Auburn is serious about competing with the Southeastern Conference heavyweights on a yearly basis. The Tigers made that clear Friday, luring Sunny Golloway away from Oklahoma to be their next head coach.
Golloway has established himself as a big-name coach by taking teams to regionals in 14 of the last 15 years at Oral Roberts and Oklahoma. OU’s program experienced a resurgence under Golloway’s leadership, reaching Omaha in 2010 and winning regionals in 2012 and 2013. The Sooners won at least 41 games in each of Golloway’s last five seasons.
An Oklahoma native, Golloway has always relished the spotlight, and he’ll command plenty of attention in the SEC, the nation’s best baseball conference. He’ll also get a significant pay bump, and he’ll have better facilities to work with. Golloway said he knew Auburn was a good fit the minute he met athletics director Jay Jacobs.
“The intrigue is because of the university,” he said during his introductory press conference. “The intrigue is because of what Coach (Hal) Baird had done here in the past. I had a couple of brief conversations with Coach Baird. When I met Jay, I knew there was a commitment to winning championships. Sometimes, when you sit down with people, you just hit it off and you know. I’m one of those people. I know it in my gut. I know when to make a pitching change; I know when to call the hit-and-run. I’ll know when to lay down that bunt, and when to make a move.
“We’ve had the opportunity to come to the SEC in the past. It wasn’t the right time in life.”
This time, he said, “the time of life was perfect.” He’ll face an uphill battle trying to make Auburn a national factor in a division that also includes LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, but Golloway is a winner and a fighter. He stressed how important it will be to recruit the talent-rich Atlanta area, where the Tigers will always have to battle Georgia and Georgia Tech for players.
“The question about recruiting, it’s not going to be a problem,” Golloway said. “We are going to hit the ground with our feet running, and we are going to go out and we are going to win those battles. I love that part of the job. I love the chase; I love the competition.”
Golloway said “a couple of staff members” made the trip with him to Auburn, and he hopes to bring them with him. It’s not official, but “everything looks really good.”
The Sooners, meanwhile, have no shortage of qualified candidates to replace Golloway. Outstanding head coaches at mid-major programs like Sam Houston State’s David Pierce, New Mexico’s Ray Birmingham and Houston’s Todd Whitting figure to be strongly in the mix, and any one of them would be an outstanding hire. So would Oklahoma State pitching guru Rob Walton, who had major success as Oral Roberts’ head coach, just like Golloway. West Virginia’s Randy Mazey or even Kansas State’s Brad Hill might entertain overtures from Oklahoma as well. Former Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson--who accepted the OU job in 2005 and then reversed course to return to Wichita-- could also make a play for the job, we hear, but at age 67, he would obviously be a relatively short-term choice. Keep an eye on current OU assistant Aric Thomas, who also served as an Oklahoma assistant from 1996-2004 before leaving to be the head coach at Eastern Oklahoma State, then returning to Golloway’s staff in 2011. And former Oklahoma pitching coach Mike Bell, now an assistant at Florida State, could be a darkhorse.
Wichita State To Hire Todd Butler
You can cross Arkansas associate head coach Todd Butler’s name off the list of candidates for the Oklahoma job. Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle is reporting that Butler has been hired as Wichita State’s new coach; an announcement is expected early next week.
One of college baseball’s most respected assistants, Butler is an outstanding recruiter, and he has previous head coaching experience at McNeese State. He helped the Razorbacks reach Omaha twice in eight years, and he has brought in four recruiting classes that have ranked in the top 10 of Baseball America’s annual rankings.