SOUTH BEND — The Notre Dame baseball program hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2015. Link Jarrett is hoping to change that.
Jarrett was named the 21st manager in Irish program history Friday and was formally introduced Monday.
“To put this hat on was a very special moment for me, and I want our program to be a representation of how I feel about Notre Dame,” Jarrett said. “I want these guys to compete, I want them to win championships and hopefully get this program to where we’re in Regionals. That’s what I want.”
Jarrett most recently served as the head coach of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro program, leading them to unprecedented heights in his eight seasons there. The Spartans won their first-ever conference tournament in 2017 and their second-ever regular season conference title in 2018. Jarrett led UNCG to the NCAA Tournament in 2017, losing in the Clemson Regional.
The Spartans won at least 34 games each of the last four seasons, the longest such streak in program history. He won Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors twice.
“You have to find your niche, and it took us a little time with our roster, with what we had there. We kind of had to ride it out a little bit,” Jarrett said of his success at UNCG. “I learned how important culture is. It’s not bringing in ‘your guys.’ It’s creating a culture and a path of development for these guys that helps them get better. That’s what it’s about, and I learned that at Greensboro.”
Jarrett played college baseball at Florida State under legendary head coach Mike Martin, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division-I baseball history. He played in three College World Series as a Seminole from 1991-1994.
After a brief professional baseball career, Jarrett coached the Division-II Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla. In 2003, Jarrett returned to Tallahassee to join Martin’s staff as an assistant. He then made stops at Mercer, Eastern Carolina and Auburn before becoming the head coach at Greensboro.
Everywhere Jarrett has gone, good hitting has followed. In his seven years at UNCG, the Spartans led the conference in hitting five times and had the highest team batting average in the country in 2016.
“My voice has been our voice, offensively. I try to identify the needs of each hitter, physically, and then we have approaches that we use that we learn how to implement in-game to try and attack how they’re being pitched and what the opponent is doing,” Jarrett said. “That’s something I’ve always led; I’ll continue to do that here.”
The move to South Bend is the first time Jarrett will be coaching outside of the southern part of the United States. While that might seem as a challenge, recruiting wise, Jarrett believes Notre Dame’s brand helps them recruit the entire country.
“This is a national game. This is a national reach, a national brand. So, recruiting in the North is important, but it can’t be our only focus,” Jarrett said. “I think the brand … allows you to reach into Florida, into Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, California to find talented people that have a desire to come here.”
Being a national brand also means Jarrett has to have a more focused recruiting strategy.
“If you’re going 600 miles away to watch a guy pitch, you have to know on the front-end that this is a guy I need to go 600 miles to watch pitch. If you’re going to do that, and it’s not a guy for you, that’s a big waste, especially here,” Jarrett said. “It’s not like driving to the high school three miles down the road and watching a guy. There’s big trips and a lot involved to go see that. So, I think front-end homework is probably the biggest challenge I see.”
Notre Dame went 24-30 last year and 13-17 in ACC play. Being in a major conference gives the Irish a chance to make the NCAA Tournament every season, though, which is where Jarrett is hoping to go for multiple years in South Bend.
“The exciting thing is the sky’s the limit. If you can get through your regular season and perform, day-in and day-out -- with consistent performance, win the games you’re supposed to win and steal some games -- you’re going to be in a Regional,” Jarrett said. “So, taking it day-by-day, but recognizing day-by-day approach and success is going to get you in a Regional, that’s what excites me. That’s where I see this going.”
Austin Hough can be reached at email@example.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN