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Texas unveils Schlossnagle, who then apologizes

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AUSTIN, Texas — Jim Schlossnagle was introduced as Texas’ baseball coach Wednesday, one day after he stunned Texas A&M by leaving for the Aggies’ rivals as they returned from the Men’s College World Series in Omaha.

The swift resolution marked the end of a mad scramble. It began when Schlossnagle was defiant in his postgame news conference Monday night after a 6-5 loss in Game 3 of the championship series when asked about any interest in the Texas job. News had just broken that the Longhorns had parted ways with coach David Pierce.

“I took the job at Texas A&M to never take another job again, and that hasn’t changed in my mind,” Schlossnagle said. “That’s unfair to talk about something like that. … I gave up a big part of my life to come take this job, and I’ve poured every ounce of my soul in this job. And I’ve given this job every single ounce I could possibly give it. So write that.”

The exchange was replayed widely Tuesday after Schlossnagle traded his maroon for burnt orange. On Wednesday, Schlossnagle said he wanted to apologize to the reporter, Richard Zane of TexAgs.com.

“He asked a question that was an obvious question,” Schlossnagle said. “I wish I could have answered that better. But in the moment, all 30 minutes after the last pitch, all I could think about was our players. And I really wasn’t in the mood to talk about myself for the future.”

Schlossnagle was introduced by Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte, Schlossnagle’s old boss at TCU. Schlossnagle credited their relationship as the biggest differentiator in the Aggies’ and Longhorns’ jobs.

He thanked “my man CDC” in his comments, called Del Conte and himself “lifelong friends,” and said he regretted that things went down so quickly after a season in which he led the Aggies to a No. 1 ranking, a 53-15 record (tied for the second-most wins in program history) and the school’s first championship series appearance. Coaches have rarely made the jump from one side of the rivalry to the other, and on this occasion the departure was particularly galling to the Aggies given the timing.

“I want to thank Texas A&M,” Schlossnagle said. “This wasn’t obviously a move from one school to another school. This is a great rivalry. And I couldn’t be more thankful and humbled by the support that I got there, that we got there from some awesome players, staff, and administration. … On some hands, this was a very easy decision because of my relationship with Chris and my past history and my belief in him and his wife, Robin [Ward]. But it was obviously very hard. There’s a lot of decisions in life that you don’t get to choose the timing. You don’t get to meet with your team, as you would like. And for that I am sorry.”

Both Schlossnagle and Del Conte said their long-discussed friendship was at bay while Schlossnagle tried to win his first national title in nine trips to the MCWS (one as an assistant, eight as a head coach). He said he and Del Conte “talk all the time, but Texas had a baseball coach.”

Schlossnagle said that after he returned home from Omaha, Del Conte came to visit him and he made the decision to go.

“I dove in with every single ounce of me to help A&M have the very best baseball program we could possibly have, and that investment lasted through the last pitch of the national championship game,” Schlossnagle said. “It never wavered, not one second. I don’t care what anybody says.”

Del Conte, meanwhile, said he headed straight to College Station to meet Schlossnagle on Tuesday, hoping to reach him and “take the air out of the room” in a face-to-face meeting to persuade him to make the leap. Del Conte said he hid out in a cemetery in Snook, Texas, about 20 minutes outside of College Station, for about four or five hours to avoid being spotted.

“With Jim, our eggs were in one basket,” Del Conte said. “I was banking on my relationship with him that we could come to a deal. I was really nervous, to tell you the truth. … When I was in the cemetery, [then on the way] to their house, it’s just crazy as it sounds. I played every scenario in my mind.

“I drove to his house, had a long, long discussion, put him in the car, and we drove off,” Del Conte said, adding that they came straight to Austin and completed a contract Tuesday night about 7:45.

Schlossnagle called the experience “miserable,” saying he understood the passion of the same fans he courted while he was at Texas A&M.

“We have jobs and try to run a business on other people’s passion,” Schlossnagle said. “If I left Texas A&M for some other school in a different part of the country, the interesting text messages and messages that I got yesterday probably wouldn’t have happened. But I get it. You can’t ask for your fan base to support you and be passionate like the 12th Man always has been. This year, our crowds were awesome — awesome — every, every single game. So you can’t ask for that like I did and our staff did and then expect everybody to be OK with a coach leaving for its rival school. I get it.”

In 23 seasons as coach at UNLV, TCU and Texas A&M, Schlossnagle has a 945-451 career record, with seven appearances in the MCWS. He has a 59-36 record in NCAA tournament games and was named Baseball America National Coach of the Year in 2016. He’s taking over the winningest program in college baseball history, with three coaches who have won two national championships each in Bibb Falk, Cliff Gustafson and Augie Garrido, and six more runner-up finishes at the MCWS, along with 80 conference championships and 16 conference tournament championships.

Schlossnagle spoke of his admiration for Gustafson, whom he never got to meet, and Pierce, whom he considers a friend. But he was most moved by Garrido, who he said gave him advice on coaching at Texas.

“One thing he said to me one day is this: ‘If you decide to ever come to Texas, this will never be your program,'” Schlossnagle said. “I’ve never felt that — TCU, UNLV, Texas A&M, whatever my program… My program’s Elon in North Carolina, and that’s my school. My job is to steward this program and oversee this program and continue to grow this program to check to a championship level on a daily basis.”

Texas is paying Texas A&M a $2.7 million buyout as part of the hire. Schlossnagle characterized it as “a specific buyout specifically for the University of Texas, because of my relationship with Chris.” Schlossnagle’s buyout was $1.35 million for any other job outside of the state.

Now that he’s signed up to do that in Austin instead of College Station, he poured gasoline on a rivalry that doesn’t need any extra fuel, particularly with Texas joining the SEC on July 1 and reuniting as conference rivals with the Aggies.

“[The rivalry is] already awesome,” Schlossnagle said. “The midweek games we got to play this year? Awesome. The regional? Phenomenal. I can’t even imagine what a three-game SEC series will be like.”

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