Unpacking The Fallout After Jim Schlossnagle’s Move To Texas Rocks College Baseball


Image credit: (Photo by Morgan Engel/Getty Images)

It’s been a whirlwind week in college baseball.

Tennessee beat Texas A&M in the College World Series final, rallying to win the final two games of the series. And fresh off his team’s Game 3 loss Monday night in Omaha, Aggies coach Jim Schlossnagle strongly pushed back against reports linking him to the newly-vacant Texas job.

But just a day later, Texas hired Schlossnagle and brought his whole coaching staff with him. Soon thereafter, several of A&M’s best players entered the transfer portal, including All-American outfielder Jace LaViolette and third baseman Gavin Grahovac, the SEC freshman of the year.

In less than 40 hours, Schlossnagle went from coaching A&M in Game 3 to taking awkward photos with Hook ‘Em, the Texas mascot, after his introductory press conference. In between, he poured a barrel or two of crude oil on the Texas vs. Texas A&M rivalry and shook up the sport’s landscape. Anyone with any lingering doubts about the cutthroat nature of college baseball in 2024 had those beliefs strongly disabused during this process.

There’s a lot to unpack here. To help examine the fallout, let’s consider a few important questions.

Texas A&M Coaching Profile

Here are nine candidates to replace Jim Schlossnagle in College Station.

What Does This Mean For Texas?

In Schlossnagle, the Longhorns landed one of the most successful coaches of the 21st century. Athletic director Chris Del Conte snagged his white whale and, by all accounts, one of his closest friends.

Schlossnagle, the 2016 Baseball America Coach of the Year, is 946-455 in 23 seasons coaching A&M, TCU and UNLV. He has led his teams to Omaha seven times, including two of the last three seasons at A&M. He’s probably the best coach Texas could hire as it prepares to officially move into the SEC next week.

Schlossnagle also repeatedly said Wednesday that his decision to take the job had a lot to do with his relationship with Del Conte and having strong alignment with the administration. Schlossnagle and Del Conte worked together at TCU for seven years until Del Conte left at the end of 2016 to take over at Texas. It was a successful relationship that led to four Omaha trips for the Horned Frogs. If that’s what the right alignment can produce, Texas should feel very good.

The Longhorns are already plenty good—they have the third-most national titles in college baseball history and have been to Omaha three times in the last seven season seasons—but haven’t won a championship since 2005. Texas’ goal is always winning the College World Series. This hire will clearly be judged by that standard.

What Does This Mean for Texas A&M?

It’s a tough blow. The Aggies just lost their coach, who led them to the best season in program history, to their archrival. It’s difficult for me to understand how it came to this.

The Aggies have pushed back on my assertion that they fumbled here, asking what they could have done differently. There is validity to that argument. Texas A&M structured Schlossnagle’s contract to protect itself from this very scenario, creating a buyout twice as large for schools in Texas as it was for any school outside the state. The university committed $80 million for Blue Bell Park renovations, which was built in 2012. It has created a robust name, image and likeness (NIL) program for its players. The A&M staff was one of the highest-paid in college baseball, costing more than $2 million a year.

It’s not A&M’s fault that Schlossnagle and Del Conte are as close as they are. It’s also not A&M’s fault that its own administration turned over this year. Ohio State hired Ross Bjork away as its athletic director. Trev Albert arrived from Nebraska to replace him.

And yet, A&M just lost a star coach to its biggest rival. That can’t happen. Something went wrong here, even if you have to go back to the start and question the original hire. Schlossnagle’s relationship with Del Conte is not new, nor was it a secret within the industry. There have long been rumors about the pair reuniting. Texas A&M must have thought it could get Schlossnagle comfortable enough in College Station to make it the last job he would take, as he said he thought it would be. But maybe it should have read the situation better. Or maybe that’s hindsight talking and there’s no blame at all in College Station. I don’t know. What I do know is that, until Tuesday, no SEC coach had left for another job in the conference since John Cohen left Kentucky for Mississippi State, his alma mater, in 2008.

What About Schlossnagle’s Press Conference Monday Night?

Let me start by saying I was not in the interview room in Omaha because I was still on the field talking to Tennessee players and coaches. When I got in there, I made a joke to a colleague about the Texas job. That’s when I heard about what transpired a few minutes earlier.

It was not a good look for Schlossnagle, who is typically one of the most polished interviews in the game. A question about the Texas job was fair, and he should have been prepared for it, even just moments after losing the national championship.

It’s also an easy one to answer: “Now isn’t the time for that question. I’m still processing the loss and want to help my players do the same. We’ll have plenty of time to talk about the future later.”

Would that have ameliorated the situation? Maybe, maybe not. But I do know those kinds of responses wouldn’t draw national attention the way Schlossnagle’s actual answer did.

In the end, focusing on what he said on the podium is misguided. Words matter and coaches shouldn’t lose their tempers at reporters who are doing their best in awkward situations. But if he had given a better answer that night, would it really have made anyone in College Station feel any better or any less betrayed by what happened Tuesday? I highly doubt it.

Does The Timing Matter?

There’s been a lot of focus on when exactly this was all cooked up. Multiple reports, mostly from College Station, indicate that the deal was arranged before the start of the NCAA Tournament. On Wednesday, Schlossnagle and Del Conte repeatedly said they did not discuss the job until Tuesday.

There can be truth in both statements. I also don’t really see how it matters—except that one version of events would suggest that Texas strung Pierce along for weeks, which is not great. But if Schlossnagle really coached the NCAA Tournament with the intention of leaving at the end of the season, he did an incredible job of not being distracted. A&M didn’t lose a game in the tournament until Game 2 of the CWS championship series. It overcame significant injuries to All-American outfielder Braden Montgomery and No. 2 starter Shane Sdao. I don’t know what more he or his staff could have done to win the national championship.

If it’s about the principle of it all, I get that. But it’s a results-oriented business and the results were outstanding, right up until Tennessee’s sixth-inning comeback on Sunday.  

Are All The Aggies Transferring?

It can feel like that.

At least 10 A&M players entered the transfer portal Wednesday, including five that were in the starting lineup Monday night. And while simply entering the portal doesn’t guarantee a player will transfer, the players that entered Wednesday are going to be in high demand. LaViolette (LSU) and Grahovac (Arizona State) were both originally committed elsewhere. They flipped after coaching changes led to A&M hiring assistant coaches who had been at the schools they were originally committed to. Those assistants are now at Texas.

But there was also a group of Aggies–primarily pitchers–who on Wednesday reaffirmed their commitment to A&M. I don’t know quite what to make of that locker room split, but it is quite interesting.

What Does This Situation Say About College Baseball?

For the neutral fan, this has all been very entertaining.

It’s a great offseason story that comes with the added spice of a rivalry between two massive programs. Schlossnagle has long been a prominent figure in the sport and made national headlines Monday with his comments. The transfer portal angle only serves to supercharge things. And the money involved is huge. Texas paid just under $3 million to buy Schlossnagle out of his contract, by far the largest figure in college baseball history. All the elements are there for a bombshell story.

I know it has also made many uneasy, however. The situation has brought the business side of things to the forefront. For those who prefer to think of college baseball as a quaint game insulated from the seediness of big-money college sports like football and basketball, this serves as a rude awakening.

College baseball has grown a lot in the last 10 years, let alone the last 20 or 30. In some ways, that’s been unabashedly great. ESPN reported an average of 3.34 million viewers for Game 3 of the championship series. Schools around the country set attendance records this spring. By any measure, there’s more attention on the sport than ever before.

But not all aspects of growing the game come with such happy headlines. Growing the game also means more money flowing into it, and with more money comes more ruthlessness and less of the values college sports has espoused (mostly hypocritically) for a century.

College baseball didn’t need its own Lincoln Riley moment to be big time. But boy did it get it. And now that we’re here, it’s going to be hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

I think that’s mostly a good thing. Part of baseball’s appeal has long been nostalgia. That’s all well and good, but a bit of honesty about where the sport is going is also refreshing. Money, not loyalty, is now the coin of the realm. The sooner everyone recognizes this, the sooner we can get to a point where things can be better regulated and understood, rather than talked about in hushed tones or covered up.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone