Early evaluations of Kansas Athletic Director Travis Goff’s coaching hires

Kansas athletic director Travis Goff, right, chats with head football caoch Lance Leipold during practice Tuesday morning in Lawrence.
Kansas athletic director Travis Goff, right, chats with head football caoch Lance Leipold during practice Tuesday morning in Lawrence. /
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Dan Fitzgerald (Kansas baseball)

Head coach Dan Fitzgerald was hired nearly one year ago today to rejuvenate a Kansas baseball program that has been essentially dormant the past 30 years.

Since the Big 12 formed in 1997, KU baseball’s highest conference finish has been third (in 2014).

The highlight of the past two decades came when the Jayhawks surprisingly won the Big 12 Conference Tournament in 2006. The team would then go on to play in the NCAA Tournament for just the third time in program history before being eliminated by Hawaii.

The last time the Jayhawks made the NCAA Tournament was in 2014, and their one and only College World Series appearance came in 1993.

Needless to say, it was a tall task that Fitzgerald took on when he agreed to become the next head coach at Kansas. But his first year as skipper showed promise, especially in the areas of recruiting and player development.

A perfect example of that is freshman Kodey Shojinaga, who became the program’s first player to win Big 12 Freshman of the Year – an honor which he shared with Oklahoma State’s Nolan Schubart. Shojinaga was also named to the All-Big 12 Second Team and was a unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.

In total, five Jayhawks received conference honors at season’s end. The team also hit 75 home runs this year, which ties a program record set back in 2006. All of which is a good sign of Fitzgerald’s ability to identify talent and hire the right coaches to help him get the most out of that talent.

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During his time at Dallas Baptist (2012-21), Fitzgerald helped recruit and develop 30 Major League Baseball Draft picks (11 of those being top-10 picks), nine All-Americans, eight freshman All-Americans, 69 all-conference selections, and two conference players of the year.

Better recruiting and player development is something KU has desperately needed for years.

The state of Kansas isn’t exactly a hotbed for baseball recruiting and KU will be hard pressed to get some of the best recruits in the country any time soon, if ever. But, if Fitzgerald can recruit and develop the way he’s shown in the past, then KU will be in good hands.

Recruiting and development means very little if it doesn’t translate to more wins though, and the Jayhawks finished with a losing record (25-32) and placed ninth in the Big 12 standings in Fitzgerald’s first season at the helm.

It’s too early to tell whether or not Fitzgerald was the right pick for KU, but all the individual player success from this past season signals hope for the future.