Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Bad Day for Titans

Longtime Fullerton nemesis Pat Murphy of Arizona State has abruptly resigned. The Titans are scheduled to play the Sun Devils next season in a two-game series on March 16-17 at Goodwin Field.

From Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Pat Murphy abruptly resigned after 15 seasons as baseball coach at Arizona State on Friday.

University vice president for athletics Lisa Love said she accepted the resignation to allow Murphy and the program to move in a "new direction," the Arizona Republic reported.

According to the report, Love said Murphy's resignation was not directly related to an ongoing two-year school investigation into allegations made against him by a former baseball employee, including claims of academic fraud and improper recruiting travel.

Pat Murphy led Arizona State to the College World Series three times in the last five years.

"It's been a long, hard couple of years and an arduous process," Love said, according to the report. "Pat is where he is, and we're where we are. It's an amicable parting dictated by Pat."

The colorful and often outspoken Murphy led the Sun Devils to the College World Series four times -- 1998, 2005, 2007 and 2009. The program has produced several major league players, including Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox, who appeared along with Muhammad Ali at a recent Murphy fundraiser.

He took over the historically successful Sun Devils program in August 1994 after seven seasons at Notre Dame. Under Murphy, Arizona State was 629-284-1.

"Coach Murphy has an outstanding record of success on the playing field," Love said in a prepared statement. "I thank him for 16 years of hard work and service to the university and the sport."

The Sun Devils had won the past three Pac-10 titles, with Murphy named conference coach of the year each time. Murphy, 50, had offered no hint publicly of his impending resignation in recent interviews.

Arizona State hired a legal firm to investigate allegations made against Murphy, including those of academic fraud, improper recruiting travel, improper use of the nearby Athletes' Performance training facility and violations relating to players working for a non-profit headed by Murphy.

The findings of that probe have been forwarded to the Pac-10 Conference and the NCAA, the Republic reported.

The newspaper reported that Murphy, who could not be reached for comment, has insisted that any violations were at the most secondary NCAA infractions, were inadvertent or caused by faulty record-keeping and did not create a competitive advantage.

Murphy had sought a contract extension after taking the Sun Devils to their third College World Series in five years last season, but Love declined to negotiate until the NCAA's review of the probe was completed, the newspaper reported.

The move creates a vacancy in one of the most attractive jobs in college baseball. The university said an interim coach would be named, and a national search for a permanent replacement would begin immediately.

Murphy was just the third coach in Arizona State's modern baseball history, following Jim Brock and Bobby Winkles.

His overall record at Maryville, Tenn., Claremonte-Mudd Scripps, Notre Dame and Arizona State is 1,000-457-4. Murphy's final Arizona State team finished 51-14.


Strangely, Murphy just did this Q&A with Rivals' Kendall Rogers earlier in the week.


Also, the official press release from Arizona State:

Nov. 20, 2009

TEMPE, Ariz. - Arizona State University baseball coach Pat Murphy announced his resignation today. An interim head coach will assume responsibility for the program until his replacement is selected.

"Coach Murphy has an outstanding record of success on the playing field," said Lisa Love, university vice president for athletics. "I thank him for 16 years of hard work and service to the university and the sport."

Pat Murphy became ASU's head baseball coach in August 1994. During his tenure, he was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year four times, his teams took three straight Pac-10 titles, four overall, and four World Series berths, and in 1998 he was named the National Coach of the Year.

Since the 2000 season, no other Pac-10 school has won as many games as ASU, both overall and conference games. Murphy has also had more players drafted by Major League Baseball since 1995 than any other coach in the nation.

ASU will immediately begin a national search for a new head baseball coach.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pumpkin Launch

This is sort of baseball-related: I went to Goodwin Field on Saturday to watch the baseball scrimmage. I expected the usual couple dozen cars in the parking lot, but it was jammed like a Super Regional finals. As I started up the hill, I heard all kinds of excitement going on at Titan Stadium.

It was the Pumpkin Launch competition - this ought to be fun. They had the entrants lined up around midfield, most of them wooden catapults, with competition for pumpkin launching distance and accuracy. The targets were within 50 yards of the launching points.

But all eyes were riveted on "Pumpkin Lobber," a rocket launcher capable of propelling pumpkins and medicine balls alike great distances with enough force to go through a scoreboard 120 yards away, high upon a hill. (I was a Chemical Engineering student during medieval times, so I understand how experiments can go badly awry - but this was seemingly foreseeable.)

The Pumpkin Lobber was shut down after it went Herman Munster on the stadium scoreboard. The crowd (I've seen estimates of 3,000 - it was at least that many) shouted in unison: "Lobber!!!! Lobber!!! Lobber!!!" It wasn't funny --- but it was really funny.
I didn't get a close-up look, but the damage looked really minimal - just some displaced sheet metal. In hindsight, it is very fortunate the scoreboard was struck, because cars and pedestrians could just as easily have taken the brunt of the hit - which could have been lethal.