Rising college baseball salaries show game’s growth, coaches say

Catcher Evan Skoug took some swings in the batting cage as TCU prepares for its Fort Worth Regional game against Oral Roberts on Friday.
Catcher Evan Skoug took some swings in the batting cage as TCU prepares for its Fort Worth Regional game against Oral Roberts on Friday.

Louisville’s 10-year contract extension worth $1 million per year for head coach Dan McDonnell is a sign of a growing market for college baseball, the coaches at the Fort Worth Regional said.

“I think it’s about time,” Arizona State coach Tracy Smith said. “College baseball has changed drastically in the last 10 years. I’m 20 years in as a head coach. If I told you what I said yes to as a salary my first year, you’d probably laugh.”

Baseball salaries are among the lowest in college athletics. But all-time wins leader Augie Garrido was being paid $1.2 million at Texas before his reassignment this week. At TCU, coach Jim Schlossnagle’s pay more than doubled to $764,000 two years ago after his second College World Series appearance with the Horned Frogs.

TCU built an indoor practice facility, a new locker room and weight room and coaches offices last year, and added seating in the outfield.

“Baseball has been going in that direction with the salaries and the facilities,” Gonzaga coach Mark Machtolf said. “It shows you how important baseball is becoming around the country. It’s important at Gonzaga. It’s important just about everywhere.”

Oral Roberts coach Ryan Folmar said, “There’s a lot of pressures that come with it, and some guys are finally getting rewarded for the work they do put in and the success that they’ve had. So I think it can be good for baseball. Hopefully that trickles down to some of us other guys, too.”

Smith, a former Miami of Ohio coach, said he remembers coaching against Louisville when the program was “normal,” nothing like it is now under McDonnell.

“To see what he has done and turned that program into a national power year in and year out, I would argue there’s probably a correlation between that and giving from alumni,” Smith said. “I think it’s a great investment on their part, and I’m glad, frankly, to see that baseball is starting to get some of those salaries. Because it’s an important sport. It’s America’s pastime, and if I’m Louisville and I’ve got a good coach like that, I’m going to do everything I can to hold on to him.”

Pac-12 parity

Arizona State coach Tracy Smith said it shouldn’t be held against the Pac-12 that league champion Utah finished with a sub-.500 record.

“I don’t look at it as a negative,” he said. “In most situations, it would make you raise your eyebrows. But I don’t know if you’ve seen Utah play. They’re good. They’ve got a legitimate ace. They play well, they play mature, they swing the bat. I view it more as parity. This conference is very even. There’s not a weekend you can take off.”

League champion Utah (25-27), runner-up Washington (32-21), third-place Arizona (38-20) and Arizona State (34-21) made the NCAA field. Oregon State (35-19) did not, and no regionals were awarded west of Texas.

Practice rainouts

None of the teams was able to practice Thursday because of the rain, and were limited to batting practice indoors.

But they all brushed it off.

“With our team, one thing that’s great about us is we can battle adversity,” Gonzaga first baseman Taylor Jones said. “Weather is definitely not something we haven’t seen. We got our work done; we always do. I don’t think it’ll hurt us at all.”

Gonzaga at least has been on the field at Lupton once. The Bulldogs played a three-game series against TCU in March.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez