Smith Turns Down UGA

Baylor University's Steve Smith is the fourth candidate to reject an offer to become Georgia's head baseball coach, which has been attempting to hire a successor for Ron Polk.

The legendary Polk returned to Mississippi State last month. He was that school's head coach for 22 years (1976-97). He coached Georgia the past two seasons (2000 and 2001) and has directed teams to 1,122 wins.

Smith, 40, spent two days in Athens, GA last week visiting with University of Georgia officials about their coaching vacancy. He met with Baylor officials on July 3 and decided to remain there.

Smith is a Baylor graduate. He has compiled a 262-154-1 record in seven years as Baylor's head coach and has directed teams to the NCAA Regionals four times.

Smith was an assistant to Polk at Mississippi State from 1990-94 before accepting the Baylor job.

"There are very few jobs in the country that have what Georgia has to offer," Smith said in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article. "But this is a great place to coach (Baylor) and we've got a great program. With all that Georgia had to offer, I still felt that I no longer needed to pursue it."

Miami's Jim Morris, Tulane's Rick Jones and East Carolina's Keith LeClair have also declined overtures from Georgia.

The Tallahassee Democrat has reported that Florida State coach Mike Martin said he hadn't "officially'' been contacted about the Georgia vacancy, but he said he would "see what is on the table" if he was contacted. Martin has led the Seminoles to the College World Series 12 times in his 22 years at Florida State. Georgia beat Florida State in a two-of-three series in the NCAA Regionals this past season.

Georgia assistant coach David Perno, a native of Athens, GA and a second baseman on the Bulldogs' 1990 team that claimed the national championship, is also a candidate for the head job. Perno has interviewed with athletics director Vince Dooley. Polk is serving as a consultant in the Bulldogs' search and has publicly supported Perno as his successor at Georgia.

Perno was Polk's hitting coach and recruiting coordinator the past two years and also worked for three seasons as an assistant to former Georgia head coach Robert Sapp.

Polk raised the expectations of the Georgia program, which became mired in mediocrity after winning its only national championship eleven years ago.

Georgia finished 47-22 this past season and advanced to the College World Series. The Bulldogs also won their first Southeastern Conference championship since 1954.

But some contend the Bulldogs may struggle at times in 2002 after suffering heavy personnel losses to graduation and the amateur baseball draft. Georgia lost both of its catchers and the entire starting infield, including All-America shortstop Jeff Keppinger. The Bulldogs also lost their top two pitchers and one of their best relievers.

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