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Perno out as Georgia’s head baseball coach

David Perno led UGA to three CWS appearances, six total NCAA Regionals and the 2008 championship game, where UGA lost to Fresno State.

David Perno led UGA to three CWS appearances, six total NCAA Regionals and the 2008 championship game, where UGA lost to Fresno State.

ATHENS — David Perno’s run as Georgia’s baseball coach has come to an end.

Perno, who led the Bulldogs’ to unprecedented heights during his 12 seasons at the helm, resigned his post to Athletic Director Greg McGarity late Sunday night. Players were informed Sunday evening, and an announcement from the school came Monday. Multiple reports said Perno was set to be fired Monday by McGarity, who instead allowed Perno to resign.

“Just getting ready for the next chapter in my life,” said Perno when reached by telephone Monday morning.

Perno’s dismissal came just 24 hours after the Bulldogs’ season concluded with a 9-2 win against rival Florida to take the series, 2-1. Still, that left the Bulldogs with an abysmal 21-32 record overall, including 7-20 in SEC play.

Perno served 17 years on the Bulldog staff, including the past 12 as the head coach. He led the program to three College World Series appearances, including the 2008 CWS Finals, and six total NCAA Regional appearances. He tallied a record of 390-335-1, winning Southeastern Conference titles in 2004 and 2008.

“I have accepted David’s resignation and would like to express our appreciation to him for his numerous contributions to our baseball program over the last two decades as a player, assistant and head coach,” McGarity said in a statement released by the school Monday afternoon. “David was a part of our baseball program when it won a national title and helped Georgia advance to the College World Series five times during his playing and coaching career. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors. He has been a great representative for UGA. We have begun the process of finding the next head coach to lead our program and will do so as quickly as possible.”

Perno said Ted White, UGA’s athletic administrator for baseball, called Sunday evening to inform him that McGarity wanted to meet Monday morning.

But Perno asked to meet immediately, and the three men convened at White’s office in the Rankin Smith Center at 7 p.m. Sunday. That’s when McGarity delivered the news.

Perno’s statement by the school thanked UGA for the opportunity, although he was more candid in comments to the AJC.

“It’s been a privilege to wear the Bulldog uniform and represent the University of Georgia as a player, assistant and head coach,” Perno’s statement said. “I love the University and, I’m very appreciative of the many players, coaches, and support staff with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work with in Athens. I would like to thank coach Vince Dooley for providing me with the opportunity of a lifetime, because it was a dream come true to lead the Georgia program. I’d like to thank Dr. Michael Adams for his support during his tenure. And I’d like to tell all my former and current players that I love them and appreciate all that they have done for this program. Finally, I want to thank the wonderful fans who shared in our success at Foley Field.”

But Perno later told the AJC he thought he should’ve been given at least another season.

“(McGarity’s) mind was made up,” said Perno, who finished with a 399-334 career record at Georgia, 160-189-1 in SEC play. “Unfortunately, I left an opening (after our bad season). 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 and 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 2013’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.”

Information from the University of Georgia was used in this report