After delivering a nearly six-minute, emotional farewell speech in the locker room, retiring University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris asked his players to put their hands up and at the count of 3, "one more time,'' say "Omaha.''
They did, despite the promised land of college baseball being out of their grasp for the second year in a row.
If an umpire had made the call, it would have been an emphatic “You’re out!’’
But on Monday, it was the 10-member NCAA Division I Baseball Committee that announced the decision— one that was expected and believed to be fair — to exclude the University of Miami from the NCAA tournament’s field of 64 teams.
The Hurricanes (28-26, 16-13 Atlantic Coast Conference), who finished a disappointing season with a flourish by winning 11 consecutive games before falling to Clemson late Thursday in the ACC tournament, will not be playing in a post-season NCAA regional. They silently watched the announcement on ESPN with Morris in their final gathering with him as skipper.
UM’s RPI had dropped to 65, per Boyd's World, a website that simulates the NCAA's formula. Though there were plenty of prayers, the Canes ultimately had no shot of getting a bid. Last year, when UM failed to make the tournament, snapping a national-record, 44-year streak, it had the No. 41 RPI, 24 spots better than the Canes have now.
"I hoped, but I didn’t expect to get in,'' Morris told the media after the speech. "I think the committee is fair. I don’t think we played well enough to get in this year. I wish I could say we had. But we really haven’t, even though we finished strong. I’m proud of our guys. We started six freshmen till the end.... They’re going to be a good club and they’re going to get better...But you gotta play yourselves in, and we didn’t do that."
Morris, 68, one of the most successful college baseball coaches in history, officially ends his Miami career with 1,090 wins, 472 losses and 3 ties.
"Sad day for you guys. Sad day for me, too,'' Morris told his players and coaches. "It’s a tough way to go out. Thank you guys for how hard you worked, thank you for your loyalty, all the players for 25 years. …I want to congratulate you on finishing the end of the season, and you being in the conversation. Thank you for not throwing the towel in 12, 13 games ago when you were way under .500… You guys kept battling and put yourselves back into position."
Longtime assistant coach Gino DiMare, who has been with Morris for 19 years, will now take over as head coach. As Morris exited the locker room, DiMare called a Tuesday team meeting for the players eligible in 2019.
Two players who won't be back: senior co-captains Jeb Bargfeldt and Michael Burns.
"I just said “Bye’’ to '3,' Burns, an outfielder, said of his coach, whose nickname is the jersey number he wears. "It’s tough. It’s tough. He’s a good man."
Bargfeldt, UM's ace pitcher, said the Canes had high expectations, but that they could only blame themselves, not Morris, for not meeting them.
"We’ve got to take a look in the mirror, and I hope the guys coming back realize that,'' Bargfeldt said.
"...Disappointed doesn’t even put it into words. It’s just a feeling similar to last year, the deepest part of your chest that you don’t even know it’s there. And I can’t even imagine what he’s feeling. But I hope that he chooses rather to look back on the success that he’s had over his career instead of these last two years. Because that’s what truly defines him."
Morris said he wouldn't be coaching anymore, but that he wouldn't sit around, either.
"I’m not going to go in a rocker, I can tell you that,'' the coach said. "No. 1 is my family and taking care of them. They’ve been here for every game, my wife and son, home and road, been there to support me after wins and losses.''
He said he's been "offered a job in uniform,'' but doesn't want to do that. "I want to do something different,'' he said. "I want to take a while to decide what I’m doing and reminisce on all the great moments, all the great things that have happened here at Miami."