Vanderbilt and Michigan are set to square off in the 2019 College World Series finals. Play begins Monday at 7 p.m. ET from TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Before both teams took the field, they took to the podium on Sunday for some final words before the CWS finals begin.
Here’s what Vanderbilt and Michigan coaches and players had to say on the eve of Game 1 of the 2019 championship series.
TIM CORBIN [Vanderbilt head coach]: We’re certainly thankful to be in Omaha at this juncture right now. When you can get to this point of the season and put yourself in positions to be at the pinnacle of the end of the season, it’s certainly special. Both our teams have given us tremendous opportunities as people and families and kids, and this certainly is something that the kids will cherish moving forward. It will stay in their mind forever.
You kind of build this up as a coach in hopes that it will never disappoint, and it doesn’t. It’s just a fantastic experience because of the stadium, the people, the experiences, the games, and just the relationships that you have during this time.
We’re certainly very thankful to be here at this moment.
ERIK BAKICH [Michigan head coach]: I would echo Coach Corbin on all of that and just say we’re in uncharted waters with our program. A month ago we were a strike away from our season being over, and I know Jimmy has made reference to this and so has Karl, when you’re staring down the possibility of going 0-2 in your own conference tournament and not having any more games to play, the perspective that these guys have gotten from that about being able to keep their friendships together for another day, to keep their relationships going, just to continue the season, that’s something that’s fueled all of them.
We needed an organic moment to happen on the field, and we got it with that walk-off winner. It did wonders for our confidence. It was a light-bulb moment to loosen up a little bit and have a little bit more fun with each other, immerse ourselves in these moments. And I’ve heard all these guys talk over the last few weeks of the postseason of just how grateful that they are to get a couple more games together, and they’ve made of most of it. They’ve been playing one game, one pitch at a time and truly enjoying themselves on the baseball field. It’s the greatest compliment that we could get is to have — whether it’s Tex taking us down the elevator or a random dad and a kid just saying, “Wow, your players look like they’re having so much fun on the baseball field, they look so loose.” It’s the greatest compliment we could get.
We’re so appreciative to be here. Our program hasn’t been here since Jimmy’s grandfather was at Michigan in 1962. We’re so appreciative of these moments.
I couldn’t think of a better way to be here than — this is the first time seeing this guy not in the same uniform together, and I know I wouldn’t be here without him.
We were talking last night, there’s not a better way for our friendship, our families to see each other than to be, like he said, at the pinnacle of our game right now. But we’re both just so incredibly happy for our players and their families, our coaches and their families, and to be the last two teams standing, that’s special.
Q. Ethan, Coach talks a lot about kind of keeping your adrenaline under control and all those things. I have to think that’s tough for the national championship series. How do you handle the emotions going into this one?
ETHAN PAUL [Vanderbilt shortstop]: Just treat it like any other game really. You know, we’ve trained a lot. We’ve been through experiences that have taught us a lot, and it’s just another game. You can’t try and put too much weight on it. You’ve just got to go in and play quality baseball. We’re playing a good opponent. Just play your best baseball and hope things work out for us.
Q. Jimmy, I think I’ve talked to a few of your teammates who have said getting here was always a goal. Some of them said they came to Michigan to do this, and I wonder where do you think that confidence came from to set a goal that maybe this program hadn’t achieved in a while, 35 years, to do something that hadn’t been done, at least in your lifetime? Why do you think you guys had the confidence to do that?
JIMMY KERR [Michian first baseman]: Yeah, starting at the beginning of the fall, Coach Bakich imparts on us that you don’t have to go south to be an Omaha program. We’re going to build one right here in Michigan. Just the mindset that he kind of gives to the team is that we’re not just playing for Big Ten championships, we’re playing on a national level. And we just trust in the program that he’s built, the guys he’s brought in. It’s kind of all allowed us to be here right now.
Q. Jimmy, could you kind of take us through what it’s been like for your family with the deep ties that it has to the program?
JIMMY KERR: Yeah, I mean, my dad, mom, grandpa, grandma, uncle have all been at over 95 percent of our games this year. Having them along the way throughout this whole journey, especially in the postseason, is super special. It’s something that they both went through as players, so it just means that much more that they’re up in the stands supporting us.
They’re as into the game as anybody else on or off the field. The best part of my day is seeing them after a win.
Q. Ethan, Julian, Jimmy and Joe, what do you like about the other team? What do you guys from Vanderbilt like about Michigan, their style of play, and from Michigan’s perspective, what do you like about the style of play of Vanderbilt?
JOE DONOVAN [Michigan catcher]: I think I can speak for most of the young kids in America, what Coach Corbin has done for the program, that’s one of the schools that when you grow up, you think about it, you watch their highlight videos on YouTube, you watch the stuff they do in the outfield, and obviously them coming to Omaha, and they’ve really built one of the gold-standard programs in the country. I know a lot of schools across the country look up to them as far as how you go to and the point you want to reach, and they’ve definitely inspired a lot of young kids to want to go play college baseball instead of pro ball, just because it looks so much fun with everything they do. And they obviously set the bar for where you want your program to be with I think it was three championships in the last six years, if I’m not mistaken.
But yeah, that’s what everybody strives for, and it’s really admirable they’ve gotten to do that.
JIMMY KERR: Yeah, I mean, echoing off what Joe said, they’re one of the top programs in the country the past however many years. They’re a super consistent team, too. They’ve had success throughout the whole season, and not a lot of lows. That’s pretty admirable to keep up that kind of play throughout the whole year.
They’ve got some of the best top-tier talent in the country, and they play with some class, too.
JULIAN INFANTE [Vanderbilt first baseman]: Yeah, from our perspective it’s pretty similar. Same thing. Same things with the program. Same things with the players. Something we try to do and something Michigan has been doing very well, they’re playing together as a team, and I’m sure those relationships are built way, way far in the fall, way off the field, and it’s not just on the field, and you could see that in the way they’re playing; they’re having fun with each other. They’re trying to make their season last as long as possible like ours, and that’s just something as a player you see and you want to model. You want to make these relationships last as long as you can, and that’s what they’re doing, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
ETHAN PAUL: Yeah, in the same light, Coach Bakich does a great job with that program. Julian and I have never played a Michigan team in our four years at Vanderbilt, but just from afar you can see how connected they are and how good of a baseball team they are. They play hard, they have fun out there, and they’re a quality program. So any time you can play another quality program like that that has good leadership at the top, you know you’re going to get a good baseball game.
Q. Joe, you’ve been the constant with the three guys who have pitched Michigan here in Karl [Kauffmann], Jeff [Criswell] and Tommy [Henry]. What have you seen from them not just in Omaha but really throughout the season, and how has your rapport with them kind of helped them get to this point?
JOE DONOVAN: Well, I mean, I just can’t speak enough about them and Coach Fetter. One thing they do is they really do put a lot of trust in Coach Fetter and the work that he puts in looking at opponents’ team and their offenses and how they go about things, and they’re just really disciplined in how they go about it, and not too many highs or too many lows, but yeah, they just go at every single game and every single bullpen and practice and PFP with the same kind of intensity.
Also the looseness and goofiness that all those guys have. They’re characters in their own light. Hanging out with them has been fun, whether it’s been getting Culver’s before a float tank session or catching bullpens. It’s been an absolute blast to be with them, and it’s something that I’ve cherished, especially with this incredible run that they’ve been in, it’s been fun to catch and hopefully get to have a few more fun games with them.
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Q. Julian and Ethan, you guys always look like you’re having a pretty good time. Walk me through this between-inning snow angels and all this stuff on the field. How much research are you doing? Is this thing orchestrated out? How do these guys go about this?
JULIAN INFANTE: I think it’s just something that our team has been doing. It’s really kind of individualized to each team, kind of the senior guys will take that over. Just stay loose, just have fun. Kind of on the spot, a lot of the things that they do, and then when it looks good, they’ll just keep it going throughout the year.
Again, it’s just having fun. It’s just something that’s personal to the personality of our team, and we have a lot of great guys on the bump that keep the team loose and have a lot of fun.
ETHAN PAUL: Yeah, just can echo that. That’s something Vanderbilt has done ever since we’ve known the program. I remember being a high school kid and watching their dugout guys go out there and do flips and spin in circles and stuff. That’s college baseball to an extent. That’s just how it is and that’s something that’s unique to this program and it’s definitely fun for everyone.
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Q. Jimmy and Joe, you guys have many times said, “We want another day with each other. Just being with these guys is the best thing.” Tell us with some detail what makes it so special. What’s so special about this group of guys that are your 33 other teammates?
JIMMY KERR: Yeah, we’ve been through a lot together. Coach Bakich puts us through a lot in the fall, a lot of stuff that’s not fun to do, but when you get through it with your teammates, it creates a special bond that not a whole lot else can create. Like Coach touched on before, seeing our last strike, coming down to our last strike in that game against Illinois, Blake Nelson and I were seeing each other after the game and we were both pretty emotional because we were staring at the end of our careers right there, and when it just flips around and that kind of organic moment that you can’t create that or manufacture that anywhere else. Him and I were both tearing up, hugging each other after that game because like we get another day together, and that kind of — we’ve carried that perspective this whole way.
JOE DONOVAN: On and off-the-field perspective, it really is like living with your brothers. I don’t know what the count on the days that we’ve been on the road is. It’s probably somewhere around 32, 35 days or something like that on the road. So I mean, you’re with them every single day. And when you’re at home, you’re still hanging out with them.
And just being with them has been so much fun because there’s so many different characters on the team, and each of the personalities play into a part of the team in such a special way. The dynamic that we’ve been able to have has just been awesome, and it’s like — it truly is like being with your siblings because every waking hour of the day we’re together, and after you’ve been on the road for so long, you know everything about everybody, and it’s just an absolute blast. We’ve just been lucky to have this because it’s just truly this past month has been Team 153 through and through, just because we’ve been with each other every day.
Q. Joe, you kind of talked about building that Omaha program in Michigan. As a Midwest, kind of Northern guy, what do you think it means for Northern baseball and for the Big Ten also for you guys to get here? Do you think that it can elevate the whole region?
JOE DONOVAN: Well, I mean, absolutely. That’s definitely one of the choices that I wanted to make when I decided Michigan was — to trust in the program and try to help bring Midwest baseball to where we all know it can be because so many good programs around the country really live and breathe with Midwest kids. It’s just been so much fun being able to wear a Midwest team across my chest and to play for such a great program.
I know so many of the other guys just want to see it get back to that point and bring the Big Ten back to where it’s just a great baseball conference, and it’s just been so much fun. Yeah, just going through that, it’s been a blast.
Q. They were talking about building the program up to this level. You guys have chosen to play at a program that’s used to being at this level. Can you talk about what it’s like to play with those expectations as a collegiate athlete and then to be able to meet them here in your final year?
ETHAN PAUL: Yeah, I think I can speak for a lot of guys in high school that want to go to a program like Michigan or Vanderbilt and those expectations are there. But at the same time, you’re going in and trying to just do what you can to provide for the team. We all had this goal to be at this point, and there’s a lot of factors that go into it, but we don’t really take it as a negative thing, we take it as a positive thing, and we’re playing for a reason, we’re playing to play together for a purpose.
It’s just something that we take in stride and we have that goal as a team, so it kind of brings us together.
JULIAN INFANTE: Yeah, and going off that, I think every team in mind, you look at those expectations and you see, all right, we want to be better than that team. We want to leave a legacy that’s different from all the other teams at Vanderbilt, at Michigan, and you look into the past and you say, all right, how can we make this program better, how can we influence the guys coming in, how can we show that this team is different, the leaders on this team were different. That’s what we’re doing. We’re looking into the past, we’re trying to make this program better, and that’s really all we can say.
Q. A couple days ago Jake Mangum made a pretty passionate statement about the third assistant and scholarships. Wanted to get your perspective on that.
ERIK BAKICH: You know, I thought it was low-hanging fruit, an opportunity to really elevate our game. Just like all the coaches out there, I was disappointed that they didn’t pass. I just think it’s — I think the growth of our sport should always be at the forefront, by the people who care about it, and that was one way to grow our sport.
I think scholarships are a real issue. But that was something that I thought could very easily have been passed. You know, I haven’t talked to — obviously haven’t talked to all the athletic directors that voted against it, but I’m sure they had their reasons, and hopefully this will be something that in the future can be looked at and can be considered and passed, because I do think having that coach, to be able to go out and recruit, as a Northern program, where our fall — and this is all Northern programs, our fall is pushed up because we’re fighting the weather, so our fall ball starts more — starts earlier in September. And to be able to have your recruiting coordinator and your volunteer coach or that assistant be able to go out on the road and recruit and keep your pitching coach home to develop those pitchers instead of the recruiting coordinator and the pitching coach always out, that’s obviously a benefit.
But the experience and the opportunity for growth for that assistant coach, this is — recruiting and player development are two pillars of all programs. For those kids to continue to grow as individuals and as coaches, they need those repetitions recruiting. They need to go out and see players, evaluate players, build relationships, expand their network, and put themselves in the best position to get opportunities.
It can do so much for our game of bringing in quality people, allowing our student-athletes to be maximized. Why we don’t count that guy, I don’t understand why we don’t count him. I think we all agree having an additional body would be great, but I think we all agree that having someone serve in a volunteer capacity and not get paid doesn’t seem right, either.
So I have a lot of thoughts on it, but I do think it was something that could have and should have been passed.
TIM CORBIN: I’m 32 years old, I’m married, I have a child, I leave the home at 7:30 every morning, I come back at 8:00, 9:00 at night. I do it Sunday through Sunday. I don’t get paid. I don’t get compensated. My wife stays home with a baby, can’t afford daycare. And God forbid he goes to daycare, gets sick, I don’t have benefits so I can’t pay for that.
Can’t get a ticket to a football game, can’t get a ticket to a basketball game, can’t eat with a recruit. Why? I’m a volunteer.
I stay all year, I work, I’ve got to go off in the summer, work camps. Why? I can’t recruit. I’m a volunteer.
I make camp money, I come home, put stress on my wife, can’t have another child. Costs money to have children; can’t do it. I’m a volunteer.
It’s the most short-sighted-thinking aspect of our game that we’ve been a part of. We lose good people to other jobs, other sports – softball, professional baseball. They leave baseball because they can’t afford to stay in it. I’ve got a volunteer on my right. Why that hasn’t been changed, why that hasn’t been turned over in the last couple of years is really, really sinful. It’s dehumanizing in so many different ways. It doesn’t open up opportunities. We’re very white inside the sport. Erik and I have a collection of minorities, but because we’re very white in the sport, we don’t open up opportunities for other minorities. And I’m not talking about blacks, I’m not talking about Latins, I’m talking about women, I’m talking about other people that have an opportunity to potentially coach at this level, and you say, women in baseball? Women are in the NFL, women are doing Major League Baseball on TV. We limit ourselves greatly.
And because of that, when you’ve got young people that aspire to go to college and play a sport, they look at the people coaching it, and when they don’t see people like them, then they shut down the sport, then they move to another sport.
I can’t believe we’ve done that to ourselves. I can’t believe that we didn’t overturn that and say, we’ll revisit it in 2022. 2022? I don’t know if I’ll be alive. We walk around and think that we’re going to be living the next day. No, that should be adjusted immediately. It’s something that needs to be done.
For a 21-year-old kid like Jake Mangum to speak up, says everything you want to know. Student-athletes thinking about that position, thinking about that position and someone that they work with every single day, someone who’s always there, and you can’t compensate them or reward them with just simple medical benefits, it’s baffling, and it’s sad. It needs to be adjusted quickly, without question. We’re better than that.
Q. For both coaches: Erik, every year a team makes a run to Omaha that seemed improbable. Your team is that team this year. I’m curious to know what the magic potion of a pretty good team turning into a great team in June is. And Tim, did your team do similar in 2014, do you think, as to what Michigan has done?
ERIK BAKICH: So we’ve never been here before, so we don’t have the experience of knowing how to navigate it. I’ve heard Coach Corbin say many times, “If you go once, you go twice, just from your players knowing how to get there.” We don’t know how to get here. We’ve never been.
And for us, it was that authentic moment that made us believe, that gave us the mindset and the confidence that we can do this, and if we don’t have the full spectrum, if we don’t have — playing not to lose, and we had a game and a half lead in the standings of the regular season of the Big Ten, and we were playing not to lose, and so we lost. We didn’t play well.
To truly look at the finalization of your season, and like Jimmy said, his career is over. And to have the seniors feel the same way, if we don’t have that, then we don’t understand what it’s like to play on the other end of that spectrum, to be loose, to play with a belief system and a confidence like, you know, why can’t we do this?
Once we got into the NCAA tournament, it was — there was no pressure. We weren’t playing not to lose the Big Ten title, we were just playing to play. And so we had to have that authentic moment on the field. It changed our mindset. It gave us belief. It gave us confidence. But then again, it wasn’t smooth sailing. We had some meltdowns along the way. And if we don’t blow that ninth-inning lead against Creighton, if we don’t make five errors after the eighth inning and walk 10 in Game 2 against UCLA, if we don’t have those repetitions of getting knocked down, then we don’t have those opportunities of getting back up.
So this team is — they have had those moments where they’ve dealt with their share of adversity along this ride, and it’s strengthened us. It’s built us up. It has callused our mind in a way that there’s just a lot of belief right now, and they’re playing with that looseness and enjoying each other and enjoying the moment because they’ve seen how many times they’ve made the moment too big. They’ve made the moment big in the ninth inning of the regional championship because now we start thinking about a super regional, and same thing with a trip to Omaha in Game 2.
All of those experiences have allowed us to be in this position where we’ve been able to simplify, take away the external things, make it as — just about baseball and just about staying loose and just about competing pitch to pitch as we possibly can. But we’re not here unless the collection of all those circumstances along the way took place because we certainly didn’t know the path to getting here. This has just happened for us.
And now that it has, hopefully that has got our program over the hump, that we can navigate our way here again at some point in the future.
TIM CORBIN: In 2014 after we won it, we got home that night and I had dinner with Erik and we talked about that actually because there was a moment in 2014 where we were very similar to Michigan, where we found our playing personality. And I don’t ever like the word “hot” because I think hot means that you can play well just in certain circumstances. I think sometimes teams, it takes them a while, 30, 40, 50 games to find their playing personality. In 2014 we did that. We did it after the SEC tournament. We had spurts of it, but we didn’t develop that consistency that you need in order to finish something off until right about the same time Erik’s team did.
So I think there’s a lot of similarities that way, and you develop into an elite team. And you might not have been an elite team in April, but you have the parts and the components to be an elite team if you find yourself in experiences that will allow you to do that, and we found ourselves in that situation in 2014, and Erik’s team has certainly found that this year.
Q. Erik, you said this is uncharted territory for your program, but I know there are other teams at Michigan this isn’t uncharted territory for. I’m wondering if you got any advice from the other coaches at the University about how to handle this stage.
ERIK BAKICH: Actually, yeah. Coach Beilein sent a video message prior to the Corvallis regional and played it for the team, and he talked about belief, but most importantly he talked about the belief in outliers. There needed to be some type of an outlier moment, whether it would be someone who’s been in a slump getting a big hit or a great pitching performance, someone coming off the bench that hasn’t played. And then we saw that take shape: Riley Bertram gets a spot start and goes 4-for-4 with a double and a hit-by pitch, and it just totally energized our players.
But yeah, he was very gracious. He’s obviously got a lot of things going on in Cleveland, but for him to take time out to send a video message, I greatly appreciate that.
Q. Coach Bakich, I keep hearing the name Chris Fetter come up, your pitching coach, over the last week and a half. Obviously your pitching and the starters in particular have kind of fueled this run, especially since you’ve gotten to Omaha. What has Coach Fetter brought to the table that has kind of helped elevate the staff the last two years?
ERIK BAKICH: Well, Chris Fetter is — I’ll get into what makes him special, but just from a teaching standpoint, he’s one of the most talented pitching coaches I’ve ever seen, very similar to the guy that we had at Vanderbilt in Derek Johnson.
Chris Fetter has been offered multiple Major League positions. You know, it’s one thing to be able to analyze Trackman and Rapsodo data and understand what the ball is doing and be able to speak that language, but then to be able to convert that language into something that can be easily communicated to our players and understandable to our players, and then to be able to communicate to them based on what the data shows, we think we can help you and make you a better pitcher by these types of adjustments, and he is a master at that.
But what truly makes him special is his love for Michigan. To think that in 153 years of this program, nobody has thrown more innings at the University than Chris Fetter, that’s special. He’s got a tattoo on his arm that says, “Those who stay.” He loves Michigan. He bleeds Michigan, and our players feed off of it.
So having him in our program, besides the teacher and the coach that he is, the person that he is, his wife Jessica, them raising their family in Ann Arbor with their new baby son Cole, he’s been a Godsend to our program.
Q. Erik and Tim, I find it fascinating to go back to Clemson, South Carolina, and you meet each other for the first time. You’re on this staff. What are your first impressions of each other?
TIM CORBIN: I kind of knew what I was going to meet when his former coach Keith LeClair, who has since passed, who I knew very well because he was from New Hampshire, called me and told me about Erik, and actually he called me as well as Coach Leggett, but he relayed a lot of inside information about Erik just in terms of the fibers of the human and what he was and how he went about things. I think a lot of the things that I heard from Keith were the attractive pieces of him.
First time I met him, I met him out in the parking lot on top of Jervey parking lot, overlooking the baseball field at Clemson, and he opened his trunk and pulled out all this agility apparatus, and it was apparatus that not only did he use to teach but he used for himself, and at that point it just led to a relationship that has lasted to this day.
But what I found in just the three days, four days, five days of first meeting someone is you just could tell that he had an engine that just was completely different than most people that you meet, just an unbelievable passion for teaching and coaching and being around people. He’s got everything that you would want in a teacher. And I’ll say “teacher,” because to me, before you can coach — not every coach is a teacher, but I think if you’re a teacher you can be a coach, and that’s what he was. It was just someone that I knew very quickly and right away that this person would be part of your life for the remainder.
ERIK BAKICH: I don’t remember the agility equipment in the trunk —
TIM CORBIN: I do. I’m not that old.
ERIK BAKICH: I didn’t look up Coach Corbin’s bio on the internet and I didn’t have anybody tell me what he was about before I got there. My connection to Clemson was Coach LeClair and Coach Leggett, and it might have taken me all of about 20 or 30 seconds to recognize what type of person Coach Corbin was, and then I got to know his story, and it all made sense. I got there thinking, I’m just going to work the same hours he works, and I had no idea what I was signing myself up for: Around the clock, 24/7, his wife Maggie fully invested in the program, as well, stuffing envelopes at 9:00 and 10:00 at night to get a recruiting letter out to a thousand kids.
But then hearing his story of a Division III player, a guy that drove all night to go wait on the doorstep of an athletic director because he heard there was an opening in the ticket office, a guy who started a small-school Presbyterian program by himself with a shovel and built a field and had to be the dorm director and had to be his own assistant coach and head coach, just to see the work ethic and the drive and the energy and the passion, he’d sleep in his car because he didn’t have a recruiting budget, tournament after tournament. I just felt like this is the guy I want to be around.
I was a junior college player. I was always an underdog, wasn’t one of those players that — just had to prove I could play instead of some of the players that have to prove they can’t. I just felt like this is the guy I need to gravitate to. You hear the phrase a lot about being in the right place at the right time and surrounding yourself with the right people. I felt like I hit the jackpot with that when I got to Clemson, and that had a lot to do with Coach Leggett and Kevin O’Sullivan, but I connected with Coach Corbin right away and just wanted to be like him.
Q. Coach Corbin, you’ve said that Coach Bakich came with you to Vanderbilt when Vanderbilt was nothing. How do you reinforce and make sure your current players know where the program has come from? What type of things do you employ to do that, and how does it reinforce it when you guys meet here?
TIM CORBIN: Well, it reinforces — they’ve heard about Erik long before this. We talk a lot about our history to the players because I want them to understand where it was at the beginning so they don’t take things for granted. So it’s certainly part of our foundation.
But I’ll say this, and I’ll say it briefly, but it’s real, Vanderbilt is not Vanderbilt without Erik Bakich. When Vanderbilt was not an attractive school to come to, I mean, there weren’t a lot of people going after the Vanderbilt position when I did. There were about two others, three others, so it wasn’t one of those schools that people saw as a desirable situation.
But I think when Coach Leggett hired me, he was trying to hire other head coaches, and then he finally said, I’m just going to hire a person that I don’t know, and I think in Erik’s case, I think I felt a lot of the same. I felt like he’s someone that was like me. He just needed the opportunity, and he was not going to take no for an answer in anything that he ever did.
So he built a recruiting base that stands today. But the David Prices, the Pedro Alvarezes, the David Maciases, the Dominic de la Osas, the good players back then, those are because of him. And because of that, it allowed other people like them to want to come to Vanderbilt.
Q. Erik, it’s been a long time since a cold-weather school has gotten to this stage playing for a national title. I was wondering if you could explain some of the cold-weather things you go through. What does all this cost, too? It must be incredibly expensive, since you make the budget up.
ERIK BAKICH: You’ve done your homework. Well, I think a couple of things. I think, number one, we have a blueprint from — he said Vanderbilt would be the skyscraper it is today because of him and his wife, and I was very fortunate to be a part of that, and what I got from that is a blueprint of how to build something that maybe hasn’t done it before, and what it takes to do that. Applying that blueprint to a school that genuinely cares about the student-athlete experience and has the resources to support the student-athletes, those are two huge components. The fact that Michigan has indoor facilities — they may not be perfect, but we have indoor facilities. We’re not on a gymnasium floor. And for a lot of Midwestern and Northern teams that don’t have facilities, I could see how it could be very difficult to compete at a high level. But we are fortunate that we do.
But I think bigger than a lack of facilities, bigger than the weather is a belief system. And just like Coach said, not taking no for an answer, not allowing cold weather to be an excuse. We have these indoor facilities, but we don’t like to use them very often. We go outside. If it’s above zero degrees, we are outside. It might only be for 20 or 30 minutes, but it’s just a mindset thing. We’re going outside. And our players know it, and our recruits know it, and we don’t shy away from it. Yeah, it’s cold here, but it’s not going to keep us from getting better. The draft has shown that, and the postseason has shown that.
So I think more than anything, more than any focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have, and if you have a belief system that you’re going to build something and your players are going to buy into that, that can overcome a lot of deficiencies that you have.
Q. How have you seen Erik evolve as a head coach? And Erik talked yesterday about how your initial success at Vanderbilt really bumped recruiting for your program. How do you see a run like this helping a school like Michigan, cold weather, et cetera, going forward in recruiting?
TIM CORBIN: Well, to answer your first question, I think he’s smart enough — not like everyone, but to kind of recreate yourself every year. He’s an evaluator. He’s a sponge. He picks up on the things that he might need to work on more than the things that he thinks he’s accomplished and done well. He just is hungry, hungry, hungry to get better in all facets, and he understands that the most important thing to growing a program is growing himself first, and if you’re going to ask your kids to grow at a certain level, you have to have the desire and the passion to do it yourself, and he’s always had that, and he will continue to have that. I don’t ever see that leaving his system, and that’s why he’s grown so much as a coach.
Your second question is there is no question that it will help their program. Any time you do something like this, there’s an attraction that takes place. But Michigan is an unbelievable university with such great tradition, and when I was at Ohio State as a volunteer assistant, Michigan was the program. That was Hal Morris, that was Barry Larkin, that was Jim Abbott, that was Scott Kamieniecki. They had some tremendous personalities. But I like at what he’s doing, and it’s come full circle back to that particular situation, and he’s done it the right way.