Richardson, who is AU's interim president, joined his special assistant for athletic matters, Hal Baird, to introduce Tom Slater as the new head coach of the Tigers on Tuesday. Richardson says he believes that Slater, a former head coach at VMI and a former assistant at Auburn and the University of Florida, will do a good job on his return to Auburn.
"My standard is that I think Auburn should be in the SEC Tournament every year," Richardson tells Inside the Auburn Tigers." We should be in the top two-thirds. Now there may be an exception one year when you have major problems with injuries or something. I believe this is the type of coach who will enable us to do it.
"The way it looks, at least in the last two years, is if you make the SEC Tournament you are likely to make the NCAA Tournament as well," Richardson adds. "After that, it is anybody's guess. For example, this year everybody thought that Texas would win the College World Series, but Cal-State Fullerton did a great job and won it."
Coach David Marsh (left) takes a break from coaching his swimmers for the Olympic Trials to welcome Slater back to Auburn.
Baird conducted the search for a new coach and recommended Slater after Tim Corbin of Vanderbilt gave it consideration before turning it down. Richardson approved Baird's choice after meeting with Slater, who came to campus on Monday for interviews. "In my discussions with Coach Slater, he says that Auburn has some pitchers with really good arm strength so I think with some work on techniques I believe Auburn will be strong in its pitching," Richardson says. "In baseball, as you know, that is the first thing you have to have to be successful."
Baird, who was head coach of the Tigers before moving into an administrative position, is very familiar with Slater having hired him as a 25-year-old assistant coach at Auburn in 1995 where he stayed through the 2000 campaign. Commenting on his expectations for AU baseball, Baird says, "Auburn has competed in the top half of the SEC, on a consistent basis, and has competed for championships on a basis of some sort. It is for the beholder to determine if it is a regular basis or not.
"Reaching the NCAA Tournament, with the 64-team field, is certainly something that I think is a reasonable goal as well as competing in the SEC Tournament on a regular basis is a goal. All of those things, and more, are part of the Auburn baseball potential. What happens on a yearly basis, I think can be different because there are so many variables, but I do think we can be successful on a consistent basis."
Baird conducted a wide ranging search and considered dozens of possibilities for the AU head coaching job. He admits that he was surprised and disappointed there weren't a large number of high-profile coaches eager to make the move to AU. "There were lots of questions and there were questions about stability," Baird notes. "There were questions about athletic administration and university administration. There were lots of questions to deal with. This has been an alternative athletic year."
Richardson is the interim president at AU and Baird has taken control of the athletic department operations on an interim basis himself. The search for a new baseball coach followed on the heels of searches for new men's and women's head basketball coaches. Each project was a major time-consumer, Baird notes
"I would like to get the coaching choices out of the way and see what running the department on a day to day basis would be like without something that really required all of your time and see how we would go," he says. Baird adds, "I would like to see what it looks like, see if it is working, see if Auburn is moving forward and see if there is an atmosphere that is winning on the field and doing the other things we need to do and then take a look at it."
In addition to running the searches and administering the day to day operations, Baird is also preparing to recommend changes on how to make the athletic department run more efficiently before a full-time director is named to replace David Housel, who is retiring from his post.
"Dr. Richardson has got a pretty good agenda," Baird says. "There are still a couple of other things on there, not only from a personnel standpoint, but to take a look at the structure of the department and various aspects of that and maybe try to make it a little more responsive with a little more snap to it, as he says. I think we will get to it pretty quickly."