Frustrating 2012 Leads to Tough Decision

If you had to choose a single word to describe the Miami Hurricanes baseball season so far, it would probably be frustrating. Or maybe it would be disappointing.

Either way, this campaign has not gone anywhere near according to plan.

At this point of the season, this team was supposed to be battling for a top eight national seed and gearing up for return to the College World Series in Omaha.

Instead, the Canes are floundering through the second half of their ACC schedule and just doing all they can to make sure they are playing as well as they can headed into the postseason. Because of these struggles, the Hurricanes fan base is rightfully upset. They have grown tired of watching games filled with undisciplined, error-prone baseball.

In their frustration, many of them are calling for head coach Jim Morris to be relieved of his duties.

To be fair, Morris is not without some blame in this case.

Morris' last couple of teams have been very poor fundamentally. The error numbers have been astronomical and offensively, the Canes have struck out too often and failed to move runners around and in to score just as often.

Morris can't go out there and play the game for these kids, but it's his job to make sure his players are fundamentally sound. If the issue isn't getting the message across as much as it is that his players can't physically deliver what Morris is teaching, I still think he deserves some blame. He doesn't do it alone, but part of his job is recruiting players into his program. If fundamentals have been an ongoing issue, he needs to find a way to get some fundamentally sound players on the team.

Recruiting, and talent in general, is another point of contention for those that want to see Morris gone. His detractors say that he just doesn't have it anymore or they say that he has gotten complacent as he has gotten older. Whether or not you believe those things to be true, what is undeniable is that the talent level in the last couple of years is not nearly as high as it was in 2008 or 2006 or any of the national championship teams.

The downward trends are alarming, to be sure, but the decision to let go of Coach Morris isn't going to be that easy to make.

Miami would be taking a huge risk by making that move.

Even if you want to see him gone, you can't deny all that he has done for the program. He took over the program from Ron Fraser and was saddled with the unenviable task of trying to meet or exceed the expectations that were established because of Fraser's incredible success. All he did was win two more national championships and keep UM's incredible regional appearances streak going.

There is, of course, a chance that the coach that takes over for Morris could do what Morris did when taking over for Fraser. Thanks to Miami's history as a college baseball power and Miami's draw as a city to attend college, the new coach would be playing with a stacked deck in his favor.

But there is also a chance that the replacement head coach would send the program even further into a tailspin.

Miami is obviously a bigger power in college baseball than Tennessee, but the Volunteers give us a good example of what can happen when a longtime coach who has hit the skids gets let go. Rod Delmonico was the head coach at Tennessee from 1990 to 2007. In that time, he led the Vols to a 699-396 record, eight NCAA tournament appearances and three trips to the College World Series. But in 2007, just two years after leading UT to the College World Series, Tennessee decided that they needed a new coach.

In came Todd Raleigh. All he did in his four years in Knoxville is lead his team to one winning season, zero winning seasons in SEC play and zero NCAA tournament appearances.

Again, Miami is a program that has had much more success than Tennessee, but it paints frightening picture of what can happen when a program lets go of a highly successful veteran coach just because the program heads south for a couple of years.

I think we can all agree that Morris is on the hot seat at this point. The recruiting has to get better. There are legitimate reasons (attrition thanks to the draft, high cost of attendance) for Miami's struggles in putting together blockbuster classes, but it's Morris job to overcome those things.

He has done it before and his job might depend on him doing it again. I can understand the frustration on the part of fans of the program. This is not a team used to worrying about whether they'll be a two or three seed in a regional.

Maybe the fix the program needs is a new coach, but I'm not sure the risk is worth it when you still have a Hall of Fame coach at the helm. At the very least, the decision is not as easy as some would make it seem.


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