CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia State baseball team will begin a new era next season when it begins play in the inaugural season of the Mountain East Conference.
The season will also mark the end of a legendary era for the Yellow Jackets.
West Virginia State Coach Calvin Bailey announced Thursday that he would step down from his position after the 2014 season, his 36th at the helm.
Bailey, 70, will enter his final season in Institute with a 1,029-466 career record, including a 619-154 mark in West Virginia Conference play. Bailey has also guided the program to 17 conference titles.
A Roane County native, Bailey took over the Yellow Jackets' program after Coach Bob Maxwell retired at the conclusion of the 1977 season.
Bailey said the decision to step down was a quick one, and is his final decision.
"This all came about on Monday," he said. "I had no plans and I still don't have any plans. I woke up Monday morning and I thought this would be the time. I just had that gut feeling and that's the way I coached.
"I just came in on Monday and talked to Sean Loyd, our athletic director, and told him that it was probably time to relinquish the reins. It's a final decision."
Bailey said lingering questions on the recruiting trail about his coaching longevity played a role in his choice.
"The main thing was that it was getting tougher and tougher to recruit. I kept getting questions like 'How much longer are you going to coach?' 'Are you going to be there until my son graduates?' and players just wanted to know how much longer I was going to coach.
"It made recruiting tougher, and it was the type of thing that was just getting more and more frustrating to try to renew and bring in the kind of players that we wanted to replace the seniors that had graduated."
Bailey said he would have concluded his coaching career at the conclusion of the 2013 season if not for a promise he made to his upcoming senior class.
"I have a senior group that when I recruited, I assured I would coach until they graduated and this coming year those kids will be seniors," he said.
One of those rising seniors, former Nitro standout Andrew Pickering, was thankful that Bailey was returning. Pickering hit .369 with seven homers and 43 RBI as a junior.
"It means a lot to the seniors for him to come back for us," Pickering said. "I was shocked when I heard about it, but hopefully we can come back for his last year and get him one final ring."
Bailey said that daily interaction with the team is what he'll miss most.
"I'm going to miss the players and practices," Bailey said. "Just to see a pimply faced boy come in at 17 or18 years old and leave a 22 or 23-year-old man, that's what I'm going to miss the most.