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Beating Up A Soggy Burrito - Should Augie Garrido Be Fired?

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I submit to you the case of one Augie Garrido, the head baseball coach for the University of Texas.

Affectionately (or not) known to Husker baseball fans as "Soggy Burrito", Augie was arrested last week for drunk driving. He has been suspended with pay by the Texas athletic department. Timing could have been worse, but not by much. College baseball practice isn’t but a couple weeks away and preseason coverage is just now starting to ramp up. In other words, just as people across the nation are starting to pay attention, Garrido screws up.

Augie Garrido - A lovable bastard or just a crusty bastard?
Photo courtesy of Joanna's Longhorn Baseball Page.

Question is - should he be fired?

Before you answer that question, consider this. When one of "our guys" does something stupid, there are many of us Husker fans who are quick to defend him. The arguments are the same regardless of team affiliation.

As an example, I submit to you Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball player Courtney James. On April 12th, 1997, James got himself in trouble after hitting his girlfriend with a phone book. He was arrested on a domestic assault charge. He would later be convicted and suspended by the University of Minnesota. He would end up leaving the school early to pursue a pro basketball career that never quite worked out as well as he wanted.

I remember the James incident because I was listening to KFAN, a Minneapolis sports station, after his arrest. Minnesota fans were calling the station in defense of James. The reasoning they were using were the same being used by Nebraska fans in defense of Lawrence Phillips, the poster boy of Husker badness - it was the woman’s fault, she was probably a low life, she baited him into it, it didn’t really happen, we don’t know the whole story, this is only a story because he’s a well-known athlete - the normal things we all say when one of our guys does something stupid.

Minnesota fans were rationalizing why their guy wasn’t as bad as he was being made out to be. It happens every time a star athlete gets in trouble. If he’s our guy, there are mitigating circumstances. If it’s their guy, he should be fired, sentenced to prison or taken out in the country and shot where his body will never be found.

Back to Garrido. Garrido is one of the best coaches in the nation. As stated in the article linked above
Garrido is Division I’s all-time winningest college baseball coach, with a record of 1,668-777-8 over 40 years. He has won five national titles, including two in his 12 seasons at Texas.

That’s damn fine coaching. Like him or not, Garrido is a winner. But as human beings go, Garrido is a sonofabitch, and I mean that only partially with affection. When he’s coaching a game, he uses every angle he can get. He’ll stand on the pitcher’s mound long enough to cook a roast. He’ll argue calls you’d swear are inane. After a game, Texas players don’t shake hands, but they do that damned Longhorn hand signal to the crowd.

Then there is the 2004 College World Series loss to Cal-State Fullerton, after which Garrido failed to send his team out to collect the second-place trophy. He said he thought the ceremony optional, an explanation many thought dubious. Apologies ensued as Garrido salvaged his reputation.

Last June ESPN aired a documentary about Garrido called "Inning by Inning: Portrait of a Coach". It portrayed a man who didn’t start out with much but who worked damned hard to become college baseball’s greatest coach. It is clear that he works his players hard and expects much of them. One of Garrido’s statements stuck with me (paraphrased):

The hardest thing to teach is accountability and responsibility. There is always an excuse. Someone else missed a ball, didn’t get a hit, or threw a bad pitch.

The point is there’s always someone else to blame, especially in sports. Adults have a hard time with it - can you imagine trying to teach young people? I tell it to the young kids I’m around, whether they’re little kids in rec league soccer or older kids playing competitive sports. If that statement is what Garrido is about - he can’t be all that bad, can he?

He is one of those guys you love to hate. He has a sense of humor. A couple of years ago, Garrido was thrown out of a game in Lincoln, and as he marched past a Husker crowd chanting "left, right, left, right" with each step he took, Garrido paused, throwing the crowd off cadence and into howls of laughter.

He is a sonofabitch. He’s just not our sonofabitch.

I’d like to point out that this article isn’t about whether or not what Garrido did was right or wrong. Of course it was wrong. And it was stupid. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been on both sides of the DUI issue. I was arrested at age 19 for DUI. In 1987 I was struck by a young woman who was too drunk to walk but apparently thought she was fine to drive. It’s left me with lifelong back issues. Both were incredibly stupid mistakes.

So I ask again, what should happen to Augie Garrido? Should he be allowed to do the usual things you have to do these days after a DUI arrest - go to alcohol counseling, lose your license or serve a suspension/probation period, apologize and promise it’ll never happen again? Or should he be fired?

Remember - the answer you give should be the answer you expect when one of our guys screws up.