Darin Erstad Steps Down As Nebraska Coach

Image credit: Darin Erstad (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Darin Erstad on Monday evening surprisingly announced his resignation as head coach of Nebraska. The former All-Star spent the last eight years at the helm of his alma mater, leading the Cornhuskers to the 2017 Big Ten title and four regional appearances, including one that ended Sunday with a loss to Connecticut.

In a statement, Erstad, 45, called the decision “extremely difficult.”

“I love this team. I love our staff and I love Nebraska,” he stated. “The bottom line is I do not want to miss seeing our kids grow up.”

Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos made it clear that Erstad alone made the decision it was time to step down.

“Darin earned the right to lead this baseball program well into the future, and I was hopeful that would be the case,” Moos said in a statement. “Darin loved the opportunity to represent Nebraska every day and did an outstanding job. He’s a Nebraska guy who loves this program and is a proven winner. With all that said, I respect and admire that Darin’s priority now is to spend more time with his family as his children grow up.”

Erstad is perhaps the best player in program history and returned to his alma mater after the 2010 season as a volunteer assistant under Mike Anderson. He took over the program the next year after Anderson was fired.

By the time Erstad took over the program, it had fallen from the heights Dave Van Horn took it to at the turn of the century. Nebraska hadn’t been to regionals or had a winning conference record in the last three years. The Huskers were also entering the Big Ten at the time, a league it expected to dominate after having so much success in the Big 12.

Erstad didn’t instantly turn Nebraska around, but he led the Huskers back to regionals in 2014 and made three more postseason trips in the last four years. The Big Ten proved to be a tougher challenge than expected, as Nebraska entered the conference at a time when many teams were making a greater investment in baseball. Even so, while the Huskers didn’t dominate the league, they have comfortably established themselves in the Big Ten’s top tier.

Erstad is one of a handful of former big league stars to return to their alma maters as head coach and arguably is the most successful example of recent vintage. Tony Gwinn did well to rebuild San Diego State but went 321-342 in his 12 seasons. Troy Percival, Erstad’s Angels teammate, has struggled at UC Riverside. Wichita State is now hoping for more success under Eric Wedge, who last week took over the program.

The expectations to return Nebraska to the heights it experienced under Van Horn were probably always unrealistic, especially considering how far the program had slid. But his 2-8 NCAA Tournament record is ultimately a disappointment.

Erstad steadied the ship and leaves the program in a better place than he found it. Nebraska now will search for the coach who can take the next step in the NCAA Tournament.

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