Texas fires baseball coach David Pierce after eight seasons without national title

Texas baseball coach David Pierce (22) prepares to take the field before his team's game against Louisiana-Lafayette during the first round in the NCAA baseball tournament, May 31, 2024, at Olsen Field in College Station, Texas.
Texas baseball coach David Pierce (22) prepares to take the field before his team's game against Louisiana-Lafayette during the first round in the NCAA baseball tournament, May 31, 2024, at Olsen Field in College Station, Texas.

When the Texas officially moves to the Southeastern Conference on July 1, Longhorns baseball coach David Pierce won’t be coming along.

Pierce was fired on Monday, ending his eight-year tenure at Texas. His dismissal came a few weeks after a disappointing season ended with a 10-2 loss to Louisiana-Lafyettee at the College Station regional.

First reported by former American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls, the news of Pierce's firing was later confirmed by a Texas spokesperson. In statements released by the school, both Pierce and Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte described the dismissal as a mutual decision.

"CDC and I met after the season and we mutually agreed that the best thing for the program was to go in a different direction," Piece said. "It’s been an honor and privilege to lead this program for the last eight years. It certainly is a time I will always cherish as a coach, and I am so appreciative of The University of Texas for the opportunity."

Wrote Del Conte: "After the season, Coach Pierce and I had some time to visit about the year, the future of our program, where we are, and where we’re headed. It was a difficult decision for us both, but we have mutually agreed that we should make a change. I am so grateful for Coach Pierce and all he has poured into our baseball program for the past eight years."

Pierce, 61, signed a contract extension in 2021 and had two years remaining on a deal that paid him an annual salary of $1.2 million. According to the language in his contract, Texas owes Pierce 70% of his remaining base salary, but the decision makers still felt this was the correct time to make a coaching change.

Pierce, who was hired from Tulane in June 2016 to replace Augie Garrido, went 295-162 at Texas. He led the Longhorns to Big 12 championships in 2018, 2021 and 2023 and Texas reached the College World Series in 2018, 2021 and 2022.

The Longhorns got closest to winning a national championship with Pierce in 2021, when they finished in a tie for third place at the College World Series after losing to eventual champion Mississippi State.

In his 13 years leading Texas, Tulane and Sam Houston State, Pierce has a 494-271 record with 11 NCAA tournament appearances. He won a national championship as a part of Rice's 2003 coaching staff.

Pierce's Texas teams hosted three regionals and had a 25-14 showing over six trips to the NCAA baseball tournament. His final season, however, was marred by staff strife and an underwhelming performance on the field.

Last summer, Pierce fired Woody Williams and tabbed himself as the team's third pitching coach in as many years. Pierce was always involved with the handling of pitchers, but Texas' team ERA rose this season from 4.18 to 4.91 − its worst mark since 1999 − as the Longhorns struggled with injuries, establishing depth and the regression of team ace Lebarron Johnson Jr. Texas assistant coach Philip Miller, a longtime Pierce lieutenant, also took an unexplained leave of absence in March and never returned.

On the field, the Longhorns went 36-24 and finished in third place in the Big 12. Texas lost both of its games at the Big 12 tournament and then failed to make a super regional for the first time since it missed the NCAA tournament entirely in 2019.

"(This season) was turbulent at times. We definitely had our share of adversity throughout the year, but there wasn't a moment where we backed down from anything," junior pitcher Ace Whitehead said. "The guys, tough as nails. There's just a lot you could say, but I'm just proud of the guys and proud of the coaches."

A few minutes after the Texas baseball season ended, Pierce was asked if he expected to return for the Longhorns' 2025 campaign and SEC debut. Pierce said that decision wasn't his to make, but he stated that "as long as the University of Texas gives me the opportunity, they'll get everything that I have."

"We're judged 100% on a win and a loss, but you've got to get into the ingredients of this team and the ingredients of this program to understand how good it is. That's from our support staff throughout our players," Pierce added. "The question of will I return? That's not in my hands. I know how well that our team plays and I know how well our staff has worked. I've been doing this a long time and we've had a ton of success."

Despite Texas having a relatively successful run over his eight years, the Pierce era did not live up to the lofty and almost unrealistic standards established by the coach's predecessors. William Disch, Bibb Falk, Cliff Gustafson and Garrido led Texas baseball from 1911-2016 with the exception of a three-season stretch in which Falk served in the military. Each one coached at least 19 years at Texas. Falk, Gustafson and Garrido each won two national titles with the Longhorns. Busts of all four coaches have been erected outside of the Longhorns’ home ballpark, which is named in Disch and Falk’s honor.

Now a new coach will attempt to emulate that success while also leading UT into the SEC. The Longhorns' new home is widely regarded as college baseball's best conference. Five of the last six national champions came from the SEC, and either Texas A&M or Tennessee will secure this year's title. When it comes to average attendance, seven of the top-eight ballparks in 2024 were on SEC campuses and the No. 5 draw in college baseball was the SEC-bound Longhorns.

Since Chris Del Conte became its athletic director in December 2017, Texas has not shied away from big-game hunting when it comes to recruiting coaches. Former men's basketball coach Chris Beard (Texas Tech) and current women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer (Mississippi State), softball coach Mike White (Oregon) and track and field coach Edrick Floréal (Kentucky) were established winners elsewhere before they were hired. Bob Bowman recently left Arizona State after winning a national championship to become UT's director of swimming and diving. The school's new women's golf coach is Laura Ianello, who won an NCAA title in 2018 at Arizona.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas fires David Pierce after eight seasons as baseball coach