It took two days to decide on nearly 25 years of service.
So when baseball coach Eddie Cardieri finally met with Athletic Director Doug Woolard and Senior Associate Director of Athletics Barbara Sparks-McGlinchy for lengthy talks Tuesday, the three came to a mutual agreement Wednesday: Cardieri would resign.
“They were productive meetings,” said Cardieri, who compiled a 731-546 record with five regular-season conference championship titles. “We talked about a variety of things, such as where do I go from here, which situation should I choose. I chose the one that I did. I’m content with it, and it’s what’s best for the team.”
Cardieri said he and Woolard met at “a mutual decision” and that resigning from a coaching job held longer than any other coach at USF was also a new juncture in his life.
“It’s just where I am,” said Cardieri, who took over for Major League Hall of Famer Robin Roberts in 1986. “It’s hard for me to realize, but (my career at USF) has been almost half of my life. That’s a quarter of a century. And when you think in those terms, that’s unbelievable that someone could stay on a job that long.”
Woolard added: “We talked a lot about the program, then reached the mutual agreement. He decided to resign in what I want to call a mutual conversation. It really is what Cardieri thought would be best for the team.”
Over the last few years, the Bulls have had seasons in which the team has either missed or barely gotten into conference tournaments. That includes this season, in which USF posted a 23-35 record – only Cardieri’s fourth losing season. USF has made nine NCAA Tournament appearances in Cardieri’s tenure as coach. The team’s last NCAA regional appearance was in 2002, and Cardieri said it was hard to judge if a better 2006 season would have meant a new contract.
“That’s a hard question to answer,” Cardieri said. “If we were in the regionals, then yeah, that’s a no-brainer. A .500 record is no big deal to me, either. I always think my guys have a chance to get to Omaha, that’s my opinion, but coming up short is no excuse.”
There were also rumblings that emerged from disciplinary actions taken by Cardieri regarding his sons, Nick and Joel – who Cardieri hopes “will be on the team next year due to their merits” – as well as other players.
“None of that (stuff) was helpful,” Cardieri said. “I resigned for a variety reasons, but those things didn’t need to be there.”
Cardieri said he didn’t know if he would ever get back into coaching, but is very proud of the players he coached at USF.
“I got to watch great players perform,” Cardieri said. “You don’t win them all in baseball, and now the proudest thing I have in my career is to see these guys turn into great citizens, start families and have great jobs in the community. That’s what life’s all about.”
A few players will remember the impact Cardieri had on them.
“It’s sad to see him go,” senior Brian Baisley said. “I played for him for five years, and it just didn’t work out with the changes coming and going.
“He’s got a great baseball mind, and I’d be a fool not to talk to him and get more advice from him. It’s an advantage to know someone like that.”
That sentiment was echoed by the only player in Major League Baseball to play under Cardieri.
“He did so much for me,” said Ross Gload, who played for the Bulls from 1995-97 and now plays for the Chicago White Sox, in a May 16 interview. “Even to the point where he gave me a chance to play college ball when no one else would. I would never in my life say anything bad about Cardieri, and I would be really disappointed if he weren’t given a second chance.”
Now with the position of coach open, along with the position of hitting coach – Reggie Jefferson resigned Wednesday as well – Woolard will look for a new coach in what is still considered fertile baseball recruiting country.
“We’re going to step back, assess what we have,” Woolard said. “We haven’t had time to talk to the assistants because this has happened just today, but we’re going to conduct a national search with the intention to provide the best partnership. We’ll accept applications, then we’ll prospect and narrow the field down.”
Cardieri, who says he’s in “cruise control” and will “relax for days, weeks, maybe even months to come,” will walk away with contentment and with his memories.
“(I have) a million of them,” Cardieri said. “I’m always going to have those.”