Commentary: Leggett Interest May Be More Than Mere Flirtation
Jack Leggett has spent the last 12 years keeping Clemson in the upper echelon of college baseball. He may be spending the next few days deciding if he wants to stay with the school, or leave for what some perceive as greener pastures.
A story which appeared in Columbia's The State newspaper Tuesday morning cited unnamed sources in reporting that Leggett has had informal discussions with both Texas A&M and Oklahoma about each school's current job opening. Leggett declined to comment for the story, and the Clemson administration would only say that the school is "in discussions" with Leggett regarding his future.
Not all that unusual. Neither side would want to negotiate publicly. Both have too much class for such theatrics.
Some will say, in fact, that there is nothing to negotiate. Leggett's name being mentioned is little more than scuttlebutt, the kind of talk that routinely follows a successful coach.
Heck, Ray Tanner parlayed the same talk from the same two schools into a $50,000 pay increase and a contract extension last week from the University of South Carolina. Maybe Leggett will be as fortunate, Joe Fan will say, and cash in as well.
Or maybe there's more to this flirtation than meets the eye.
When I spoke to Leggett early Tuesday morning, he was pleasant enough but, again, refused to comment on the story, his future or his current contract situation - two years left on a deal paying him a base salary of $139,050, a $10,000 annuity, incentives worth $104,288 plus undisclosed income from his annual summer camps and endorsement deals.
But in talking with some close to Leggett later in the day, it became apparent Tiger fans might indeed need to worry.
For starters, Leggett isn't happy with the disparity between the numbers in his contract and those of Tanner, especially since Tanner's latest raise and extension. Contracted through 2012, Tanner's new deal can be worth as much as $490,000 with incentives. Included in that total is an annuity more than eight times that of Leggett's.
As for the incentives, sources say that despite the strong finish to Clemson's season, which ended one game shy of a College World Series appearance, Leggett only cashed in on "about 10 percent" of his incentive package.
Leggett also frets over the difference in salaries between his assistant coaches and those at South Carolina, a gap one source put at "as much as $20-30,000 per coach."
Another source I spoke with said that Leggett only wants to be on equal footing with his Gamecock rivals, not one penny more. It's important, the source said, not only because of recruiting but because of the way the two programs are so closely compared to one another by fans, boosters and even the media.
Gamecocks and money aside, operating on less than three years contract security can seriously hamper recruiting in college baseball. Leggett has had that luxury every year since 2001.
That, as much as anything, could lead to the veteran coach exploring other options. In fact, one of the folks I spoke with Tuesday said that Leggett may have to decide if he wants to visit one of the two suitors in as little as the next 24 hours.
Mind you, this hasn't been just any 12-year coaching run. Among Leggett's accomplishments:
- Four College World Series appearances;
- One ACC championship;
- An average of 46 wins per season;
- Over 900 career victories, 555 of which have come at Clemson;
- NCAA tournament appearances every year;
- One of only ten schools (FSU, LSU, Miami, USC, Stanford, Cal State Fullerton, Rice, Southern California, Texas) to make the NCAA Super Regionals five times in its seven-year existence.
So what happens next? Only Leggett knows for sure.
But I do know this:
Leggett wants to stay at Clemson. He has given up much of his personal life because he loves coaching at the university. His dedication to the Tigers' program has led him to turn down chances to coach Team USA and has caused him significant grief in his personal life.
But he pressed onward because of his devotion to the job. Not even a broken neck - the result of a skiing accident some years ago - could keep him away from Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Metal halo screwed into his skull for stability, Leggett never missed a practice because of the incident.
I also know the Clemson administration wants Leggett to stay. Everyone from Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips to Senior Associate AD Dwight Rainey have said as much.
That, alone, should be enough to get a deal done.
Clemson fans should hope and pray it is.
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.