Regardless how Southern’s trip to the NCAA Starkville baseball regional turns out, coach Kerrick Jackson is going to reap some benefits from the Jaguars' turnaround season.
Southern athletic director Roman Banks said he’s working on a possible raise and/or extension for Jackson, who is taking the baseball team to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 10 years. The Jaguars play No. 6 national seed Mississippi State at noon Friday.
Jackson is currently working with one year left on a contract that pays him $85,000 annually.
“That’s our baseball coach,” Banks said at the Jaguars’ watch party. “I told him when I brought him here a couple years ago, we’re in it for the long haul. We understand he may get some other opportunities. The president and I will present to the Board of Supervisors the best package we can put together.
“We’ve come through some tough times. We’re going to make it competitive. I know what coaches make in this state and our league. I promised he will be one of the best compensated at our level.”
Jackson’s first team went 9-33 but the program improved to 32-22 in 2019 and won the Southwest Athletic Conference baseball tournament to notch the automatic bid. He was mum on any contract talk.
“I’m not going to say anything right now but I’m sure it’s something we’ll be able to handle at the end of the year when we’ll sit down,” he said.
In addition to coaching on the field, Jackson had to deal with sanctions on recruiting and practice times because of APR violations. Southern’s baseball team came up with a perfect score of 1,000 in the latest APR ratings.
Jackson is popular with his players for his no-nonsense approach, knowledge of the game and ability to build strong team chemistry.
“He puts our interests first,” senior shortstop Malik Blaise said. “He keeps us motivated and working hard.”
Said senior center fielder Javeyan Williams: “Coach brought in the missing pieces and that’s exactly what he did. I saw this coming. It wasn’t just the chemistry on the field but off the field. These guys are all like brothers.”
Jackson, a St. Louis native, worked for five years as an assistant at Missouri and two as a scout for MLB super agent Scott Boras. He said he was drawn back into coaching partly by a desire to help create interest for black players.
“He has the right temperament to take this program to another level,” Banks said. “I look forward to us being a contender every year. With his leadership and type of players he brought in, and the transition inside the program, we’re headed in the right direction.”
Southern will bus to Starkville, Mississippi, on Wednesday and hold a Thursday practice, open to the public and media, from 2:30 p.m. until 3:45 p.m. The Jaguars play Mississippi State at noon with the Miami-Central Michigan game set for 7 p.m. The losers' bracket game Saturday is set for noon with the winners play at 6 p.m.
Jackson said he wants his players to get the nerves out of their system with a walk-around the newly renovated ballpark. Southern played there last year amid the construction and dropped a 5-0 decision that was 0-0 in the seventh.
“I’m hoping we go over Thursday and walk around and take care of the awe factor before game day,” Jackson said. “Take all the pictures they want and then on Friday it’s business. I still want them to enjoy it, but it’s a business trip. Let’s get down to business and make something happen.”
Southern hasn’t played an official game since beating Alabama State May 19 in the SWAC tournament championship game. But the Jaguars did get a doubleheader exhibition with MEAC champion Florida A&M in Pensacola, Florida, on Saturday. No stats were kept in the two-seven inning games. The Rattlers are the No. 4 seed at the Georgia Tech regional.
Jackson said his team played well in the first game and he used the second as a chance to play reserves who hadn’t seen much time in 2019.
“The exhibition games were huge,” Jackson said. “This is a sport of rhythm. To have sat two weeks and not played would have hurt us. We’re going in as a four seed to a hostile environment. It’s important to stay in rhythm. To play MEAC champions on a quality surface in a quality environment, we had a really good crowd, it was great for our kids.”