For someone who has played and coached baseball for the better part of 70 years, Augie Garrido surprisingly says he doesn’t love the sport. After particularly excruciating losses, Garrido has been known to dip into his bank of one-liners and damn the game “a cruel mistress.”
On Monday, he learned just how cruel it can be. At a morning meeting with athletic director Mike Perrin, Texas ended months of speculation and dismissed Garrido, college baseball’s winningest coach, for not winning enough. He’s out after 20 seasons and eight appearances in the College World Series, two of which ended with national titles for the Longhorns in 2002 and 2005.
Rather than making the dismissal an outright firing, UT is reassigning Garrido to a role as special assistant to the athletic director. Details of the position are pending the approval of the Board of Regents, which is set to meet next in mid -July.
Unlike with the departures of football coach Mack Brown at the end of 2013 and basketball coach Rick Barnes in the spring of 2015 — all three were hired within a year of each other in 1997 and 1998 — Texas chose not to hold a press conference, instead issuing a lengthy press release glorifying the career of Garrido, who, assuming he does not coach again, put together a career record of 1,975-951-9 in 48 seasons.
Counting the 21 seasons he spent at Cal State Fullerton and his 20 at Texas, Garrido won five national titles over four decades and made 33 NCAA regional appearances. He was a six-time national coach of the year, including twice at Texas, and in 2008 was inducted into UT’s hall of honor.
Asked for comment Monday by the American-Statesman, Garrido responded with a text message that read, “Can’t.”
He is to be owed $300,000 for the buyout of his contract, though it wasn’t made clear Monday whether he’ll earn an additional salary for his new role.
Garrido, 77, had come close to losing his job in recent years, but staved off unemployment with winning. Thought to be on the hot seat in 2014, he guided Texas to a surprise appearance in the College World Series and then came within an out against Vanderbilt of advancing to the championship series. He was rewarded with a contract extension of two years. Lingering in the nation’s top 10 to begin 2015, the Longhorns checked into the Big 12 tournament at just 26-25, but were able to keep their coach’s job by winning the title.
But this year was different. A young team with only two seniors struggled from the start and tied for the most losses in program history, finishing with a record of 25-32. It was the first time in Garrido’s UT tenure that the Longhorns did not have a series sweep all season. Texas won three games at the Big 12 tournament, but was eliminated Saturday.
Yet Garrido insisted on several occasions that he would not resign and that he wanted to return in 2017 to fulfill the final year of his contract.
Following Saturday’s season-ending loss to TCU, Garrido said, “If I’m not back, it’s because I couldn’t control the decision that was made. But trails end, baby. They all end.”
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Nationally, Texas was ripped for the timing of the late-morning announcement, which took eyeballs away from the NCAA selection show. Kyle Peterson, an analyst for ESPN, viewed the move as disrespectful to the sport and called it “brutal.” A source, however, told the Statesman that Garrido was satisfied with the way Texas handled his dismissal.
Meanwhile, some of Garrido’s former players stopped by UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Monday to pay tribute. Nathan Thornhill, a senior pitcher in 2014, credited Garrido with instilling “a deeper understanding of how baseball relates to life.” Jordan Etier, a second baseman from 2009-12, called the news “devastating” and credited Garrido with “saving my life” for reinstating him following a dismissal from the team for alcohol-related offenses.
In a statement released by the university, Garrido said, “I owe everyone at the University of Texas a million heartfelt thank you’s. I came here to serve and I am so proud to be able to continue to serve the university in my new role as special assistant to Mike Perrin.”
Given that the College World Series will run through late June, it could be several weeks before Perrin has a commitment from Texas’ next coach. Considered a top five job, interest could come from some of the game’s top coaches, including Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan, Virginia’s Brian O’Connor and Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin. Another potential candidate is TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle, who told reporters on Monday he wouldn’t have the job he has if Garrido hadn’t “elevated the game.”
“I’m sick for him in terms of the way it’s gone down, but that doesn’t overshadow an amazing career,” Schlossnagle said.