A second title makes it an undeniable truth — VandyBoys coach Tim Corbin is a living legend
Kumar Rocker gave short, abbreviated answers.
Like his pitches, the Vanderbilt ace’s words packed a punch. No messing around. Just straightforward and to the point.
When the ESPN reporter asked Rocker what he thought about Commodores coach Tim Corbin winning his second College World Series title, Rocker again didn’t mince words.
“Special,” Rocker said on the TV broadcast following Vandy’s win over Michigan on Wednesday night. “I said it earlier in an interview, he’s the G.O.A.T. He’s like (Nick) Saban. He’s got him.”
Some might scoff at that. Saban has 3 times as many national titles as Corbin, and what he did at Alabama over the course of the past decade could be considered the most impressive run in a major revenue sport that we’ve ever seen.
But what can’t be denied now is that like Saban, Corbin is a living legend.
Why? In the 3 major men’s college sports — football, basketball and baseball — the list of active coaches with multiple national titles is short. Like, really short:
- Nick Saban, Alabama
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson
- Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
- Roy Williams, UNC
- Jay Wright, Villanova
- Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt
That’s some incredible company. And really, that’s an incredible lack of company in college baseball (Oregon State coach Pat Casey retired before the 2019 season after winning his third College World Series in 2018).
Some would have argued that Corbin was already a living legend without that second title. After all, his team had more wins this decade than every team except Louisville, but the Cardinals are title-less. Even though a program like Florida has 7 College World Series appearances this decade compared to Vandy’s 4, the Commodores now lead the title count 2-1.
And while South Carolina won the first 2 College World Series of the decade — and unbelievable accomplishment — one could argue that what Corbin did by winning with 2 completely different teams was even more impressive.
Now some argued that Vanderbilt’s scholarship situation with its private endowment make it easier to recruit and win big. Um, well, it certainly wasn’t easier to win big when Vandy had 3 NCAA Tournament appearances in program history before Corbin arrived.
As great as the likes of Saban and Williams are, the pre-Saban history of Alabama football and the pre-Williams history of UNC basketball were worlds apart from the pre-Corbin history of Vandy baseball.
That’s what can’t be overstated with the 57-year-old head coach. If you look at the blueprint for building and sustaining a program, Corbin showed the model. He’s a relentless recruiter, a master developer of talent (Vandy just matched the SEC record for draft picks in a year with 13) and a loyal, self-critical coach who doesn’t make excuses.
The excuses for Corbin have been there. The SEC is too loaded with baseball talent. Vandy’s historic lack of investment into athletics makes it tougher to compete. The academic requirements of the university limit the players he can recruit.
But did Corbin ever coach like he was at a disadvantage? No. In a way, it was fitting that against a Michigan squad representing the first Big Ten program in the CWS final in half a century, the “David vs. Goliath” narrative was out in full force. Corbin has indeed built a Goliath in Nashville while the other big revenue sports at the school have struggled just to sustain mediocrity.
David into turned Goliath. That’s all because of Corbin.
Now, the “why wouldn’t an MLB team pursue Corbin?” question will pick up once again. Why wouldn’t it? But really, Corbin’s skills are valued more on the college level where he can do what he does best — recruit and develop. At the MLB level, front offices and analytics departments have somewhat minimized the control a manager has. And from a financial standpoint, it’s not like Corbin is in need of a promotion. He made more money than at least 11 MLB managers last year,
Besides, think about the other coaches that Corbin is now grouped with — Saban, Swinney, Krzyzewski, Williams and Wright. Saban is the only one of them who even had a cup of coffee as a pro head coach. All of them have been at their schools at least 10 years (and an average of 19 years). Barring a scandal, all of them deserve to and probably will have statues made in their honor on their respective campuses.
Corbin is now in the statue club.
Perhaps for casual fans of college baseball, that reality will sink in a few days from now.
For someone like Rocker, though, the final out of Wednesday night’s title-clinching win solidified everything he thought about Corbin when he committed to Vanderbilt as a top-10 recruit last year. Some considered Rocker the best high school pitcher in the country. He turned down what would have been first-round MLB Draft money so that he could play for Corbin at Vanderbilt. His commitment to Vandy was so strong nobody bothered to waste a pick on him until Colorado took a flier in the 38th round. All Rocker did was deliver the first no-hitter in NCAA Super Regional history, save the Commodores with a gem in a CWS elimination game and earn CWS Most Outstanding Player honors … as a freshman.
Without Corbin, there’s no telling where Rocker and the star-studded group of players would have been the last month. But with Corbin, the VandyBoys did something that few in the 21st century have in a major revenue sport. Corbin always has and always will defer credit to his players, who avoided drama and took high-leverage situations head on.
But whether Corbin admits it or not, one thing was more obvious than ever after Wednesday night.
Legend status was achieved.