Tulane baseball coach David Pierce earned his fifth consecutive at-large bid to the NCAA tournament Monday afternoon.
Almost simultaneously, significant coaching news hit the rest of the nation. Texas’ Augie Garrido and Alabama’s Mitch Gaspard lost their jobs, yielding a wave of speculation about who would take over those programs.
As Pierce stood on stage in the Glazer Family Room and thanked everyone connected with the Green Wave program ahead of Tulane’s trip to Oxford, Mississippi, to face Boston College at 3 p.m. Friday, his name floated as a possible candidate for those newly open positions.
And Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen knows why. In three seasons at Sam Houston State and two at Tulane, Pierce has backed up his reputation as a winner, earning the respect of many throughout college baseball.
“David should be mentioned as a candidate for any top-10 job in the country,” Dannen said. “He’s proven his ability to train, lead and motivate multiple programs to high levels of achievement. Our job is to ensure David knows he is respected and appreciated at Tulane and provide an atmosphere ensuring him that Tulane can achieve at the highest levels. We will do just that.”
Part of Dannen’s faith in Pierce comes from his belief that Tulane’s baseball program is on solid footing. Monday’s announcement marked the first time since 2006 that Tulane has reached consecutive NCAA tournaments.
It’s the climb back toward what legendary Green Wave coach Rick Jones (who retired for health-related concerns in 2014) built when Tulane reached the College World Series in 2001 and 2005.
“This is a program that can win national championships and is in a position today to win national championships,” Dannen said. “It does stand as a great example for everyone else in the department to see that we can be at the top of our league and compete at a national level. I knew what to expect coming in, because the foundation here was so strong. We also just have a quality group of men here, and all season they did the things a championship team does. Nothing surprised me, because they put themselves in a position for success.”
Pierce was hired by Dannen’s predecessor, Rick Dickson, in 2014. While Tulane has changed coaches in football, men’s basketball and volleyball since December, Dannen said he knew there was no reason to look for a change in baseball.
While the on-field accomplishments are obvious, Dannen also highlighted Pierce’s personality and off-the-field nature.
“I am probably more impressed with him as an individual and he how cares for the guys and how he treats the people around the program,” Dannen said. “A lot of people have some X-and-O and techniques, but his ability to motivate is because of the respect he’s gained from the guys. His ability to keep them playing at that level is what sets him apart. You don’t get that kind of response from your team unless you treat everyone with respect, and I’ve really come to admire it.”
On top of learning its postseason destination, Tulane also lifted its first American Athletic Conference trophy Monday.
Tulane clinched the league’s regular-season baseball championship on the final weekend of the regular season. It was the first championship for any Green Wave program since Tulane entered the league for the 2014-15 school year.
“It really sunk in when we saw that trophy today,” senior ace Emerson Gibbs said. “On the bus, after we lost in the tournament, we kind of had to remind ourselves we still won a conference championship and that we earned it. No one can ever take that championship away from us, and it makes us know that we belong in this regional — and I don’t see any reason we can’t win it.”
Tulane’s Oxford history
This is Tulane’s third postseason trip to Oxford in its past six NCAA tournament appearances.
In 2004, the Green Wave won its only regional outside of New Orleans, knocking off Washington at Swayze Field. In 2006, Tulane reached the final of the regional but was defeated by host Ole Miss.
“I really thought we would be going to LSU or to Lafayette, but this is awesome,” junior outfielder Lex Kaplan said.