With 2012 ending the way it did, rumblings began early about a need for change. As with any sport at the University of Texas, success is not just something we chance upon; it is an expected and demanded way of life. Coaches and players in athletic programs across the 40 acres face enormous pressure year-round. It didn’t take long into this season to realize that something was amiss, but we couldn’t help but think that all of the calls for Augie’s head were a tad drastic, considering the combined youth and injuries on this year’s squad, and the recent (and historic) successes of the baseball team. However, the whispers picked up again just as the season ended, and we began to hear word of a change in the coaching ranks. On June 6th, Texas released word that Assistant Coach Tommy Harmon’s contract would not be renewed, and would instead be allowed to expire in late August. Of the decision, head coach Augie Garrido said, “I respect Tommy Harmon and his family and admire Tommy’s lifelong contributions to The University of Texas. This has been the most difficult decision I have ever had to make.”
Coach Harmon’s contributions to the University began in 1968 when he was named starting catcher by Cliff Gustafson (in his first year of coaching the Longhorns). After being drafted as a senior in 1970, Harmon enjoyed eight years in the minor leagues. In 1989, he returned to Texas as an assistant coach, occupying the first base box and working side by side with Gustafson. Harmon made the transition to Augie ball in 1996, and in his 23 years as a coach with Texas, he signed and mentored countless young men and baseball players. It is hard to summarize what Tommy Harmon has meant to Texas over the years, and many have been quick to lash out at Harmon for the overall decline in hitting over the last few seasons. Some called Tommy overly harsh and deemed him out-of-date in today’s modern collegiate baseball world. In baseball, as in every arena, there will always be a million and one people willing to give you their opinion, informed or otherwise. We found it very telling that those who knew Tommy and his coaching abilities best – his former student athletes – were quick to praise and honor the lifelong coach. One of the more well-written tributes came from Huston Street, now with the San Diego Padres, in a letter to the Austin American Stateman.
“Here is a man who unapologetically coached, and when he said “Good job,” there was no fluff. He actually prepared people to be successful and portrayed a reality that it’s not easy, and that even when you are No. 1, you can still get better.
The University of Texas is bent on greatness in every facet. The world needs more places that stand unashamed and defend their rights to desire the elite and not settle for anything less. Without question, coach Harmon served the university to that end and then some.”
Tommy’s statement on the matter was simple, and to the point, saying, “My three years as a player and 23 years as a coach are very important to me. I bleed orange and I wish the best for the student-athletes on the team.” We at Texas Baseball Blog would like to wish Mr. Harmon the best as well, and thank him for his many years with the team.
Photo: Donald Boyles