future teams," Richardson adds. "In July he is going to recruit to correct those problems. He will fill those voids."
Slater and Renfroe were both assistant coaches for Baird, who was put in charge of the search for Renfroe's replacement after Richardson decided to fire the veteran AU coach after a disappointing 2004 season. Slater left Auburn after the 2000 season and spent three years as a head coach at his alma mater, Virginia Military Institute, before returning to the SEC this past season as an assistant coach at Florida.
Slater is credited with being an aggressive and successful recruiter for the Gators, something that Baird says was a trait the new Auburn head coach showed while he was at AU from 1995-2000
"The number one thing is that he was a very, very tireless recruiter," Baird says. "He took recruiting very personally. Winning a prospect was like winning a game. The NCAA has changed the rules for practice times and that kind of thing and the recruiting part of the formula becomes more important than it used to be.
"In baseball, coaching the kids is always important, but with only 20 hours (games and practice per week) now it puts a little more burden than on development. I believe that is probably his number one on the field or direct attribute."