LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Mississippi State has the NCAA record for the largest on-campus crowd for a college baseball game. Crazy numbers.

The Bulldogs have been to the College World Series nine times — and can make it 10 by defeating Vanderbilt this weekend.

You could argue that baseball is State’s signature athletic program — and even if you disagree, baseball is bigger than everything but football in Starkville. It matters.

Buck Showalter, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Brantley and Will Clark are part of the Mississippi State legacy. It’s Southeastern Conference baseball, folks.

You know who won’t be part of that legacy? Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell.

A decade ago it would have been outlandish to suggest a baseball coach would choose Louisville over Mississippi State. No brainer. Gotta go. Top Five job. Gotta take that one.

The surest sign of the terrific work McDonnell has done at Louisville came this week when he turned down Mississippi State to remain with the formidable program he’s built at Louisville.

McDonnell has become the Frank Camp and Peck Heckman of Louisville baseball. He has transformed baseball from a friends and family event to a program that people expect to do big things. 

Good for McDonnell for understanding the next job isn’t always the best job. Not all coaches are wired that way.

Good for McDonnell for building a solid working relationship with U of L athletic director Vince Tyra. The early scouting report was that McDonnell was a Tom Jurich guy, a candidate to leave if another job became available. McDonnell squashed that story line.

Here is a Cliff’s Notes list of Louisville coaches who did not manage their careers that way — and would be thrilled for a do over:

There was Howard Schnellenberger’s sprint to Oklahoma, where his career was knocked out of bounds after one season.

There was John L. Smith’s rush to Michigan State, where he was told he could no longer stay on the job after he lost to Indiana.

There was Bobby Petrino going from Louisville’s Orange Bowl victory to the Atlanta Falcons, which led him to Arkansas and then Western Kentucky before Petrino realized that he left a really good thing in Louisville.

There was Charlie Strong using the Texas job as an audition to get the South Florida job.

There was Tom Collen recruiting Angel McCoughtry to Louisville and then leaving her for Jeff Walz. All Walz did was coach McCoughtry to the national championship game, while Collen made the NCAA Tournament once in seven seasons at Arkansas. Yes, he was fired.

Of course, McDonnell moved into the Louisville job for the 2007 season when Lelo Prado departed for South Florida.

No brainer, right?

Top-notch school with a beautiful campus with the best baseball weather in America. What could go wrong?

Prado coached the Bulls for eight seasons and never made the NCAA Tournament. McDonnell has made the NCAA Tournament every season at Louisville. He’s taken the Cardinals to Omaha for the College World Series four times.

Even people in Starkville can’t second-guess McDonnell.

No knock against State. Great tradition. Great passion. Great ambition.

But Louisville has become the destination program for top baseball prospects across the Midwest.

The Cards are a force in the Atlantic Coast Conference and an annual threat in the NCAA Tournament. Dan McDonnell will win a national championship here.

In fact, he’ll probably win several. He’s that thorough, relentless and talented.

Twenty-four Louisville players have been taken in the major league baseball draft the last three seasons.

Louisville baseball has become a bigger force on the national scene than Mississippi State.

Credit Dan McDonnell. He built it — and confirmed it by not leaving for Starkville. The next thing isn’t always the best thing, especially when you have built a program as formidable as McDonnell has done.

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