Titans' baseball Head Coach George Horton will be wearing green and yellow the next time he dresses for a game.
The CSUF alumnus shocked Orange County baseball fans and accepted the head coaching position at the University of Oregon on Saturday.
"It's tough to see him go," senior outfielder Jared Clark said. "He was a great coach for us and he is a good man."
Horton addressed his team in a closed-door meeting Friday at Goodwin Field. He told them he had not decided yet, but was likely considering the offer from Oregon.
"He was very emotional," Clark said. "It was pretty sad. [He told us] 'I'm sorry for bailing on you guys.'"
Horton's contract with Oregon is for five years. It includes a base salary of $150,000 annually.
He will garner an additional $250,000 in guaranteed income from radio and television contracts with the Oregon Sports Network and shoe and apparel agreements from Nike.
Oregon has not had a baseball team since 1981 and has been looking for a head coach to revive the program for the 2009 season.
Senior outfielder Chris Jones said he understood why Horton took the job.
"The opportunity for him to start his own program was most enticing," Jones said. "That much money is life changing."
Jones said Horton told the team that he would for
ever be a part of CSUF.
"He told us he 'will always bleed orange and blue,'" Jones said. "He said we [the players] will always be in his heart."
Horton was unavailable for comment, but he told players at the meeting that he received a phone call from the Oregon search committee telling him about the job.
Last Sunday, he was on a private jet owned by Nike Founder Phil Knight heading to Eugene, Ore. to be wooed for two days by the university committee.
"You're not going to find too many people who won't take that offer," Clark said.
Jones had similar feelings about the situation.
"I agree [with his decision], we all agreed," Jones said. "He's an emotional guy, I'm sure it was hard for him to walk away."
Jones said Horton's trip to Oregon was random and without intentions.
"[He] went up there not knowing he would take the job," Jones said.
Assistant Coach Jason Gill is following Horton to Oregon and will earn an annual salary of $120,000.
Gill worked as an assistant and recruiting coordinator under Horton for the last three seasons.
He was also the team's primary hitting instructor.
Kurt Suzuki, the starting catcher for the 2004 Titans national championship team and current Oakland Athletics' starting catcher, had some things to say about Horton.
"The thing he helped me most [at CSUF] was to get ready for pro ball," Suzuki said. "He really helped me with my fundamentals."
Suzuki said he has all the confidence in world in the decisions his former head coach at CSUF makes.
"He's doing whatever is best for his family and I'll be rooting for him," Suzuki said. "The man knows what he is doing."
CSUF Athletic Director Brian Quinn said at the meeting that the search for a new head coach would begin Tuesday.
Jones said one name he believes should be on the list is longtime Assistant Coach Rick Vanderhook.
"I think [Vanderhook] is easily most deserving," Jones said. "He has been there longer than anyone in the program. He has implemented almost all of our baseball strategies that us Titans pride ourselves on."
Horton was promoted to head coach in 1996 after Augie Garrido left to coach the University of Texas. Horton led the Titans to a 452-187-1 overall record since taking over for Garrido.
His .707 winning percentage is fifth-best among active Division I coaches.
CSUF has gone to six of the last nine NCAA College World Series' under Horton, including winning the 2004 championship. He was named National Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2004.
Horton also played for the 1975 Titans national championship team before graduating from CSUF in 1978.
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