Friday, February 8, 2013

MYTH-ZOU: Tim Jamieson & the SEC

Myth #5:  Tim Jamieson is not an SEC-caliber coach

"I have wanted him out for years based on the fact he couldn't even luck into one trophy his entire time in the big12. He finally did and I said if he did I wouldn't call for his head for 3 years."

"I think coaching Mizzou BB in the SEC is a very, very big challenge...Jamison's got a tough row to hoe."

"I would imagine he has a fairly short leash. Mizzou baseball has gone down the poop shoot lately."

(Tigerboard All Sports Board)
FACT: Coaching in the SEC shouldn't require anything greater than coaching in the Big 12, because the SEC is only marginally the better conference.

See Monday's Myth #1 for the explanation of where the SEC stands in relation to other baseball conferences.

If you accept the argument that the SEC is the best baseball conference only by a very small margin (and I do, since I wrote it), then it's reasonable to assume that Tim Jamieson ought to be able to do as well in the SEC as he has done in the Big 12.

During the years Mizzou was in the Big 21, all of which saw Jamieson as head coach, the Tigers finished 2nd once, 3rd once, 4th three times, 5th once, 6th twice, 7th four times, 8th twice, and 9th and 10th each once. In the past 10 years, Missouri's average Big 12 ranking was 5.3.

Now that's far from perfect, not even all that close to spectacular. For some fans, anything short of the top 2 or 3 each year, with frequent championship trophies, is unacceptable.

But whatever you think of that Big 12 record, what it does demonstrate is that Tim Jamieson has shown he can produce and average 5th place finish in a conference that was very nearly as competitive as the SEC.

Given that the SEC has 14 teams, while the Big 12 had only 10 baseball teams during the past 10 years, you might argue that an average 5.3 ranking int he Big 12 is square in the middle of the pack, which could translate to 7th or 8th - the middle of the pack - in the SEC. I've laid out the case elsewhere that Missouri's record the past 10 years puts them at a starting point of about 7th or 8th in the SEC. There's no reason to believe Tim Jamieson cannot continue to at least coach his Tigers to the middle of the SEC.

Again, that's not spectacular, it's not a "go crazy folks" kind of accomplishment. But it's certainly better than the sort of "Mizzou Baseball is going to get pistol-whipped in the SEC" predictions we've been hearing.

FACT: College Baseball is a lot like College Basketball, in the sense that momentum going into the post-season, and a successful approach to post-season tournament play is vitally important in the overall success of the program.

For a number of years, Tim Jamieson's Tigers had trouble even making it into the post-season, and when they did make it in, they were the proverbial "2-and-Q" team, with a quick ticket back home.

Mizzou still has managed to make it past a Regional only once, and went 0-2 in that Super Regional. But over the past decade, Coach Jamieson has learned how to coach his team into the post-season and how to coach them to go deep and even win a tournament.

TJ's Tigers...
... have qualified for the Big 12 Tournament for the past 10 years straight
... played in the Big 12 Championship Game 3 of the past 4 years (as the 3rd seed, 8th seed, and 6th seed)
... won the Big 12 Tournament Championship in 2012
... have been to the NCAA Regionals 8 of the past 10 seasons
Obviously, Tim Jamieson has learned something about how to play in the high pressure environment of the conference tournament.

The lesson I learn from this is that Tim Jamieson is learning and steadily getting better as a coach, acquiring the skills necessary to push the Missouri program farther into the post-season.

The SEC post-season Tournament, like the Big 12 Tournament, is a big deal.  Because so many followers of college baseball have bought into the idea that the SEC is far and away the top conference (including, its seems, the people who draw up the brackets and the list of invites to the field of 64), doing well at all in the SEC Tournament goes a long way toward getting into the NCAA field.

If Jamieson and Company can continue to put their experience to work for them and go deep in the SEC Tournament - no matter what their regular season ranking - that will serve the Tigers well going forward.

FACT:  Missouri Baseball has one of the smallest budgets in SEC Baseball, and has one of the smallest stadiums in the conference.

A good coach can only do so much with what his athletic department gives him to work with.  The budget for recruiting, athlete amenities, crowd amenities at the ballpark, travel, and other things is going to have to be moved upward in order for Tim Jamieson's Tigers to compete on the same level as the rest of the SEC.  And the promotion and publicity for MU Baseball is going to have to continue to be ramped up in order to draw in the kind of crowds that energize (and monetize) a good SEC Baseball program.

The real question is not whether Tim Jamieson has what it takes to be a successful SEC Baseball coach.  He has proved that he does.

The most important question is whether the Mizzou Athletic Department as a whole is willing to put the effort and funds into the Baseball program to the same level of intensity as other SEC ADs have been doing for years.

Some fans salivate over the possibility of bringing in some big name successful baseball coach to replace Tim Jamieson and take MU Baseball victoriously through the SEC.  I can't imagine any big-time coach that would come to Mizzou without a guarantee that the athletic department was going to quickly make the upgrades in support that are necessary to build a big-time program.

Maybe we should first try supporting Tim Jamieson's program in a big-time way and see how that works.

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