A look back at former Texas baseball coach Cliff Gustafson’s decorated legacy

Aakriti Singla , General Sports Reporter

Former Texas baseball head coach Cliff Gustafson passed away at the age of 91, but his legacy lives on at the Forty Acres.

Gustafson played for the Longhorns in the early 1950s as a middle infielder, helping lead Texas to the Southwest Conference championship and the NCAA College World Series in 1952 before being eliminated in the quarterfinals.

But the former Longhorn’s career in baseball didn’t end there. After playing at both the collegiate and professional levels, Gustafson became the head coach at South San Antonio High School.

After leading the high school team to seven Class 3A State Championships in 14 seasons, Gustafson returned to the Forty Acres as head coach in 1968.

In his 28-season run with the Longhorns, Gustafson led Texas to two national championships in 1975 and 1983, with a record 22 Southwest Conference Championship appearances and a total of 1,466 career wins. When he retired, Gustafson had the most wins in college baseball history.

Gustafson’s dedication to the sport was seen in his players, many of whom made it to the MLB.

Two-time World Series Champion and former Texas pitcher Roger Clemens was a key player in Texas’ national championship run in 1983. Clemens discussed Gustafson’s tenure as Texas head coach in an interview with Spectrum News’ Travis Recek.

“Coach Gus was great,” Clemens said in the interview. “The things he said and how he talked to us, he handled our personalities perfectly.”

Gustafson was later inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 after a storied career. The Kenedy, Texas star had 44 College World Series wins, the second-most of all time. 

In his induction speech at the College Baseball Hall of Fame in Lubbock, Gustafson displayed the humility that led him to his successes.

“I felt really bad when John Askins called and notified me that I was one of the first five coaches to be inducted,” Gustafson said in his 2006 induction speech. “There are guys that deserve it so much more than me.”

On Jan. 2, Gustafson passed away due to congestive heart failure. Several notable individuals took to social media to remember him, including former players and Gov. Greg Abbott. 

“Coach Gus will forever be a Texas legend,” Abbott tweeted.

UT Vice President and Athletics Director Chris Del Conte also spoke on Gustafson’s career and legacy in a statement released by the university.

“The love and admiration shared for him by those legends speak volumes about who he was and his lifelong impact on our program,” Del Conte said. “I’ve been blessed to visit with Coach many times, and he was always such a joy to be around. I’ll cherish those memories and miss him dearly. It’s a sad day with his passing, but his legacy lives on, and he will never be forgotten.”

On Jan. 12, Texas Athletics hosted a Celebration of Life service for Gustafson. The event, which was broadcasted live and open to the public, celebrated the former coach’s legacy at Texas. 

Keith Moreland, who played for Texas in the 1970s spoke to the more than 500 attendees of the service at the very same field where it all started — Disch-Falk Field.

“They found a way to get this palace built,” Moreland said. “It is one of the premier places for college baseball anywhere in the country, and that’s Cliff Gustafson who made that happen.”