Anderson weighs options for coaching future

by Ben Goessling

Like many people his age, John Anderson is at a crossroads.

Ever since he interviewed for the head coaching position at the University of Georgia last summer, Minnesota’s baseball coach has struggled for success in a program he now sees as crumbling.

And after 21 seasons at the helm, the 47-year-old Anderson will deal with what might be his most strenuous summer at the University.

With University President Mark Yudof’s Friday announcement that he is heading to the University of Texas, Anderson now must sustain the baseball program under the duress of dual searches for a president and athletic director.

Achieving the level of success he desires is becoming increasingly difficult, as Siebert Field – the baseball team’s home stadium – shows its age more every year and the center of college baseball moves farther away from Minnesota.

Of the 64 teams in this year’s NCAA tournament, 47 hail from the southern part of the country. Schools such as Wisconsin and Iowa State have dropped their baseball teams in the last 11 years, making it tougher for Anderson to schedule quality northern opponents.

Anderson won his sixth Big Ten regular season championship this season, but the Gophers missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years. Big Ten postseason tournament champion Ohio State was the only conference school invited to the national tournament.

The disintegration of northern baseball, coupled with the University’s financial troubles, has caused Anderson to look south in recent years for a new job.

“You have to ask what you want to get out of coaching,” he said. “If I want to win more, maybe I have to go someplace else.”

Coaching vacancies at Kansas and Vanderbilt – both schools in prominent conferences with new or renovated stadiums – have opened up in the past two weeks.

Anderson has not expressed any interest and is not a candidate for either job, but remains open to the possibility of a move.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet,” he said about this summer’s coaching vacancies. “It would have to be the right situation. I’ve got a lot of my life invested here. But I’ll wait to see what happens and make a decision from the gut.”

Anderson has neglected to sign a long-term contract with the University, saying he wants to be ensured of progress toward a new stadium before committing to a lengthy deal.

But with a three-year moratorium on new sports facilities in place and simultaneous searches for a president and athletic director, Anderson’s patience is wearing thin.

“I’m not one who likes to stand in one place. If you’re not moving forward, you’re dying,” he said.

And if standing still is dying, the baseball program is undoubtedly on life support.

But Anderson said he hopes to stay in Minnesota.

“I’ve spent my whole life here, and I want to finish my career here,” he said. “I’m looking for ways to do that.”

Gophers in the draft

When Major League Baseball holds its annual amateur draft Tuesday and Wednesday, three Gophers – outfielder Jason Kennedy, second baseman Luke Appert, and pitcher C.J. Woodrow – will likely be selected.

All three players are expected to be mid to late-round picks, with Appert generating the most appeal among major league teams.

“Of those three guys, Appert has the most potential,” said Mike Radcliff, scouting director for the Minnesota Twins. “If he’s quick enough to handle second, he’ll get a shot there. Otherwise, he’d probably play third.”

Radcliff indicated the Twins had some interest in all three Minnesota players, but expressed concerns by the fact that Kennedy is only 23 years old and that Woodrow lacks big game experience.

Anderson predicted Kennedy and Appert would be selected between rounds 15 and 20, while Woodrow would likely draw interest during the 30th round.

Ben Goessling welcomes comments at [email protected]