Polk on Byrne; Cohen on Polk

I had a nice conversation this morning with former MSU baseball coach Ron Polk, who as you probably know is in his second season as a volunteer assistant at UAB. Among the many topics we covered was the impending departure of Greg Byrne, MSU’s athletics director and a man who angered Polk in 2008 when he hired John Cohen over longtime Polk assistant Tommy Raffo.

I’ve failed to note until now the irony of Byrne taking the AD job at Arizona. That’s where Polk got his first coaching job, as a graduate assistant in 1966.

“I got bombed by calls the next day,” Polk said of the news Byrne was leaving. “I’m glad he went to Arizona. But I went to school there, so I don’t know if I’m happy. Greg is Greg, and he’s great with the media, he did some good things, there’s no question about it.”

All in all, Polk was diplomatic when speaking of Byrne. And while I’m sure he’s made this clear before, he reiterated that his anger at Byrne did not equal opposition to Cohen being MSU’s next baseball coach.

“I always said that I’ll support John Cohen because he’s my baseball coach,” Polk said. “I’ll support him as much as I possibly can. And I won’t support Greg Byrne whatsoever.”

• I also spoke with Polk about some comments Cohen made following MSU’s 13-3 loss to Arkansas on Sunday. To rewind, Cohen said at the time: “I’m embarrassed. Not by our players, I’m embarrassed by where our program is right now. There are others who should be embarrassed as well. I’m not going to list them.”

Some people – myself included, at least inwardly – thought perhaps Cohen was preferring to the previous coaching staff. Polk scoffed at that idea, and Cohen clarified to me that he was in no way saying Polk or his coaches should be blamed for the current state of the program.

“In no way am I saying anything about Ron Polk,” Cohen said. “He’s the reason why I’m here, he’s the reason why, quite frankly, he and (former AD) Larry Templeton are the reasons why Dudy Noble Field exists, why the stadium even exists there. It’s unfair to draw that comparison; that’s a reach, because that’s not what I’m saying at all.”

As for what he did mean by Sunday’s remarks, Cohen said, “In (my) assuming full responsibility, everybody has to feel some form of responsibility, from the coaches on down to our players, to our student mangers, to our trainers, to everybody.”

I’ll have more from Cohen and Polk in a story I’m working on for Friday’s Daily Journal.

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