Feb. 27, 2009


Vermont Prepares for Final Season


By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


One day, you’re getting ready for the start of the season. The next, you’re dealing with the news that your school has eliminated your sport.


That is what happened at both Vermont and Northern Iowa. The economy has affected every area of our lives, and these two schools determined that their solution would be the elimination of baseball. Vermont also axed its softball program.


It is a decision that not only affects the budget, but affects people’s lives and livelihoods. Players no longer have a place to play. Coaches and staff members are out of work at the end of academic year. Fans and supporters are left with a void. And people associated with college baseball have a sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs.


Vermont’s Bill Currier (left) is in his 22nd and final season as head coach at his alma mater. He has posted a record of 463-437 in 21 years, including 226-193 in America East competition. The Catamounts won the America East regular-season crown twice in the past six years.


This is not a struggling program. Baseball began at Vermont in 1888. But Currier and his staff were blindsided by the decision.


“It was misbelief and frustration and all the other anger things that would go through your mind when you’re surprised with something like this,” Currier said, “given the long tradition of our sport and the success of it. It was difficult. You’re thinking of your players, you’re thinking of your coaches, the impact of all these new recruits you had coming in and the new ones you had for next fall.”


Now, instead of recruiting players to come to Vermont, Currier and his assistants are recruiting schools to where their players can transfer. And trying to keep the players focused on the 2009 season.


“In going through the process,” Currier said, “I think it was important to have us coaches meet with each player individually and go over their game plan and their options and let them know that we’re going to help them any way we can, make a move to another school if they so choose and be there for them to help in that process because they’re 18-22 year olds. They’re heads are spinning. It’s a difficult thing but we want to try to keep them focused on this season. We have our goals for this season, but they’re going to be thinking about the next one or two or three years. It’s not a process I wish on anybody else, whatever sport.”


The school will honor existing scholarship agreements for players who decide to stay at Vermont. Those players who transfer will be immediately eligible.


The entire college baseball community could feel the effects down the road. Many Division I coaches have previously worked at Vermont, including five head coaches. Jack Leggett of Clemson was head coach of the Catamounts from 1978-82. Mike Stone of Massachusetts was head coach at Vermont from 1983-87. Currier, who played at Vermont from 1979-81, was an assistant from 1983-84 before succeeding Stone. Steve Trimper of Maine was an assistant from 1994-98. Todd Raleigh of Tennessee was an assistant in 1992.


“Obviously very, very disappointed,” Leggett said of his reaction to Vermont’s decision. “I think it’s a very poor move for the university and poor move for the athletic department. It hurts me personally. I spent six years up there trying to bring the program back after it had been dropped the first time. I was there from ’77 coaching the club team to ’78, ’79, ’80, ’81, ‘82 coaching the varsity team there and I just feel bad for all the former players and all of us that have put many, many hours into it. There’s always been a really good strong tradition in baseball at Vermont and a lot of people that are connected and associated with the university because of baseball and athletics.


“I hate to see it dropped,” Leggett said. “You’ve got a first-class coach in Bill Currier, who was a former player there, a former player of mine actually, and came back and put 22 years of his life into it, and to drop the program like that is kind of callous.”


Vermont did not have varsity baseball from 1972-77.


The Catamounts must put this distraction behind them this weekend, as they start the 2009 campaign with a three-game series at Vanderbilt of the SEC. The following weekend, Vermont plays a three-game set at Ole Miss, another SEC powerhouse.


“We jump right into the fire against a national power,” Currier said. “We put them on the schedule for the experience for the kids. It’s an experience every kid on our team will remember the rest of their lives.”


 (photos courtesy of Vermont Media Relations Office)