Glass: Baseball opening already generating interest

Fred Glass said he was willing to dig deep into the athletic department budget to keep Tracy Smith.

The Indiana athletic director wasn’t sure if he could match what Arizona State was offering his head baseball coach to leave, but he was willing to do what it took to find out. The Hooisers were already paying him $344,171 per year, the highest salary of any Big Ten baseball coach, and Glass was willing to go higher.

But when Glass told Smith he could name his price, Glass said, Smith opted not to create a bidding war and decided on Tuesday to become Arizona State’s new head coach.

“The financial offer at Arizona State was more lucrative than Tracy’s current arrangement,” Glass said. “I said, ‘Hey, look man. What’s it going to take? I may or may not be able to get to that number, but you tell me what number would put us in play for you to stay.’ He called me back and said, ‘You know what man? It’s not about the money. It’s not about the money.’ I don’t think it was about the money this time just like it obviously wasn’t about the money when Ohio State offered him the job (in 2010). I think it underscores what kind of person he really is. It truly isn’t about the money for him. I offered to do whatever it took, and he said it’s not about that.”

It was instead, Glass and Smith said, about not being able to pass up on offer from one of college baseball’s true blue bloods. The Sun Devils have won five national titles, been to 22 College World Series and produced hundreds of Major League Baseball draftees, including Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, Dustin Pedroia and Andre Ethier. Smith had helped Indiana overcome a number of obstacles — most notably a northern climate but also a lack of historical success — in 2013 to become the first Big Ten team since 1984 to reach the College World Series. Coaching at Arizona State means never having to deal with those obstacles.

Glass, though, now has the advantage of using everything that Indiana built within the baseball program in Smith’s nine-year tenure to lure his replacement. That’s something Glass said he expects to do relatively quickly because there is a lot of interest.

“As soon as I knew the thing was not going to end the way we wanted with Tracy, I knew we had a highly desirable job,” Glass said. “We’ve already been reached out to directly and indirectly by people at big-time programs. College World Series and super regional programs. We may or may not ultimately select from that group, but it’s encouraging that a lot of interest has been shown in this position.”

When Smith arrived before the 2006 season, the Hoosiers were playing at a facility in Sembower Field that was of lower quality than many high school facilities. It had a seating capacity of 2,250 with its bleachers, but almost never came anywhere near filling that. The Hoosiers hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in 10 years at that point, their 1996 berth was their first involvement in the tournament since 1949 and they’d won a total of one NCAA Tournament game in their history.

Bart Kaufman Field, Indiana’s $19.8 million facility which was finished at the start of the 2013 season, was a big part of the reason the Hoosiers were able to change that. It has seating for 2,500 fans but takes advantage of standing room to go well beyond that. With temporary bleachers in right field, it drew well over 4,000 fans for games in this year’s NCAA Bloomington Regional. In its two years, it has hosted the first two regionals ever played in Bloomington. The Hoosiers were 93-31 in those two seasons, breaking into the national rankings for the first time in school history, winning eight NCAA Tournament games and back-to-back Big Ten regular season and tournament titles.

“I’d say it’s figuratively and literally night and day because there ain’t no lights at Sembower,” Glass said of the effect of Bart Kaufman Field. “…I think it’s helped us attract players. It’s helped us keep players that could have left for the pros. It’s an absolute and total game changer. And we’ve put additional substantial resources in baseball in terms of the head coach contract and assistant coaches salaries. We’ve added a director of operations. So forth and so on. We’ve made a real commitment to baseball. We’ve had success and proven it can happen from the Big Ten  and it can happen in a northern climate. Success of other teams in our region like Louisville and Vanderbilt that have had national success demonstrate that it could be done here. And we’re going to put in resources. We’re not just sitting back and saying, ‘Oh, wasn’t that a nice era?’ We want to keep going. We think the best days of Indiana baseball are ahead of us. ”

Among the names that immediately surfaced as potential candidates were Cincinnati coach Ty Neal, who was an assistant under Smith through 2013, Louisville assistant Chris Lemonis, Xavier head coach Scott Googins and Vanderbilt assistant Travis Jewett. Glass said he has some criteria in his mind for a replacement, but doesn’t like to limit his search.

“To me, it’s really about keeping it open and keeping nimble,” Glass said. “We have a list of criteria that we work against, but we like to be nimble based on the interest of various people and what’s going on in the market place and so forth. … I think you do a disservice to yourself if you box yourself in. We’ll see what’s out there and compare all of the apples and oranges.”

As good of a hiring position as Glass finds himself in, however, he recognizes that Smith’s successor will not be able to replace everything he brought to the program. Not only does Smith take with him the knowledge of what it took to build Indiana to national prominence, but his unique personality was an asset in itself, Glass said.

“Most people know and see his ability and that’s obvious, but he was such a good teammate on our staff,” Glass said. “We really try to treat our head coaches as colleagues and as faculty members. We try to interact and share, and he was a guy who was always at the head of the parade with that. … It’s a loss because he’s just a really, really extraordinary guy. I’m disappointed as the athletic director at Indiana University to lose a baseball coach, but personally, not having him around any more is going to make it less fun. He’s a fun guy.”