Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ron Polk: Crybaby

So Ron Polk is in a hissy fit because the new athletic director actually made a good hire and it wasn't who Polk wanted? Is anyone really surprised by Polk's tantrums? The little-discussed fact about Ron Polk is that over the last ten years, he has become the crybaby of SEC baseball (Full Disclosure: I'm a past LSU baseball season-ticket holder). 

There was a time when Ron Polk and Mississippi State baseball were the cream of the SEC and one of the leading programs in the country. Several of his assistants have become successful coaches and many of his players were drafted by the pros and starred in the major leagues. The man is truly a legend among his peers. 

His high point was probably in 1985 when his team had Will Clark, Rafeal Palmerio, and Jeff Brantley. Unfortunately, not even that team was able to make it to the final game at Omaha as he was outcoached by Fraser and Gustafson. Since then, his star began to wane as Skip came to the SEC. Once Skip starting winning Omaha, the Bulldogs dropped to the middle of the pack in the SEC in terms of talent and prestige. Bertman assistants such as Bianco, Wells, and Tanner took over SEC programs, leading them to the top while MSU declined. True, MSU went to Omaha in the late 90's and again under McMahon, but Mississippi State was no longer a perennial power in the conference, much less nationally. 

Polk's actions during this time have been more of a bitter old man lashing out. First he left MSU. Then he returned , feeling entitled to the job, despite MSU replacing him with a coach that DID take them to the College World Series (and later took Florida to the championship game). First its the NCAA reducing scholarships. Then he blames his lack of success on Georgia and Louisiana having financial aid for all in-state college students. Of course he ignored the fact that Bianco and Palmer have been able to consistently go to the NCAA regionals while he often sat at home and the Bulldogs even came in last in the SEC at one point (after being ranked number one in the country early in the season). He also didn't complain about Georgia's financial aid program when he coached in that state. He also ignored the fact that the other SEC schools didn't have that advantage either and still had success. Although he did lead the Bulldogs to Omaha last year, the truth is that the Bulldogs have been on a downward spiral for some time, as this year's record shows. There was the spectacle of the USM game this year where Polk threw another tantrum. If anything, Polk should have retired after the season last year, when he could have gone out on top. 

 It is sad to see a grown man act this way. Mississippi State is alot bigger than Ron Polk. It might not be an LSU or Texas but it does not need Ron Polk as badly as Ron Polk needs Mississippi State. Ron Polk is simply acting like a spoiled brat who thinks the Bulldog baseball program is his personal toy that he can use as he sees fit. 

There is NO serious athletic director in the country who would have hired to replace someone of Polk's stature an unproven assistant coach who is in his 30's. Even Skip Bertman made his main assistant go coach at ULM for a few years before he hired him at LSU. The Cohen hire was a very good one. It will not be a shock if Mississippi State has a better record under Cohen than it has for the last twenty years under Polk and that probably scares Ron Polk, egomaniac that he is. 

If there is one lesson to be learned from sports, it is that when you try to hire from within the "family" you usually have to hire an outsider in a few years to clean up the mess. Look at where the family hires have hurt Ole Miss: Brewer (probation twice), Barnes, and Kessinger. LSU hires Pokey Chatman and Smoke Laval only to pay dearly for it. Alabama just had to have DuBose and Shula because they were BEAR's boys. Nuff said. It is rare that you can hire a successful coach that started in your program as MSU has done with Cohen. (JPD could use this advice too but that is another post for another day.) 

 Unfortunately, hiring a Polk protegee who is a proven winner is not good enough for Polk. So guess what Coach Polk, don't let the door hit you on the way out. Your actions prove that your career was not about your players and Mississippi State baseball. Those players you recruited and coached on the current team deserve much better leadership from you. Instead, their mentor is acting like a two year old who can't play with his slinky. I hope that the administration has already taken down the Polk signs and shipped them back to you (C.O.D. of course since you want them so badly). One can hope that Cohen will make a few trips to Omaha and show you up for the washed-up old crank that you are. This may come as a shock to you Coach, but Mississippi State is NOT Ron Polk. Frankly Coach Polk, you are an embarrassment to the state of Mississippi and should just shut the hell up.

 Note: Text of Polk's comments are in the comment section of this post. Enjoy.


Kingfish said...

Polk is ticked off bigtime; done with MSU
June 6, 2008 by Gregg Ellis
I’m just going to let you read what Ron Polk told me over the phone. He’s in Athens watching Georgia in the Super Regionals.

Wow! Brace yourselves. Remember, he pushed hard for Tommy Raffo to get the job.

“Unfortunately, our new athletic director slapped me in face and punched me in the stomach. He also slapped Tommy Raffo in the face and punched him in the stomach after 15 years of loyalty to Mississippi State. He did the same to our players, their parents and signees. I think I have more knowledge about the game than young Mr. Byrne.

“I want my name taken off the stadium and in the concourse until Greg Byrne is fired. And if they don’t do it, I will. And as soon as I get back to Starkville, I’m going to make sure the MSU Foundation is taken out of my will. And that’s a lot of money. I’m going to ask former players who give to quit. If you’re asking if I’m mad, then yes. I’m mad.

“I was up front with John Cohen, Pat Casey, Steve Smith all along. If Joe Torre got the job, I wouldn’t support him. I know more about Mississippi State baseball than anyone. Greg Byrne doesn’t know anything. Well, he’s about to find out what my name means.

“I love John, he’s a former player, but he knew how I felt. And when he walks into his new office, there will only be a desk and chair. No papers on the players or anything. I don’t like what’s done, but I guess he really wanted this job very bad. Good luck.

“Is this a good job? I don’t know. Kentucky has the lottery and we don’t. But I’ll tell you one thing, Greg Byrne may be the athletic director, but I’m the athletic director for baseball. I’ve been there for 31 years, and no one is more loyal than me.”

“Do you think Vince Dooley is glad he listened to me. Look what Dave Perno has done with Georgia and he’s close to getting them back to the world series. But with this hire, Greg Byrne has thrown 15 years away of Tommy’s coaching life and the four years he has played here. Is he the best candidate, I don’t know. I say give him four years. If he doesn’t get the job done, then fire him. But no, Greg Byrne wanted to make a splash. But he’s not a Mississippi State guy, and doesn’t understand what MSU baseball is all about. His honeymoon is over. He blew it.”

Polk then said he now wants to return to coaching as a volunteer assistant.

He was mad and his voice quivered. He said he won’t stay in Starkville, either. He also said he won’t attend tomorrow’s press conference. That’s probably a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you know my six year old knows not to throw a fit like that. Makes Polk look like a total moron. He has definitely lost it, and is acting like a baby. Too bad, he did a lot for MS St, and he could have left with a great legacy. Instead, this is what he does...says he's going to try to scuttle a program he helped bring to an elite level, just because he didn't get his way. Well, too bad loser, you retired and left, you have NO say, and I doubt very much anyone is going to listen to you. Think how the current players feel, with him saying he's going to try to destroy some of the support programs. Real classy, way to go. What a jerk.

Anonymous said...

Well, I can tell that none of you personally know Ron Polk. I played for Ron Polk from 1996 until he was basically forced to resign after we went to the CWS in 1997. I can tell you that Ron Polk has always stood up for the student athlete, whether it be against the NCAA and their scholarship reductions (which is the reason that he had to speak out about Georgia and Louisiana's scholarship aid programs) or to the media or whoever it might be. I'll tell you that there are no people more important to Ron Polk than his former players and coaches. It is no coincidence that many of his former players and assistants are succeeding in their lives post-MSU. There is not a birthday, anniversary or Christmas that goes by that I don't receive a personal card from Ron Polk, written and signed by him. He is a man that I look up to and respect very much. The only reason that he is taking up for Tommy Raffo like this is because Tommy has been at MSU now as an assistant for many years, and has been loyal to the program. It would have been very easy for Tommy to have left and followed Parenton to Samford, Case to Jacksonville State, McMahon to Florida, etc, etc, but he was loyal and waited his turn. Tommy Raffo might not have ended up being the best person for the job, but now we will never know. If you had ever stepped foot on MSU's campus, you would know that MSU is Ron Polk, and vice versa. The man is idolized there, and with good reason. The program was not in ruins, like you said, after the '85season. MSU made the CWS in '90 and '97 with Polk, and then McMahon inherited Polk's team that made the CWS in '98. He then went to Georgia and had a team in the CWS two years later. His teams at MSU in the late '80s and all through the '90s were perennially in the regionals. And all through my team at MSU (1996-2000) we were always right there with LSU, even as a majority of the LSU players were roiding! Yes, that's right, the LSU players were on steroids. You don't have to question that statement, I know firsthand from playing with LSU players during the summer baseball leagues (Central Illinois League in 1998). So, in summary, lay off of Polk if you don't know him and really don't know what his agenda is, because I do know him and do know what his agenda is: protecting those that have been loyal to him!

Ned Harkness said...

Ryan, it is obvious you do not know much about college athletics. If Tommy Raffo was hired and he did not work out, whose ass is on the line? Not Ron Polk's, I'll tell you that. I am sure Polk made his opinion clear when the search process was going on (as we know by calling candidates and pretty much threatening them that if they take the job he will cause problems). Now that it is over, he should keep his big trap shut! Loyalty to Raffo? Give me a break! If that windbag Polk was such a great mentor, he should have told him to be a head coach somewhere else, learn what it is like to be in charge, and if he has success he would be an excellent candidate. Instead he got smoke blown up his ass by Polk about how this is in the bag.

Byrne gets paid good money to make these decisions. Let the guy do his job and if Raffo is as delusional as Polk, please tell him to get his head out of his ass and find another job!

Anonymous said...

Ned, It's obvious that you don't know much about college athletics, otherwise you'd know that no AD, and I mean NO AD, gets fired because a baseball team falls on its face. Everyone knows that football is king, then basketball, as far is revenue is concerned. And if you knew ANYTHING about MS State athletics, you'd know that Templeton didn't get fired when the football was horrible, let alone those few years when the baseball team struggled. Byrne wanted to make a splash, that's all this is about. Polk is right, Byrne is NOT a MS State guy. I understand his desire to bring in a top notch coach, and there's no doubt that Cohen is just that. My point, and Coach Polk's point, is that Raffo has been loyal to the program. He's bided his time and paid his dues. HE IS A MS STATE GUY. He has recruited well over the years. He would not have been a bad choice, especially if it meant appeasing a coaching legend and huge benefactor of the program.

Kingfish said...

Well, well, well, looks like I MIGHT have known what I was talking about.

Kingfish said...

Hmmm..... and where is Raffo now?

Kingfish said...

This post aged VERY well. Told ya.

Raffo's record.

2009 Arkansas State 23–30 12–18 9th
2010 Arkansas State 30–28 16–14 8th
2011 Arkansas State 27–31–1 13–16–1 7th
2012 Arkansas State 34–23 19–9 2nd
2013 Arkansas State 28–31 12–18 8th
2014 Arkansas State 32–27 18–12 3rd
2015 Arkansas State 27–30 12–17 8th
2016 Arkansas State 28–30 13–17 8th
2017 Arkansas State 28–27 13–16 3rd
2018 Arkansas State 20–32 11–19 T-4th
2019 Arkansas State 26–29 11–20 6th (West)

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