Update [2007-9-5 14:34:5 by Dave]: Great Q&A with Horton in today's Baseball America. Well worth the read if you're interested in the direction of the baseball program.
Overshadowed by the start of football season was the fact that former CS Fullerton coach George Horton was introduced as Oregon's baseball coach. We know the pedigree. A national championship and six trips to the College World Series with Fullerton. But who is George Horton? And what inspired him to go from one of the most successful programs in the country to start a fledgling program in Eugene?
According to his Fullerton bio, Horton himself was a collegiate player first at Cerritos College, then at CS Fullerton. He was a member of the first Fullerton team to go to the CWS in 1975. Immediately after graduation in 1975, he worked his way through the JUCO coaching ranks, as an assistant at LA Valley College, then Cerritos College before finally landing the head gig at Cerritos in 1985. In six years at Cerritos, he won three state JUCO championships while compiling a 226-53 record. In 1990, he was hired as an assistant at his alma mater, and got the head job in 1996.
Horton's accomplishments at Fullerton are amazing. In 11 years at the helm, he has that national championship and six years to the CWS. He's a two time national coach of the year (2003, 2004). His record at Fullerton: an impeccable 452-187-1. He has had 75 players drafted in that 11-year span. The man can recruit and develop players. Of that, there is no doubt.
You can't question the man has a baseball coach. But the question has to be why? Why would he leave a powerhouse to start a fledgling program at Oregon? He's SoCal raised, why would he just leave? Especially with a daughter in high school? This is the question that has everybody scratching their heads.
Horton says its not about the money--he'll earn about $400,000 annually both in his coaches duties and for doing coaches shows with OSN. Horton maintains that its about the leadership and direction of the school, and Horton's total control over use of scholarships. (Its should also be noted that this article says that the Ducks are likely to play their first season in Civic Stadium while a 5,000 seat on campus stadium is being built).
Its hard to tell what another guy is thinking, but I'm going to try to get inside Horton's head. Its no secret what Oregon is doing. They are spending millions of dollars. Autzen expansion, an new arena and baseball stadium, the Mo Center, Kilkenny Field, etc. Spending money to get top coaches and turn around even "minor" programs such as softball and volleyball. Oregon is trying to build itself into becoming the next athletic powerhouse. I think Horton saw this as an opportunity to move away from a place that's largely a commuter school to a place with a massive fan base and financial support for athletics. The R-G recently said that Oregon could become "the SEC school of the west." Horton saw the opportunity to become the pioneer of a powerhouse baseball program. And even though he knew that Oregon is years away from becoming a power, he jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.
Welcome to Eugene, Mr. Horton.