Sept. 1, 2009
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - University of Alabama Director of Athletics Mal Moore announced Tuesday that head baseball coach Jim Wells has retired effective immediately. Mitch Gaspard, who served the last two seasons assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, has agreed to be the Crimson Tide's next head baseball coach.
Gaspard agreed to a 3-year contract that is subject to approval by the Compensation Committee of the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System. Gaspard and selected players will be available for interviews Wednesday at 3 p.m. on the field at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
"During a meeting on Monday, Coach Wells told me that he has decided to retire as head baseball coach," Moore said. "Jim served our baseball program with distinction for 15 seasons. I have tremendous respect for Jim and the reasons for which he made this decision at this time. Mitch Gaspard has agreed to take over leadership of the program."
"We are confident that our program - with its tremendous heritage and tradition - will continue to be competitive at the highest level. Mitch is uniquely qualified to take over our program at this time. We're very fortunate to have a coach and recruiter of Mitch's quality already on the staff. I am confident and excited about the direction of our baseball program. We are having an excellent year in recruiting and fall practice is getting started."
Gaspard is a veteran coach on the college level with deep ties to the Alabama program. The 2010 season will be Gaspard's 10th as a member of the Crimson Tide staff.
"First of all, I want to thank President (Robert) Witt and coach Mal Moore for having the confidence in me to lead the Alabama baseball program," Gaspard said. "My background as a head coach for six years and being an assistant here for so many years have prepared me to be the coach of the Crimson Tide. Also, I want to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to Jim Wells.
"He is without a doubt one of the best baseball coaches I've ever been around. His service to the University has been exemplary, not only the way his teams played on the field but in the way his teams conducted themselves in the classrooms and in the community. Lastly, I look forward to having the opportunity of working with our current players who are already here and recruiting more top-notch student-athletes to come represent the University of Alabama."
Wells, 54, departs as the winningest coach in Alabama baseball history. He coached the Crimson Tide for the past 15 seasons and compiled a 625-322 (.656) record.
"Today is really about the hiring of Mitch Gaspard to lead the Alabama baseball program and not about me retiring as the head coach," Wells said. "I have no doubt that Mitch and his staff will continue to elevate the team to a championship level. He is an outstanding coach and an even better person, and I couldn't be happier for him or the Crimson Tide baseball team. One goal I wanted to attain before I left my position was making sure the program was back on solid ground, and I leave the University feeling confident that it is.
"I want to thank all the players, both current and in the past, that have made the past 15 years so enjoyable for me and my family. It's really all about the players, and seeing so many go on to have success in their chosen fields is something in which I take great pride.
"I also want to thank all the assistant coaches, student mangers, trainers and administrators who have helped make my job so much easier over the years. And, of course, I want to close by saying thanks to all the fans and boosters of the program. I ask you to be there next spring to give your support to the 2010 Alabama baseball team."
Wells guided Alabama to two Southeastern Conference Championships (1996 and 2006), six SEC Tournament Championships (1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003) and 12 NCAA Regional appearances during his tenure. He also led UA to four NCAA Regional Championships (1996, 1997, 1999 and 2006), two NCAA Super Regional appearances (1999 and 2006) and three trips to the College World Series (1996, 1997 and 1999).
Overall, Wells spent 20 years as a Division I head coach and compiled a record of 817-411 (.665) in 1,228 career games. He was twice named SEC Coach of the Year (1996 and 2002) by his peers. He was named Southland Conference Coach of the Year three times during his tenure at Northwestern State (Louisiana) before taking over at Alabama.
In 2009, Gaspard completed his second season as the Tide's assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. He returned for his second stint with the Crimson Tide in 2008 after six years as head coach at Northwestern (La.) State in Natchitoches, La., where he compiled a 211-128 (.622) record. During those six years, he led the Demons to a pair of Southland Conference championships, one SLC Tournament championship and a berth in the 2005 NCAA Baton Rouge (La.) Regional. In 20 years of coaching, Gaspard has worked with teams that have won eight conference championships, eight conference tournament championships, played in 16 NCAA Regionals and three College World Series.
Gaspard was a member of Wells' original staff at Alabama in 1995 and was a pivotal figure as an ace recruiter and a shrewd tactician in the remarkable revival of the program. Alabama had four SEC wins in 1994, but after Wells and Gaspard arrived, the Tide won the SEC Tournament in 1995 and was one win away from the College World Series. By the time Gaspard returned to NSU, Alabama had earned six NCAA Regional appearances and three College World Series berths, including a national championship game loss to LSU in 1997. In each of his first seven seasons at Alabama, Gaspard helped mold the Tide into one of nation's finest defensive units. As the chief recruiter, he helped land five successive Top 20 recruiting classes, including three Top 10 finishes in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
An all-state shortstop at Jefferson High School in Port Arthur, Texas, Gaspard led his team to the Texas state title as a senior and then became the starting second baseman in 1985 for the first Skip Bertman-coached LSU team to advance to NCAA Regional play. He played his final two collegiate seasons as a starter at second for the University of Houston, where he became an assistant coach in 1988. Gaspard served as an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette from 1989-92, helping the Ragin' Cajuns reach three NCAA Regionals and win three conference titles.
Gaspard and his wife, Kim, have two daughters, Brae and Paeton.
Alabama Player Quotes:
Alabama senior third baseman Jake Smith:
"We are all very excited and looking forward to playing for Coach Gaspard. No one else is more deserving than him. He knows what the University of Alabama and the baseball program is all about. I am looking forward to the season and really looking forward to playing for him. We know his approach to the game and what he expects, from having him here as an assistant the last two years. We are very comfortable with him. He is a great man and great coach."
Alabama junior second baseman Ross Wilson:
"We all liked Coach Wells and I felt like I grew a lot as a player and person the last two years. Coach Gaspard is a great person and great coach. You could not ask for a better person to have this job. He has helped me so much the last two years as a player and a person."