“His mind was made up,” said Perno, who finished with 399-334 career record at Georgia, 160-189-1 in SEC play. “Unfortunately, I left an opening. I gave him an excuse. I thought we had a chance to make a move, but it just didn’t work out. I felt like we were on the cusp. But I know next year’s going to be special and those guys are going to do a good job and I’m going to look forward to watching them.”
Perno had one year remaining on his contract, which pays him $450,000 annually, including $25,000 yearly retention bonuses. But he doesn’t plan to sit around. Perno said he’ll begin looking for a job immediately.
“I don’t chill out very well,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think it’s a firing as much as, for me, it’s moving on. I’ll move tomorrow if you have a job for me coaching baseball.”
Perno led the Bulldogs to three College World Series berths – including the 2008 championship game – and was part of five of the six UGA teams that made it to Omaha in school history. Perno was a player on the 1990 team and an assistant coach on the 2001 team.
But things have not gone as well lately. Georgia has failed to make the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four seasons as has slipped in conference play. The Bulldogs are 31 games below .500 in SEC play (56-87) in the five seasons since they played for the national title.
Perno had some difficult circumstances to overcome. Two front-line players – Chance Veazey and Jonathan Taylor — suffered injuries in 2009 and 2011, respectively, that left them paralyzed for life. Meanwhile, more routine injuries impacted this year’s team, which finished 21-32 overall, last in the SEC (7-20) and was not among the 12 teams to make the SEC tournament. Pitcher Pete Nagle, catcher Brandon Stephens and outfielder Connor Welton were lost to season-ending injuries before season’s first pitch.
“It’s been a great run for what we had and the circumstances we were dealt,” Perno said. “I love Georgia. I love everybody I got to work with. I love those players, former and present. I had 21 years in the SEC, the beast league in the country. I’m so very grateful.”