The University of Missouri made history last week on the baseball front. They hired former MLB pitcher, scout and coach Kerrick Jackson as their new head baseball coach.
He joins a select group. At the start of this past season only 12 Blacks were head coaches in Division 1 baseball. That was out of 299 head coaching positions. Jackson is the first Black head baseball coach in SEC history.
The ACC has never had one, while the Big 10, Pac-12 and Big 12 have each only had one.
This is a reflection of the lack of Black athletes playing college baseball. The current percentage is around five, not a lot better than the eight percent in MLB.
A big reason for that is the slim amount of scholarship money and full rides as opposed to what’s available in football and basketball. Black athletes dominate those sports, but are much less of a presence on the college scene.
Vanderbilt has been among the nation’s leaders in attracting top Black athletes. Tim Corbin has consistently convinced these players to pass on potential bonuses coming out of high school and play at least three years of college ball. This has worked out great for both high profile athletes like David Price and Tony Kemo, while also being one of the reasons Vanderbilt has won two national titles and is a contender every season.
Missouri hopes that Jackson, who has proven a winner in every previous coaching stint, can revive a baseball program that this past season didn’t even qualify for the SEC postseason tournament.
As a past scout and former Olympic coach, the other hope is that his ability to spot and develop talent, as well as relationships with high school coaches in multiple states he has developed, will help him attract more top players to Missouri.
He will have a tough task ahead. The SEC regularly gets seven or eight teams into NCAA play, and the last two title winners have been conference schools. Though the league hasn’t fared so well in this year’s NCAAs, it remains unquestionably the nation’s toughest from top to bottom.
Though it seems odd to say this in 2023, Kerrick Jackson is an SEC trailblazer. Hopefully, he will have enough success to pave the way for others to follow.