Florida baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan and the mighty Texas baseball program had done a sort of sub rosa dance over the last two weeks, since outgoing Longhorns legend Augie Garrido was officially reassigned on Memorial Day to open up the Texas job for the first time in nearly 20 years.
But as of Thursday night, that dance has abruptly stopped — according to D1 Baseball's Kendall Rogers, who has been the courtship's primary chronicler, O'Sullivan will pass on Texas to remain at Florida.
And, apparently, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley did what was necessary to step up and keep his coveted head coach.
Kevin O’Sullivan is going to be at Florida for a very very long time. That’s all I will say for now. https://t.co/7Eym3kfMwP— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogersD1) June 10, 2016
Rogers had originally predicted that O'Sullivan would be Texas's No. 1 target, and that he would take the job. This tweet, as he would explain repeatedly, was about O'Sullivan, who also topped other lists of candidates.
And Rogers — among others — has been vocal in subtly decrying Florida's efforts to keep a program that is seeing sustained success it has never before had under O'Sullivan at funding parity with the other titans of college baseball.
Texas. Texas cares. https://t.co/NvMwzMXzYn— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogersD1) June 8, 2016
If O’Sullivan leaves, Florida only has itself to blame. And don’t think potential UF candidates won’t see that, too. https://t.co/OkOvKkhGug— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogersD1) June 8, 2016
Clearly, though, Rogers was wrong about the likely level of commitment to O'Sullivan from Foley and Florida's leadership — not so wrong as to avoid burying the mention that Florida is making "an incredibly strong commitment" to O'Sullivan in a reply rather than broadcasting it, but, hey, baby steps.
@kevin29455177 Not sure I saw UF making an incredibly strong commitment.— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogersD1) June 10, 2016
What form exactly that commitment will take is unclear, though it would seem likely that there are salary bumps for O'Sullivan and long-time assistants Brad Weitzel and Craig Bell in the offing, perhaps combined with a plan for facilities improvements to the aging McKethan Stadium. Louisville's $1 million per year deal for Dan McDonnell, the new industry standard for coaches of a caliber comparable to O'Sullivan's, might be a starting point for determining O'Sullivan's compensation, at least.
But maybe the most important thing about this news breaking before Florida's Super Regional against Florida State, and apparently being truly final...
For those wondering, there’s no turning back from Kevin O’Sullivan here. It’s done. He’s not going to Texas.— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogersD1) June 10, 2016
...is the powerful message it sends about both Florida's commitment to O'Sullivan and his commitment to Florida.
It's a quiet secret that one of the last elusive feathers in the cap that Foley covets before the end of his career as Florida's athletic director is a baseball national championship. No coach has gotten the Gators closer to that goal than O'Sullivan, who has piloted four Gators outfits to the College World Series, and got his 2011 team to the championship series; given how well O'Sullivan recruits and develops players — No. 6 pick A.J. Puk was the 62nd Florida player drafted under O'Sullivan in just nine seasons — it's hard to argue that any other coach who might be available could do better.
But Texas, equipped with nearly bottomless coffers and a baseball-mad fan base that puts Florida's wishy-washy fan contingent to shame, loomed as a bully who could take Foley's lunch money no matter how hard Foley wanted a sandwich. Instead, it appears that the Gators stood their ground, and will have arguably the best coach in all of college baseball around for a long time to come — just as Foley predicted.
That counts as the weekend's first win. And it also relieves a lot of pressure that the Gators could conceivably have felt in what might have been cast as O'Sullivan's potential last series with a program he built to a dizzying height.
Now, O'Sullivan and his Gators can swing freely for the two more wins they need to get back to Omaha.