Georgia has fired David Perno after 12 seasons at the helm. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported and Baseball America confirmed that Georgia’s players were informed Sunday evening that Perno will not return for another season. An official announcement is expected Monday.
Perno, who played for Georgia’s 1987 College World Series team and 1990 national title team, led the Bulldogs to Omaha three times as head coach, in 2004, ’06 and ’08. Georgia reached the CWS Finals in 2008 before falling to Fresno State.
But the Bulldogs have struggled recently, missing regionals in three of the last four years, including each of the last two. Georgia was devastated by injuries that left second baseman Chance Veazey and outfielder Jonathan Taylor paralyzed in 2009 and 2011, and the team showed admirable resilience by fighting its way into a regional in 2011.
But 2012 was a big disappointment, as the Bulldogs ranked No. 11 in the preseason but finished 31-26 overall and 14-15 in the SEC, then went 0-2 in the SEC tournament to miss out on regionals. UGa. brought in the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class last fall, but two of the key members of that class—Kyle Carter and J.T. Phillips—have been dismissed for disciplinary reasons.
Righthander Pete Nagel, outfielder Conor Welton and catcher Brandon Stephens sustained season-ending injuries before this season began, exacerbating Georgia’s lack of depth. The results were simply disastrous, as the Bulldogs finished 21-32 overall and 7-20 in the SEC—last place in the 14-team conference.
“You certainly have your doubts when you have a bad season like this,” Perno told reporters after Georgia completed its season with a 9-2 win Saturday against Florida. “This is not what the expectations are. I realize that and I don’t want to be a part of this (losing). This year we didn’t do a great job controlling the circumstances we could control. We’ve got to evaluate it and hopefully I’ll get a shot.”
Perno won’t get that shot at his alma mater, although he has one year remaining on his contract for $450,000. He departs with a 399-334 career record at Georgia, including a 160-189-1 record in SEC play. Over the last five years, the Bulldogs are 56-87 in conference play.
Perno’s departure opens up one of the most desirable jobs in college baseball. Georgia has a huge recruiting advantage thanks to the wealth of in-state talent coupled with the HOPE Scholarship program—which allows the Bulldogs to supplement their 11.7 athletic scholarships with lottery money for any Georgia high school player who graduates with a 3.0 grade-point average or better.
If Georgia wants to make a major financial commitment, it might start by approaching some of college baseball’s most successful established head coaches, like Louisville’s Dan McDonnell, Virginia’s Brian O’Connor, TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle or Kent State’s Scott Stricklin. None of those coaches would be an easy hire, but Georgia has the resources to shoot for the moon. Mid-major head coaches like South Alabama’s Mark Calvi, UCF’s Terry Rooney, Samford’s Casey Dunn, Mercer’s Craig Gibson, Illinois State’s Mark Kingston or College of Charleston’s Monte Lee could also make intriguing targets.
Or the Bulldogs could try to land the next O’Connor, Tim Corbin or Kevin O’Sullivan—all of whom were can’t-miss prospects as assistant coaches who have been hugely successful in their first head coaching stints at major-conference schools. If Georgia decides to take that route, it figures to look at North Carolina’s Scott Forbes, Virginia’s Kevin McMullan, Arkansas’ Todd Butler, Mississippi State’s Butch Thompson or Mississippi’s Cliff Godwin.
Regardless, the coaching carousel has begun spinning, and we expect a dizzying ride this summer.