Polk Is Back In Diamond Dog Land

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- Ron Polk, the winningest baseball coach in Southeastern Conference history, made his return to Mississippi State official Tuesday with two words: ``I'm back.''

At a news conference on the Starkville campus, Polk was introduced before hundreds of fans and Bulldog supporters as the new coach, replacing Pat McMahon who left State last week for Florida.

Polk retired from Mississippi State in 1997 after 22 years in which he complied a 888-422 record and led the Bulldogs to five College World Series appearances. Donned in a Mississippi State golf shirt Tuesday, Polk said leaving Georgia about a week after leading it to its first CWS appearance since 1990 wasn't easy.

"I don't like to disappoint people,'' said Polk, who was lured back into coaching with the chance to rebuild Georgia's program.

Polk's past accomplishments at Mississippi State were represented by two tables full of trophies accumulated during his first term in Starkville. During the four years that Polk was gone, Mississippi State reached the postseason each year and won its first SEC tournament championship in 14 years.

"I'm here to maintain the program and hopefully get it to the next level,'' Polk said.

Polk, 57, had two years remaining on a four-year contract with Georgia worth about $84,200 a year. He signed a four-year deal with Mississippi State.

This year, Polk became just the second coach in NCAA history to take three schools to the CWS. He also took Georgia Southern to Omaha in 1973. Polk's two-year record with Georgia was 79-48. This season, Georgia won the SEC regular season championship for the first time since 1954. Georgia had endured seven straight losing seasons in the SEC, going through two coaches in the process.

In Polk's first year, Georgia won 32 games, the most since 1992, and barely missed the .500 mark (14-15) in league play.