What will Notre Dame baseball coach Link Jarrett do next? Paul Mainieri weighs in
SOUTH BEND — As rumors swirl about the Florida State coaching vacancy and Link Jarrett’s future beyond this College World Series, Paul Mainieri was asked what advice he might offer the current Notre Dame baseball coach.
“I wouldn’t give him any advice,” Mainieri, who left Notre Dame for LSU in 2006, said this week in a phone interview. “That’s something that’s individual for every person. I had been at Notre Dame 12 years. Link’s only been there three years.
"But I think Link is about the same age (50) that I was when I made the decision to leave. I was 49. He became a head coach later in life than I did. I started as a head coach when I was 25 years old.”
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While Jarrett was the starting shortstop on three Seminoles teams that reached Omaha, Mainieri had started his playing career at LSU. After leading the Irish to 533 wins and a .714 winning percentage, including just the school’s second-ever trip to the College World Series in 2002, Mainieri was ready for a bigger challenge.
While at Notre Dame, he had already turned down offers from four SEC schools and two Big 12 programs, but LSU was another matter. In 2009, Mainieri led the Tigers to their sixth baseball national championship in a span of 19 seasons.
“At that time Notre Dame was in the Big East, not in the ACC,” he said. “I just felt like I needed to find out if I could do it in the big conference, given all the resources and the weather and all the things that a place like LSU had. For my own sake, I needed to take on that challenge to see if I could lead a team to a national championship.
“Why I felt I needed to try it, Link may not feel that way. Or maybe he does feel that way about going to FSU. I can’t tell you what Link is thinking. He’s not shared it with me.”
Mainieri, who still has many friends in the South Bend area, just hopes fans will continue to show appreciation for Jarrett’s contributions at Notre Dame, no matter what he decides.
“I know people were upset at me when I left,” Mainieri said. “I just hope that they can see that you can still love a place even though maybe you leave for your own personal reasons and your own personal challenges in life. I’ve never lost my love for Notre Dame. And if Link decides to take another job, I’m sure he’ll never lose his love for Notre Dame.
“In this business, you don’t have to be monogamous in your love. You can love more than one institution. I don’t have any idea what opportunities are out there for Link or what he’s thinking. I think his total focus right now has to be on trying to win a national championship with Notre Dame, and we’ll see what happens.”
That’s not to say Mainieri doesn't have his own thoughts on what he hopes Jarrett will do.
“Selfishly, I hope he stays,” Mainieri said before heading to Omaha, “but I’m sure he’s going to do what he thinks is best for himself and his family. He’s going to leave Notre Dame in good shape, and I’m happy about that. Just like I felt I had left Notre Dame in really good shape.”
Staff writer Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for NDInsider.com and the South Bend Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.