NORMAN, Okla. — It's never easy to initiate a change in leadership. Whether in government, at the corporate level or in sports. It's even harder when the parties involved are some of the best people around.
It's obvious to most however that the thirteen year Larry Cochell reign over OU baseball has come to an end. The baseball program under Cochell has run aground with a current record of 13 – 21 overall and a miserable 1 -12 in conference action. Even if he stays another year, it's unlikely that Cochell can get the ‘ship off the sandbar.'
Cochell is one of the all time greats in college baseball. He is respected and admired by almost all. He has taken three different teams, (Oral Roberts, Cal-Fullerton, OU), to the College World Series, and Oklahoma a total of three times. He ranks in the top five active coaches in career wins, and under his leadership, OU won the National title in 1994.
But that was then - this is now. To see Larry's' teams struggle the last few years has been difficult. Perhaps it was a bout with prostrate cancer that took something out of Cochell several years ago. Thankfully, Larry whipped that disease - but since that time his Sooner squads have been average. This season, even a trip to the Big 12 conference tournament in Oklahoma City, once a ‘given', seems to be slipping away.
The Sooners worst conference record in the last thirty five years was a 9 – 15 showing in 1990, and first year coach Stan Meek was not retained after posting that record, opening the door for Cochell to join OU. But for Cochell's 2003 squad to better the dismal 1990 conference record seems to be a fleeting goal at this time.
If I were choosing a man for my son to emulate, Larry Cochell might be my choice. He's a better man than me. But a head coaching position at a major University is not a contest for sainthood. I know many nice guys, but that alone is not a qualification to coach the Sooners. Joe Castiglione must decide what direction to go, and this is one time I do not envy Joe's job. Personally, I'd like to see Cochell step down as head coach and, if he chooses, serve the University in another capacity. If Larry refuses to step down, Joe would have a very difficult choice.
Perhaps it just doesn't matter. For the first time in twenty five years I have not witnessed a Sooner baseball game. Apparently others can't force themselves to watch either. Attendance has slipped to below the 1,000 mark. Under the direction of Patty Gasso, OU softball is now more popular. Count the fans at each venue when both teams play a rare same-day game, and the girls will almost always outdraw the men.
It may very well come down to whether Joe C can generate a baseball budget with an average attendance of almost zero. Perhaps the success of Stoops, Sampson, Coale and Gasso has produced sufficient revenue and rendered baseball as a ‘second thought' sport. Maybe we as fans should just be thankful for these successes and ignore an inept team plagued by errors and continual bumbling and stumbling on the mound. But we didn't ignore it with Blake, who also carried the ‘nice guy' label and was OU alum to boot.
At some point in time, in every career, no matter how qualified or how great our past accomplishments have been, time taps us on the shoulder and urges us to move on. It's very difficult to acknowledge, but reluctantly, I join the supporters who believe that it is time for Larry to heed the call.
(Editorial) Time for a change?
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