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Kerrick Jackson might be exactly what Mizzou Baseball needs

The new head coach and former Tiger assistant has a history of rebuilding struggling baseball programs

via Twitter / @MizzouBaseball

Kerrick Jackson was not my first choice to be Missouri Baseball’s next head coach. I wanted Rob Childress. The former A&M coach lived in the postseason in his 15 seasons with the Aggies, and he knows what it takes to win baseball games in the SEC. However, when the indications began pointing to Jackson being named the next head coach I decided the least I could do is come in with an open mind. After all, DRF has proven she’s pretty good at this hiring coaches thing.

But as I began to dig into Jackson’s past I quickly became more of a fan.

The first thing I noticed was Jackson knows a thing or two about improving struggling baseball programs. It’s been well-documented since his hiring that Jackson won just nine games in his first season as the head man at Southern and followed it up with 32 wins, a conference title and a regional berth in year two. While the task at hand of bringing Missouri up to par in college baseball’s premier conference is by all measures much harder, what that job does reveal about Jackson is his ability to get his players to buy in.

No matter how many people complain on Twitter about the amount of money Mizzou invests into baseball, it’s not going to change the fact that the Tigers will always be at or near the bottom of the league in spending. It’s a reality I think we must accept. Perhaps if the Tigers did rattle off consecutive regional berths or something of that nature, maybe we could see some more investment, but I prefer to operate in the current situation. And Missouri’s current situation is this— if they want to win baseball games, they’re going to need to have teams buy in and do more with less. Jackson has proven he can do that.

His turnaround at Southern was fantastic, and in his lone season at Memphis, he delivered that program’s first winning season in six years. Who’s to say Jackson can’t do the same in Columbia? After listening to his press conference today, I know Jackson thinks it’s only a matter of time before that happens.

“When you’re in this position, when you’re at this level, if you’re not trying to win a championship at the national level and play at the highest level, you need to go do something else. And we don’t have any reasons why we can’t do that,” Jackson told reporters Monday. “From our mound to our plate is 60 feet six inches like anywhere else. From home plate to first base is 90 feet like anywhere else. We use the same balls. We use really good bats and other equipment. Now it’s just about if our guys have the right heart determination and intestinal fortitude put us in a position to go out and compete with the best in the country and prove that we belong in that space.”

Beyond just his ability to rebuild a team and instill that why-not-us mentality, I think one thing I severely overlooked about Jackson that makes him such a good fit for this job is his love for the University of Missouri.

While he’s not an alum, Jackson did grow up in St. Louis, attended Kirkwood High School, played baseball at STLCC and coached all over the state, including at Mizzou. Hearing him speak to the media on Monday, you could tell the love that he has for the school. Even his kids can tell. He shared a story where he asked his kids if they’d be OK moving back to Columbia to take the job at Mizzou, and his eldest son Zion said, “You have to take that job, Dad.”

This is a trait that few other candidates for this job probably possessed. I’m not worried about Jackson coming into CoMo, having a few successful seasons, and leaving for greener pastures. I truly believe he’s here for the long haul and that’s not something you can say for most candidates at a middling Power 5 job.

“This is a special place to be,” Jackson said at his presser. “To be blessed with this opportunity to lead this program, you don’t know how much it means.”

The final thing I want to highlight about Jackson is the zero-excuses mindset he seems to bring.

At one point in his introductory press conference, Jackson was asked a question that everyone who knows anything about the Mizzou baseball program knew would be asked. “Have you had any discussions about upgrading facilities?” Jackson gave an answer that made me grin from ear to ear.

“We have the same things at the basic core that everybody else has, and that’s all that matters,” he explained. “Would we like to have some different things? Yes, we would, but again, as I told you, we just mentioned teams 14 (Ole Miss) and 13 (Mississippi State) in our league who have everything are teams 13 and 14.”

As I briefly mentioned earlier, this excuse of facilities and investment into the baseball program being the reason Missouri is unable to find success has driven me crazy since I became a Mizzou fan. Is it a component of an ever-frustrating question as to why we can’t win baseball games? Yes. Is it the main reason? No.

College baseball is a uniquely beautiful sport, in that the best team almost never wins. Last year Oklahoma and Ole Miss squared off in the College World Series Finals, and it wasn’t because either team was all that good. It was because they got hot at the right time. Meanwhile, the 2022 Tennessee team, the greatest college baseball team I’ve ever seen, lost at home in the Supers.

On Sunday, Oral Roberts won the Stillwater Regional. That Golden Eagles team has won 21 straight games, and they kicked Oklahoma State’s ass three times this season. Which team do you think invests more money in baseball?

I say all this not to diminish the importance of investment into athletic programs, but to highlight the fact that this isn’t SEC Football; Mizzou CAN achieve success without spending like LSU. And most importantly, I think Kerrick Jackson might just be the right guy to make that happen.