Florida State has decided to bring back Mike Martin Sr for one more year while running a national search for a new head coach. While it was one time thought Mike Martin Jr. would take over for his father the possibility of that happening is now less clear. Is this a good idea? Bad? What are the ramifications of this?
Mike Martin has built FSU into the model of consistency. Every year you can pencil Florida State in as a post-season regional host and for the last 4 year the Seminoles have made it to the ACC Championship game, winning it all in 3 of those years. The ability to continually make the post season without any off the field issues is quite big for a coach of a non-revenue sport.
All of this deserves ample recognition. While many fans will note that Martin has never stood atop the hill at the end of the season his ability to turn 40 win seasons year after year is quite impressive. A farewell tour can also be fun for the fans as “Eleven” will be able to relive major moments of success at every ACC ballpark.
The move also gives Florida State time to figure out it’s next steps in this hiring search and how those steps fit into the athletics department. FSU is currently researching the best way to spend money on upgrades to the football program and having a strong plan for football could be helpful when trying to lure a baseball coach. The facilities for football could directly benefit baseball or at the very minimum give a potential coach an idea of what the university values when looking for upgrades to a sport. Any potential hires will need to have a good understanding of how well Florida State can support it’s baseball program.
Unfortunately this move is very short sighted. Just this year Miami gave head coach Jim Morris a farewell tour and the Hurricanes ended the season short of the NCAA Tournament and just 2 games over .500. While the final season was not the reason the Hurricanes struggled it did put a bit of a damper on a season that was supposed to be celebratory. The ‘Canes did manage to name a head coach in waiting before the season began though, which is something FSU has failed to do.
The biggest problem with this move lies in the area of recruiting. With nobody on the staff guaranteed to hold a position after the 2019 season who is a recruit committing to? Miami named assistant Gino DiMare as it’s head coach in waiting so recruits knew what to expect and had assurances that the person recruiting them to campus would be there. A Florida State commit does not have that same assurance and will not until after the 2019 MLB draft, when most prospects will have made their decision.
Florida State has not struggled a ton in recruiting but has struggled with bringing in top flight pitchers and that’s not likely to get any better. Martin’s last act in 2018 of sending Drew Parrish back out to face Mississippi State was highly criticized and could continue to generate bad press and negative recruiting. FSU’s questionable ability to both manage and develop a pitching staff along with the aforementioned fact that nobody knows what coaches will be wearing “Seminoles” across their chest in 2020 will put whatever coach does take over the job in quite a hole.
So, where is FSU to go during it’s search for the next head coach? How much does AD Stan Wilcox understand the role of baseball in the Seminole athletics portfolio and what kind of money will Florida State be willing to spend on a head coach, support staff and facilities? All of these are huge questions with no immediately discernible answers.
Currently Mike Martin’s base salary sits just under $600K/year, which is very cheap, especially when you consider Florida pays Kevin O’Sullivan about twice that. While O’Sullivan has proven to be a better coach than Martin over the last 10 years or so the fact remains that baseball salaries are increasing, much like basketball and football, and how much of a player Florida State is willing to be and can afford to be are probably the biggest factors in who Wilcox will target.
Recently the SEC proposed to the NCAA a third paid assistant for baseball teams. This is a very good idea for the sport but also one that could put SEC teams further ahead of the pack as the SEC generates the most money across college sports. Making matters even worse for Florida State is the facilities arms race that has elevated in college baseball. Much like football and basketball universities are pumping more and more money into their stadiums and training facilities in order to attract a better quality of athlete. Not only do schools have to compete with each other in baseball, they also must compete against Major League Baseball.
Florida State needs a quality hire that can make immediate noise. There hasn’t been much excitement around the program as of late even though Martin continues to win at a high rate and get the ‘Noles to Omaha. Part of that is due to the heights that O’Sullivan has attained in Gainesville and part is due to fans not really having much of a belief that Martin can actually win it all. A new hire likely brings immediate excitement to the program but not if the hire comes within.
Can Florida State really hire Mike Martin Jr. after all this time? Meat has done a great job with FSU’s offense and recruiting and has been a major reason why his father has as many wins as he has but the last couple of years has seen the offense scuffle a bit. While it’s still top notch it feels like other schools have begun to catch up. Does hiring “Meat” move the program forward? It’s pretty hard to say.
Florida State has the ability, because of location and tradition, to be a top 5 program but to do that they’ll need a coach that can foremost be a recruiter, a fundraiser and embrace the increase of analytics in the game. But of course that’s pretty much what every smart baseball program is looking for. Does FSU have the ability and know how to find and pay for that sort of manager? Fans will find out in the summer of 2019.
Tomahawk Nation will let you know who we feel the program can attract and afford in an article profiling coaches later this year.