Thursday, December 15, 2011

SEC Dixie-nary: P is for Polk

P is for Polk

. . .as in former Mississippi State Baseball Coach Ron Polk, considered the "Father of SEC Baseball".

Polk began as head coach of the Bulldogs in 1976 and went on to win 1,218 games and 5 SEC regular season championships.

But what distinguished him most in the SEC was his endless push to bring not only Mississippi State but all of SEC Baseball into into the modern era and into the forefront of college baseball.  He fought to change the SEC's governing by-laws that were more restrictive than the NCAA's, limiting teams to fewer practices and fewer games than their competitors in other conferences.  He set fire to a facilities expansion race that is still going on in the SEC (and which Mizzou will find themselves obligated to join - or be left in the dust).

Ron Polk
In 1984, LSU hired Skip Bertman as their head baseball coach, and Bertman joined Polk in the battle to build the SEC into what is now considered one of the top college baseball conferences. (LSU fans will probably think this post should be titled B is for Bertman).

For more details about Ron Polk, read SEC Baseball Needed a Well Placed Polk (
It was at Mississippi State where he put a saddle on the tired state of SEC baseball and whipped it toward the finish line like a jockey trying to get a thoroughbred to the winners’ circle. Rewind to the 1960s and ’70s, and SEC baseball was the black sheep of each school’s athletic family. Most schools had embarassing playing venues, mostly splintered wooden bleachers with rusted handrails.

When State hired Polk, he was the league’s first full-time baseball coach. Schools like LSU, which had its head equipment manager for the athletic department also moonlighting as head baseball coach, hadn’t seriously committed to building winning programs. “They probably drew straws in the athletic departments to see who was going to coach baseball,” Polk says. (
Polk's published his Baseball Playbook in 1982, which became a standard of baseball coaching and training throughout the NCAA and beyond..

For more on the history of SEC Baseball, check out this video by Eric Sorenson of ESPN and A Stitch in Time: The Rise of the SEC

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