If you’ve been living under a rock, UCLA baseball just won its first ever national championship and the school’s 109th NCAA title.
Of course, this team would be nowhere without coach John Savage, who took over a 15-41 (4-20 Pac-12) team back in 2005, and turned them into a College World Series mainstay starting four years ago. Indeed, before getting the monkey off the program’s back, Savage took the Bruins to the CWS two of the previous three years, one of which includes a CWS final appearance in which the team lost to South Carolina.
With that success, though, will come others who are looking to profit off of it. Cue the USC Trojans, a traditional college baseball blueblood that has found itself middling and bottom-feeding about for the past ten years.
And, as you’d expect, they’re turning to a magician with a proven record of turning around troubled baseball programs in Savage himself. From the L.A. Times:
In one of his career steps before taking over UCLA’s program in 2005, Savage was USC’s pitching coach.
And there are plenty of people around USC who would like to see him back in cardinal and gold — this time as coach of the Trojans.
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden is said to be one of them.
Haden hasn’t publicly revealed who he favors to fill that open position, but Savage is thought to be at the top of the list. The Trojans have been waiting for UCLA’s season to end before talking to him.
Let’s be honest: We all saw this coming.
The school across town faces some desperate times baseball-wise. While they’ve watched crosstown rival UCLA dominate the Pac-12, and now the College World Series, the Trojans have missed out on the postseason every year since they got to the Super Regionals back in 2005. That’s eight years of futility for a once-proud program.
So of course Savage would be at the top of the Trojans’ wish-list. Why he wasn’t on it prior is beyond us — taking a once-lowly Bruins baseball program from nothing to CWS regulars is no small feat — but the time is here now and it’s of no surprise to us.
What would be shocking, though, is if Savage left UCLA for USC. Despite his roots — he first came to Los Angeles as an assistant coach under Mike Gillepsie, the former Trojans coach — it’s pretty rare that a championship-winning college coach in any sport bolts to a school that isn’t his alma mater (we say that because UCLA men’s volleyball coach John Speraw left UCI for UCLA, but UCLA was his alma mater).
So no, we don’t expect Savage to leave. But if he does, it’d be a crushing blow for both the program and the UCLA fan-base in general. Losing a coach coming off a championship is harsh enough, and the pain is only exacerbated when said coach leaves to restore a heated rival’s broken program.
With a good chunk of young talent returning (namely all-Pac-12 pitcher David Berg along with Eric Filia and starting pitcher Grant Watson, among others), this team could repeat under Savage’s guidance. Why he’d leave that for another four- to five-year rebuild seems preposterous.
But, as with all things, time will tell.