Clemson Tigers Baseball: In a “Win Now” Culture, Tigers Must Trust Bakich

Clemson Head Coach Erik Bakich talks with media before practice at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Friday, January 27, 2023.2023 Clemson Baseball First Practice
Clemson Head Coach Erik Bakich talks with media before practice at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Friday, January 27, 2023.2023 Clemson Baseball First Practice /


This is a virtue oftentimes forgotten in the 21st century. In a world of airplane wifi and instant mac-and-cheese, Americans are used to getting what they want right when they want it, and so are Clemson Tigers fans.

College athletics are no exception. Mike Huguenin points this out in his ON3 piece, “Current FBS Coaches have Been in their Jobs for an Average of Just 3.7 Years.” He cites that of the twenty-one D1 college football head coaches hired in 2018, thirteen had already departed prior to the start of their fifth season.

The NCAA has become a metaphorical airport, riddled by the constant arrivals and departures of coaches. This is due, in large part, to the short leash they are provided by athletic directors.

Gone are the days of waiting for college coaches to establish their program. Constant pressure from fans, boosters, and university officials require coaches to win early and often if they hope to stick around.

Such is the scenario for Clemson’s new baseball coach Erik Bakich. With a ‘less-than-ideal’ start to ACC play in 2023–the Tigers currently sit at the bottom of the Atlantic division– Clemson fans are already wondering if athletic director Graham Neff made a mistake in hiring the California native.

Don’t worry, he didn’t.

Bakich is Clemson’s guy. Tiger fans should feel confident in this for two primary reasons.

Reason 1: He’s Done It Before

Bakich’s previous achievements speak for themselves.

Before he took over Michigan’s program in 2012, the Wolverines missed the postseason in each of the previous four years. By Bakich’s third season, Michigan was once again champions of the Big Ten, and in 2019 they were back in the College World series for the first time in thirty-five years.

But his work in Ann Arbor isn’t the only success Bakich has achieved. For several years, he worked as the recruiting coordinator at Vanderbilt, along with serving duties as a hitting and outfielder coach. During his 7 years in Nashville, Vanderbilt delivered top-25 recruiting classes every season under Bakich’s helm.

During his first head coaching gig at Maryland University, Bakich worked to build a historically weak Terrapin program from the ground up. Despite only being there for three years (he would make the move to Michigan following the 2012 season), Maryland’s baseball program improved from winning only 17 games in his first year to finishing 32-24 in his last.

Throughout his career, Bakich has achieved positive results everywhere he’s been, including Clemson. Bakich began his coaching career as a volunteer hitting coach for the Tigers in 2002, a season that saw the Tiger’s team batting average climb to 3.33, a 0.28 increase from a season prior. The Tigers gained a berth into the college world series that season, and finished ranked no. 3 nationally.

Clemson has already succeeded once under Bakich’s supervision. There is no reason to suspect they won’t again.

Reason 2: He Develops Men Beyond the Field

While an impressive track record never fails to boost confidence, the primary reason fans should trust Bakich is rooted in his coaching ideology.

Historically, the university’s athletic department has prided itself on producing exceptional young men and women who are not only world-class athletes, but accomplished leaders and professionals as well.

Bakich approaches his teams with similar principles. The new coach discussed these principles at the start of team training in a press conference documented by All Clemson.

"“[We made] a lot of strides and improvement from the neck up, getting these guys engaged in some community service activity off the field, putting a target on developing them as people, as teammates, as well as ball players.”"

Along with their humanitarian efforts, the baseball players have also shown signs of academic improvement under Bakich, posting the program’s highest team GPA the previous fall semester.

"“…the stuff that we did in the classroom, off the field, in the community, I feel like it’s really translated into making the best team that we could possibly have on the field…Obviously that doesn’t equate to any wins or anything on the scoreboard, but it’s all connected…We believe how you do anything is how you do everything.”"

This approach has worked for other coaches, including Dabo Swinney who, even after two national championships, still cites his primary goal as preparing his players to be good men in addition to good athletes. With a similar approach from Bakich, fans might hope to see similar results.

Clemson Must Stay Diligent

When Graham Neff hired Erik Bakich, he essentially promised him Clemson’s patience and confidence.  Now the young athletic director must uphold that promise by providing the coach appropriate time and support.

Bakich is capable of building a program with the capacity for both success and longevity. Achieving such a program, however, can take considerable time and patience. But if fans and boosters are able to contain their grievances long enough to allow the ball coach to do his job, then Bakich is sure to have Clemson’s team among the nation’s best.