From the Sideline — Why Gaspard Result Went Beyond Wins and Losses
Shane Lyons had only been on the job as Deputy Athletics Director and COO at Alabama for about three months when the two of us sat down for a pregame meal in Kansas City, MO, prior to a basketball matchup between the Crimson Tide and Kansas State.
Shane admitted to having only briefly seen Sewell-Thomas Stadium and wanted my thoughts on where that facility ranked among the others in the Southeastern Conference. It was December of 2011 - just prior to expansion of the league.
My response was that we were currently 11th, and we were about to be 12th - with only Missouri and Kentucky falling behind us.
The man who is now the AD at West Virginia had asked a question that was easy for me to answer. And having witnessed Mitch Gaspard take the Tide to a Super Regional just six months earlier, in his first season as head coach, I felt compelled to take the conversation a step further.
"I think Jim Wells - and now Mitch - have done TOO GOOD of a job."
Lyons asked me what I meant, and I replied, "With the facility and scholarship issues that they have had to deal with, they NEVER should have been in contention for NCAA Regionals, or contend in the top half of the league (or, as Wells did in 2006, win an SEC title)."
I continued, "Most coaches, under those circumstances, would have been in the bottom third of the conference. The school would fire them, hire a new coach, ask him what he needed to be successful, and he would have gotten those things."
Shane agreed that sadly, that is how it often works in the world of college athletics.
Let me be clear. The University of Alabama made a major statement with the new Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The new home for the Crimson Tide has taken the program's facilities from the bottom three of the SEC, to being in the conversation for the best in all of college baseball.
That is a major step in the right direction, and it removes the largest obstacle standing in the way of Alabama Baseball reaching the level that so many of us want to see.
However, it doesn't remove all of them. Having spent 16 years of his life trying to clear those hurdles in Tuscaloosa, I think Mitch felt like it was time to let someone else try.
This is part one of a series of posts in the coming days from Chris Stewart, play-by-play announcer for the Crimson Tide Sports Network since 2000, and the host of his own show on Tide 99.1 heard weekdays from 11a-2p.