Former Texas baseball coach Cliff Gustafson, once the winningest college baseball coach of all time, died early Monday morning. He was 91.
Gustafson died of congestive heart failure in his sleep just before 5 a.m. with his daughters, Jann and Jill, at his bedside.
“He was very unique,” Jann Gustafson Shepperd said, “and just the best dad.”
Gustafson coached at Texas from 1968 until 1996 where he won two national championships and 1,466 games, a record that was later broken by his successor, the late Augie Garrido, and then again by former Florida State coach Mike Martin. Gustafson now ranks 15th all-time but eighth among Division I coaches. His .792 winning percentage still remains the best in Division I history.
Gustafson was born in Kenedy on Feb. 12, 1931, and was a hugely successful high school coach at South San Antonio where he won six Class 3A state baseball championships before taking the Longhorns job and continuing the legacy of Bibb Falk and Billy Disch.
He was hired by former football coach and athletic director Darrell Royal and actually took a pay cut to insure he would get the job. “Coach Gus,” as he was known to his players and fans, was well-known for his attention to detail and his marathon intrasquad games that would last past sundown to prepare his team for any eventuality. His No. 18 jersey was revered by Longhorn fans.
In addition to the national championships — two of Texas’ six overall — in 1975 and 1983, his Longhorn teams won 22 Southwest Conference titles and he was named the national coach of the year twice.
Gustafson also played baseball at Texas and was on the 1952 roster that won the SWC championship and reached the College World Series. He broke his ankle during his college career, but credited his seat on the bench next to Falk as an instrumental time in his coaching preparation.
He was given a standing ovation by more than 6,000 fans at UFCU Disch-Falk Field last June when he attended Texas’ win over Air Force in the NCAA super regional tournament, the only game he attended last season.