OMAHA, Neb. - Augie Garrido is the all-time winningest coach in Division I baseball and his Texas Longhorns open the College World Series best-of-three finals against Louisiana State tonight.
Garrido said yesterday he's just happy to still have a job.
Garrido was suspended for four games to start the season for his drunken-driving arrest in January. The season ends with Garrido going for his sixth national title in a coaching career that spans 40 years. Texas will be playing for its seventh, and third since 2002.
Garrido, 70, who pleaded guilty to DUI and will be sentenced after the season, said he used the incident as a teaching opportunity for himself and his team.
The players say their coach's arrest, and its fallout, drew them closer.
"If it happened to anyone on our team, coach Garrido would do anything in his power to keep and protect all of us around him from the negative things people were saying," third baseman Michael Torres said. "He would put his arms around us and protect us, so we wanted to do the same thing for him. That made our team bond and helped us be successful."
Garrido had met friends for dinner and wine on a Friday night at one of his favorite restaurants in Austin and then stopped at a bar on his way home to see a friend. Police pulled him over four blocks from his condominium because he had forgotten to turn on the lights on his Porsche. He spent a night in jail.
Garrido told the Austin American-Statesman he drank five glasses of wine.
Garrido is the highest-paid college baseball coach, at $800,000 a year, and his contract puts him on track to make $1 million in 2012. He said he feared he would be fired.
"The university is far greater than anyone who serves it," he said. "If it's in the best interest of the university, I would have to expect them to replace me. It's as simple as that."
Athletic director DeLoss Dodds offered his support but suspended Garrido for the season-opening series against Illinois-Chicago.
Garrido said he told his team that he failed to adhere to what he calls the cornerstone of his program - "Do what's right," he said.
"I did not do what was right. What we lose in that situation is freedom, control, respect and trust," he said. "Those four things went out the window."
Pitcher Chance Ruffin said he and his teammates already respected Garrido as a coach. They respect Garrido even more as a man.
"He showed us that he's a leader by taking responsibility for it and making an example of himself," said Ruffin (10-2), who will start tonight's game against LSU's Louis Coleman (14-2).
The Longhorns (49-14-1) have had a wild ride to the finals.
In regionals, they won the longest game in NCAA history against Boston College, 3-2 in 25 innings, and in the next game overcame a four-run, eighth-inning deficit to Army to win, 14-10, on Preston Clark's grand slam.
At the College World Series, the Longhorns trailed Southern Mississippi by a run in the eighth inning before scoring their last three runs on bases-loaded walks to win, 7-6. They were down, 6-0, against Arizona State ace Mike Leake before scoring 10 straight runs and winning, 10-6.
They never led in their 4-3 bracket-clinching win over Arizona State on Friday before Cameron Rupp and Connor Rowe went deep in the ninth.
LSU (54-16) has trailed for a total of a half-inning in Omaha; Texas has led after only 11 of 27 innings. *