I’ll always remember that opening press conference.
For years, many had assumed Mike Martin Jr. would be the next head baseball coach at Florida State. But nothing was set in stone.
And I can promise you that for a long time, he wasn’t sure he would ever get the job — even with all his years at FSU, and even with his first and last name being the same as the coaching icon he worked for during the previous two decades.
But then his dad retired. And he was, in fact, named the next FSU head coach.
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That happened just about three years ago. It came after a stunning run by the Seminoles to Omaha — a fitting way to send out their legendary head coach, Mike Martin Sr., after 40 successful seasons.
During that introductory press conference, Martin Jr. of course made mention of his father and how he wanted to carry on the tradition he had built. But he also made sure to mention the ways in which he wanted to change the program. To modernize it.
He was going to use sports psychologists, be more aggressive, take names off the backs of jerseys, switch dugouts … and all the rest.
Here we are three years later. Two full seasons later.
And Mike Martin Jr. is out of a job.
I’ll admit that I’m surprised by the decision. I wrote last week that he wouldn’t be dismissed after two full seasons, and I was clearly wrong.
But if you read that column, I didn’t paint a pretty picture of the state of the program either. The fielding continued to be abysmal. The baserunning has been comical. And the offense might be the worst in school history.
On top of all that, the pitching at the end of year deteriorated to the point that in the biggest game of the season, the Seminoles gave up 21 runs to Auburn.
It was hard to point to anything the FSU baseball team did well. Which, you know, isn’t all that encouraging if you’re a fan or (more importantly) an athletic director.
So, no, not much looked rosy. And while I didn’t think a change was imminent, I did think “Meat” was in serious jeopardy of being relieved of his duties if 2023 wasn’t any better.
I was off by a year.
The question some might have is, Why was the decision made now?
As poorly as the Seminoles played at times these last two seasons, they weren’t an embarrassment. The program didn’t fall off a cliff. They weren’t 18-38. It hadn’t become an utter debacle.
Was it living up to FSU standards? Of course not. But he didn’t take over the 1999 program either.
The Seminoles had serious warts — ones that were masked a bit by that stunning College World Series run in 2019 as one of the last teams in the tournament.
Still. Looking objectively at the program — as athletics director Michael Alford is paid to do — something was clearly wrong with it. Fundamentals were lacking. Sometimes severely.
The team didn’t seem to have much fun. At all. And they didn’t seem to take any pride in playing baseball the right way (i.e., not looking like a pee-wee team on the base paths over and over and over again).
All of this falls at the feet of the head coach.
And yet I’m still not sure that is the entire reason why Mike Martin Jr. is no longer the head coach at Florida State.
During the season, we heard rumblings that there was some serious discord in the clubhouse. But you always hear those sorts of things when a team isn’t playing up to expectations.
After the season, that noise seemed to grow exponentially. We were hearing families weren’t happy because their sons weren’t happy. And it wasn’t just about playing time either. There were concerns about how the program was being run, from people inside the program.
Now, should an A.D. make decisions about his coaches because some moms and dads aren’t happy? No. Not necessarily. But if those parents — and most importantly their sons — are pointing to real substantial issues, and they’re talking about jumping into that ever-present transfer portal if a change isn’t made, then that can impact things.
Especially if Alford deems those complaints legitimate.
As I wrote last week, I didn’t think two seasons was enough of a sample size to know for sure Mike Martin Jr. wouldn’t be a successful head coach at Florida State. I assumed he would get one more year to prove it one way or another.
But I’m not Michael Alford. I have no idea who he talked to. I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, and what specifically he was hearing from players and their families about the state of the program.
Seemingly it was enough — along with the aforementioned struggles to do anything fundamentally well — that led to Friday’s announcement. Which means unless Tyler Martin is named player-coach for the 2023 season, it will be the first time in over four decades that a Martin isn’t going to be leading the FSU baseball team.
I really wish it had worked out for Meat. Truly. I’ve known him for 14 years. I thought he deserved a shot at the head job. He always treated me well, and I know he cares more about Florida State baseball than anyone else alive.
But three years after that press conference, it was clear it wasn’t working. At least not to the standard that had been set here before he took over.
And at least in the eyes of Michael Alford, it wasn’t going to work.
So, the search begins.
The first call — if it hasn’t been made already — likely goes to former ‘Nole and current Notre Dame head coach Link Jarrett. If that doesn’t pan out, there will be plenty of other great candidates lining up to be considered. We’ve heard some have already been reaching out in case a change was made.
College baseball people know what the standard — and potential — is at Florida State. And Friday’s firing is a reminder of what can happen if that standard isn’t being met.
Contact senior writer Corey Clark at email@example.com and follow @Corey_Clark on Twitter.
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