5-Things: Goodbye to Steve Smith

The winningest coach in Baylor athletics history, Steve Smith, was let go last night. With 744 wins over his 21 is the stuff of legends. Thoughts on the Baylor baseball team and more in this week's 5-Things.

1. Steve Smith is no longer a part of the Baylor Baseball team. For the first time in 21 years, Smith will not be the Bears head coach after Athletic Director Ian McCaw relieved him of his duties Sunday afternoon. "We are grateful for Coach Smith's leadership of the Baylor baseball program and his many accomplishments over the last 21 seasons," said Director of Athletics Ian McCaw. After winning his third and final Big 12 championship in 2012, Smith's program stumbled to a 76-88 record the past 3 seasons and did not advance to the NCAA tournament. With a 23-32 record in 2015, Baylor finished in 8th place in the Big 12, and barely advanced to the Big 12 tournament (one of only 2 teams to advance to all 19). With an upset win over TCU in the first round, and an elimination game win over Texas Tech, two losses to Texas ended the Bears season.

Smith is a true Baylor legend. A 5-time Big 12 Coach of the Year winner, he took the Bears to Omaha in 2005, the pinnacle of his 21 year career. With 13 regional appearances and four super regional appearances, Smith had the Baylor baseball program as a standard in the Top-25 when most Baylor athletic teams were struggling to gain respect.

2. When I was at Baylor from 2000-2004, the sports programs were in a bit of a mess. Football was a national laughingstock, where the hope was to NOT get blown out by 40+ points that week. Men's basketball had some hope at times, but then the incidents of the Summer of 2003 happened. Women's basketball was starting to turn the corner, and would win it all in 2005, a tremendous year for Baylor athletics that saw the baseball program go to its only College World Series under Coach Smith, and men's tennis win a national championship in the Summer of 2004. Track and Field was at an apex as well, with Olympians Jeremy Wariner and Darold Williamson getting ready to win gold for Team USA.

Baseball was king on campus though. A three year stretch of excellent from 1998-2000 made Smith the top dog on campus. Finishing 2nd, 2nd and 1st in the Big 12 those three years, Smith set expectations high for his program. However, he would never match that three year span again. After his 1st championship in 2000, Smith would win two more, but would finish in the Top-4 teams of the Big 12 just one more time outside of that through the rest of his career. The Bears were never really bad under Smith, but they were not great anymore either. They fell in the soft underbelly of middle of the pack Big 12 team, finishing 5th or 6th in 10 of 13 years. Add to that three times the Bears hosted a Super Regional in Waco, and only had 1 CWS to show for it, the time was right for a big change in the program.

3. This had to be a tough decision for Ian McCaw and his team. With a 21-year coach that has taken you to the level you want to be, one that is beloved by most (and even those that wanted him gone the past few seasons still love and respect the man), McCaw still made the difficult choice to move on with the Baylor program. It was a decision that was made quickly as well, less than 24 hours after the Bears season had ended. That says to me that McCaw is 100% decided on this. It also tells me that the primary people to the program (donors, supporters) agreed with this choice as well. There were no last ditch efforts by supporters or meetings upon meetings to see where everyone wanted the program to go (see Brown, Mack and University of Texas).

Coach Smith took to Facebook to give some of his thoughts. You can tell he expected another year, to try and right the ship and get it back sailing smoothly. You can tell he is disappointed that he will not be the head coach anymore. "This program was always more than a job to me. I love Baylor and fully embrace the mission of the University. That will not change." Those are Coach Smith's words, and you know they are said with emotion and full conviction. He is a Bear, and a great one.

4. With Smith gone, the Bears start to look towards the future and who will be the next man to lead the baseball program. With a program that has taken a step back the past 5-7 years in terms of national attention, and facilities that have been caught up to in terms of Baylor's regional competitors, the job might not be as simply as get a great coach. However, the new man will be getting a young team that has some intriguing options moving forward.

Three names that we are hearing as top of the list guys are Oklahoma State assistant coach Rob Walton, Houston Head Coach Tod Whitting, and Dallas Baptist Head Coach Dan Heefner. All three have extensive head coaching experience and have won quite a bit. This is just the start of the list, and Athletic Director Ian McCaw has said it will be a national search. If it were me, I would start with Dan Heefner and make him tell me no. What he has done at Dallas Baptist has been sensational, and his ties to the DFW area would help recruit a hotbed of baseball talent.

5. We finish up with some football recruiting news, as the Bears had an awful week with several key targets choosing to go elsewhere. Ed Oliver and Jordan Elliott both chose to stay closer to home and attend Houston, while Kendall Jones gave his pledge to Alabama. All three SCOUT Top-150 defensive tackles would have been great gets for the Bears. With the loss of three more top-tier defensive tackles, it becomes even more important that Baylor gets one (or hopefully both) of Bravvion Roy or Chris Daniels. Roy, a 4-star defensive tackle out of Spring, TX named Baylor his leader recently, but an LSU offer could be changing things. Daniels is a 4-star out of Euless, TX, and recently named a Top-10 list, with the Bears on it.

Baylor will probably take 2-3 defensive tackles this year. With the Bears losing Trevor Clemons-Valdez, Beau Blackshear and possibly Andrew Billings to the NFL draft, the Bears will be losing several key contributors on the defensive line. Billings is the primary name to think of here. If he goes, the Bears will lose both of their starting tackles in Blackshear and Billings. Expect them to hit the junior college ranks heavily if that is the case, instead of relying on Andrew Morris, Byron Bonds and Ira Lewis to carry the load.


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