UCLA baseball coach John Savage was recently pursued pretty aggressively by crosstown rival USC, as we detailed here.
The troubled blueblood is desperate to get back to its winning ways, but it turns out UCLA’s athletics department might value the coach to an incredible degree. From the L.A. Times:
With the Bruins winning their first College World Series title last month, UCLA has offered to extend the coach’s contract through 2025, pending approval by the university’s board of regents, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations.
Savage did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment, but the person said USC had come after the coach “very hard” and with a “spectacular offer.”
Essentially, UCLA’s extension was a response to the push that USC made since Savage took UCLA to the promised land, earning the Bruins their first national title in baseball as a result.
Of course, “spectacular offer” heavily implies that the Bruins spent a pretty penny to retain the head coach. That, too, appears to be true. More from the LAT:
Savage was paid more than $300,000 annually, including bonuses, by the terms of his previous UCLA contract, which ran through 2017. USC’s offer was for more than $1 million per year, which would have made Savage the highest-paid coach in the nation..
So Savage got paid, with UCLA likely matching the offer. And rightfully so—not only did Savage win a national title, but he did so with a team that analysts described as lacking in talent throughout the College World Series. On top of that, he did so with relatively scarce resources, with Daily Bruin reporter Jacob Ruffman describing the baseball program as a “drain on the A.D.” for years:
@carlosatUCLA Completely disagree. Savage deserves all of the credit entirely. Baseball has been seen as a drain on the AD for years.
— Jacob Ruffman (@JacobRuffman) June 26, 2013
With so little institutional support, it’s incredible what Savage has done. It’s also worth mentioning that the coach saved UCLA from its first national championship-less academic year since 1994. Had that streak been broken, many would’ve turned their ire towards A.D. Dan Guerrero. Perhaps now Guerrero won’t see UCLA baseball as a “drain” anymore.
But Savage deserves it, because no other team was as well-coached as the Bruins were. Talented though they were, national powerhouses failed to trump the Bruins’ small-ball brand of play, and many lacked the discipline UCLA displayed throughout the postseason.
So good job, UCLA, for paying the right guy, and keeping him from a crosstown rival that you’ve dominated for a decade now. And good job to you, John Savage, for earning that pay bump.