And LSU baseball fans thought they had a bad opening weekend.
The fact that Mississippi State went to Hattiesburg over the weekend and got swept in three straight by Southern Miss seemed shocking enough.
That, as the saying goes, wasn’t the half of it.
Monday night, the news broke that State coach and former LSU hitting instructor Andy Cannizaro was going to be fired for cause. Tuesday, Cannizaro resigned, leaving a smoking crater in the middle of State’s newly renovated ballpark, Dudy Noble Field, and questions about what could have gone so awry for him so quickly.
"I had a wonderful opportunity at Mississippi State, but unfortunately I made some poor decisions,” Cannizaro said in a statement released by Mississippi State. “I hope Mississippi State University and all of the fans and people affected will one day forgive me.”
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What exactly led Cannizaro to beg forgiveness, he of course didn’t say. But amid all the speculation that is sure to follow was a report Tuesday afternoon from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that the school investigated rumors of Cannizaro being involved in an extramarital affair. Cannizaro has a wife and two young children with a third on the way.
Certainly no one should think his departure had anything to do with the Bulldogs getting swept at Southern Miss.
Here in LSU baseball country, where the Tigers are trying to pick up their own pieces from the comparatively minor issue of getting hammered in two of three games by Notre Dame — plus dealing with the news that starting shortstop Josh Smith could miss half the season with a stress reaction in one of his vertebrae — the speculation immediately turns to this:
Is there any circumstance by which Cannizaro could return to work for Paul Mainieri at LSU?
The answer? It would be a cold day in (pick your location, geographical or biblical) before that happens. Certainly not while Mainieri is LSU’s coach.
It’s more than the fact that LSU currently has those positions filled. Former player Sean Ochinko is the hitting coach, though technically listed as a volunteer coach, and Nolan Cain is the recruiting coordinator.
Cannizaro left LSU in November 2016 to take the Mississippi State job. It was a late-in-the-game curveball, both on Cannizaro’s part and on the part of John Cohen, State’s previous baseball coach who had just become the school’s new athletic director.
He replaced Scott Stricklin, who left to become A.D. at Florida after Jeremy Foley left. The Jeremy Foley LSU fans so fondly remember for the whole Hurricane Matthew fiasco that has the football team facing its second straight trip to Gainesville this fall, coincidentally to take on a Gators team led by former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.
It’s little secret that Mainieri and Cohen do not have a great relationship. It didn’t help the chemistry between Mainieri and Cannizaro that longtime LSU commitment Tanner Allen switched his pledge to Mississippi State just a week after Cannizaro moved to Starkville.
“I was disappointed when that happened," Mainieri said before LSU played at Mississippi State to wrap up the 2017 regular season. "I thought Andy and I had an agreement when he left not to poach players we had recruited.”
LSU swept those three games, then two more from the Bulldogs when they came to Baton Rouge for an NCAA super regional against the Tigers. Other than to exchange lineup cards for those five games, I understand Maineri and Cannizaro haven’t spoken.
Mainieri had few more words about Cannizaro’s abrupt departure from Starkville on Tuesday when he met with reporters before an LSU team practice.
Andy Cannizaro is officially out as Mississippi State head baseball coach, the university announced Tuesday.
“It’s really a topic I would rather not discuss,” Mainieri said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate for Andy, it’s unfortunate for his family, it’s unfortunate for Mississippi State, it’s unfortunate for college baseball. Outside of that I really don’t have anything to say about it. I’m as disappointed as anyone else would be.”
Whatever Cannizaro did to set this unfortunate situation into motion, he did it to himself. And now, and entire program and fan base at Mississippi State has to pay for his “poor decisions” when just last week they thought they had a bright young coach on their hands. Now they try to move on under interim coach Gary Henderson, a Cannizaro assistant and former head coach at Kentucky.
Back before the super regional, Mainieri tried to downplay any “bad blood” between him and the coach who if he stayed may one day have been Mainieri’s successor. His words then take on an interesting tint now.
“I knew when he went there that every year we were going to have battles with them until my career is over or Andy’s career is over,” Mainieri said in June. “Hopefully, mine will end before his does, because he’s a young man."
Where Cannizaro’s baseball career goes from here is anyone’s guess except for one thing:
It won’t be at LSU.