Multiple sources have confirmed that Oregon will announce that it has hired Cal State Fullerton coach George Horton, possibly during Saturday’s season-opening Oregon football game. Details of the contract should be finalized by the end of the day Friday.
“It’s pretty much a done deal,” said one source with knowledge of the negotiations. “Nothing’s been signed, so nothing’s official yet, but it’s pretty much a done deal.
“It’s an opportunity for (Horton) to start his own program. That doesn’t happen very often.”
The Ducks had flown Baseball America’s 2003 Coach of the Year to Eugene this weekend, and sources said they wowed him. Horton, who led the Titans to the national championship in 2004 and the College World Series this spring, gives Oregon immediate credibility, as the Ducks work on resuscitating a program that has lain dormant since 1981. Horton will face an uphill battle, likely starting with fewer than five scholarships in Oregon’s first year in 2009 and going head to head with two-time defending national champion Oregon State.
Another source said the Titans have called a team meeting for 2:30 PT today, where Horton will presumably inform his team of his departure.
Fullerton associate head coach Rick Vanderhook immediately becomes the favorite to succeed Horton as the Titans’ head coach.
UC Irvine coach Dave Serrano, a former Horton assistant at Fullerton, agreed that Vanderhook was the right man to succeed Horton, and he nipped in the bud any speculation that he would be a candidate for the position.
“I’ve made it public: I’m not going to Cal State Fullerton,” said Serrano, who withdrew his name from contention for the Oregon job last week. “I’m happy where I’m at–obviously (Fullerton) is a program of deep tradition, but we’re trying to build our own tradition here at UC Irvine. I hope that school officials promote Rick Vanderhook to the head position, because I think he’s deserving. Over that program’s last 20 years of excellence, he’s been a big part of that.”
Serrano also said he’s already talked with Horton about having the Anteaters open their 2009 season up in Eugene when the Ducks play their first game in 28 years.
“I’m so happy for George Horton and his family that they’re able to move on to this new adventure and go to a very special place,” Serrano said. “George can go in there and put his fingerprints on everything there now. It is still shocking to me that he won’t be wearing the pinstripes at Cal State Fullerton, but I couldn’t be more excited for him.”
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