Clark: The missing Link? Jarrett is perfect hire for FSU baseball
When Mike Martin Jr. was fired the same day Link Jarrett was opening up a Super Regional at Tennessee, the timing never seemed completely coincidental, did it?
When Jarrett went on to spearhead a shocking win in that Super Regional and take his Notre Dame team to Omaha for the first time in 20 years, well, that just seemed like the Baseball Gods were playing one more trick on the Florida State baseball program. It was as if they were saying, "You could have hired this guy three years ago, and maybe you'd be heading to the College World Series right now."
Well, now that trick has turned into a treat.
Link Jarret is coming home.
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His Fighting Irish team went 1-2 in Omaha, a record FSU fans are quite familiar with by the way. But the losses in the CWS aren't what matters. What matters is how quickly he turned that program around -- because that's exactly what he'll be tasked to do here in Tallahassee.
The Fighting Irish were 24-30 in 2019. They were 13-17 in the ACC.
Here's the Link Effect.
The very next year, they were 11-2 before COVID canceled the rest of the season. Not a bad start there, Link.
In 2021, just one year removed from being one of the worst teams in the ACC, Jarrett had the best team in the ACC. By a substantial margin. Notre Dame finished 25-10 in the conference, four games better than anyone else.
They hosted a regional for the first time since 2004 (more on that in a moment) and were one win away from getting to the College World Series -- losing to eventual national champion Mississippi State in Game 3 in Starkville.
Then came 2022. All he did was put together another fantastic season, culminating with one of the greatest Super Regional wins in college baseball history.
Notre Dame rolled into Knoxville, facing the No. 1 overall seed, and ended the arrogant bully's season in three games. Much to the delight of the sports-loving world.
Now, did that win cost FSU some extra cash when this deal was being worked out? Highly likely.
But it was such a sweet victory for people who love sportsmanship and humility -- and players who don't paint their faces like Braveheart and curse out home-plate umpires in the fifth inning -- that it was almost worth the price!
And the price was right for Jarrett to make this move.
Obviously, this move is about more than just money. Much more.
I think Jarrett handled the questions he was asked before Omaha and during Omaha the exact right way. He never once said he wasn't leaving Notre Dame. He never once pulled a Saban and promised he was declining a particular job offer. He wanted to keep the focus on his players. On that stage. In that moment.
He did that.
But now it's his moment.
This is a kid that grew up in Tallahassee. Graduated from Florida High. Then became the starting shortstop at his hometown school as a freshman.
Started all four years. Made it to Omaha three times. Won some games out there, but never the big one. His goal, of course, is to change that this time around.
And honestly, that's one of the reasons he's here. Maybe the biggest one.
He knows he CAN win a College World Series at Florida State. Unlike Notre Dame, which went 20 years in between Omaha trips and is, quite frankly, an afterthought in college baseball.
Florida State still has that cachet. It still has that name recognition. It still gets to recruit in the most fertile area in the country.
Notre Dame has never hosted a Super Regional.
Think about that.
There are people reading this column right now who might be saying to themselves, "Why would a coach leave Notre Dame for Florida State?"
Well, that's a big part of your answer. Notre Dame, despite what Jarrett accomplished up there, is never going to be a superpower in this sport. It's too cold. It's too Indiana. And the fanbase is too disinterested. Don't believe me? Go look at those attendance numbers this year.
On a Friday game against Clemson in 2022, Notre Dame had 300 people in the stands. The same for a Friday game against Virginia Tech. And this was one of the best teams in school history!
Money is great. We all get that. I'm sure Notre Dame could -- and probably did -- offer Jarrett more to stay.
But you know what else is great?
Sunshine. And actual fans at baseball games. And really good high school players all around you. And the Animals of Section B. And history. And tradition. And ... home.
Three years ago, Florida State had a chance to hire Jarrett when he was still at UNC-Greensboro. But instead, the Seminoles went with Mike Martin Jr, the son of the legendary head coach and a longtime assistant.
At the time, I thought it was the right hire. The fair hire. I thought Martin Jr. deserved his shot.
Well, he got it. And as we all watched, it was a bit of a misfire. His teams made the NCAA Tournament, barely, but were quickly dispatched in the regionals. And his teams didn't field at all, ran the bases poorly and stopped hitting like Mike Martin Jr. teams had traditionally hit.
Meanwhile, his former roommate was out in South Bend leading a quality squad that fielded the ball great, didn't strike out, and played with so much poise (shout out to Mike Martin Sr.!) that it could go on the road and win two of three in front of that moonshine-infused throng of fans in the hills of Tennessee.
So, again, maybe the timing of Mike Martin Jr.'s firing wasn't coincidental.
Or maybe it was. Who knows?
All I do know is this: When the job came open there was one person at the top of Michael Alford's list. His name was in big, bold letters. He was not only a Link to the past (see what I did there?) greatness, but a coach who had proven he can win and win big at this level.
He was the absolute perfect fit for Florida State. Right here. Right now.
And Alford went out and got him.
Link Jarrett is coming home.
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