50 Names To Watch On The 2022 College Baseball Coaching Market

Image credit: Tracy Smith (Andrew Woolley/Four Seam Images)

This year, college baseball didn’t wait for the end of the regular season to kick off the start of the coaching market. There were in-season changes at Austin Peay State and Tulane, in addition to resignations at Brigham Young and San Francisco and several retirements planned for the end of the season. As teams have begun to complete their seasons, there have been a few more changes, including Kansas and Ohio State.

All of that indicates another busy summer of coaching changes. It was a hyperactive market last year as 40 jobs changed hands. It probably won’t be as busy this year, but a return to the pre-pandemic level of about 30 jobs turning over—10% of the sport—wouldn’t be unexpected.

In preparation for those changes, Baseball America presents its annual list of coaches to watch this summer as the job market plays out.

Dan McDonnell, head coach, Louisville: McDonnell has led Louisville since 2006, building a powerhouse at the school. He’s helped guide the program seamlessly into the ACC and to five College World Series appearances in 15 seasons. In 2019 amid interest from Mississippi State, he signed a seven-year rolling contract (it has an annual option to extend) that is worth more than $1.25 million per year and grows annually. At the time, then-athletic director Vince Tyra told WDRB in Louisville that the intention was to create a contract that would keep McDonnell at the program’s helm for the rest of his career. So, why is McDonnell still appearing on this list? Rumors about him just won’t quit and if any baseball program is going to make a stunning splash akin to what we saw this winter in football when Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma for Southern California and Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for LSU, McDonnell fits the profile of who would be courted. The university administration at Louisville has turned over in the 2.5 years since he signed his contract (Louisville currently has both an interim athletic director and president), but he’s still at a program he built and has proven he can win big at. Hiring him away wouldn’t be easy—or cheap.

Brian O’Connor, head coach, Virginia: McDonnell is the name that comes up most frequently as a potential splashy hire for a prominent program, but O’Connor was a part of the search process at both LSU in 2021 and Texas in 2016. He wound up staying both times and last year signed an extension through 2027. O’Connor, 51, won the 2015 national championship and has taken the Cavaliers to Omaha five times. He’s been at Virginia for 19 years and hiring him away wouldn’t be easy. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another blue blood make a run at it.

Pat Casey: The former Oregon State coach retired in September 2018 after 24 years as a head coach and has been working in the athletic department since. But he’s never closed the door on returning to the dugout and even at his retirement press conference it didn’t seem like he was closing the door on coaching again. If Casey, 63, is going to come out of retirement, it would have to be for the right opportunity. He interviewed at LSU last year before the search moved elsewhere. Will any of this year’s openings tempt him?

Erik Bakich, head coach, Michigan: Bakich, 44, has been courted before for premium jobs (South Carolina, Stanford) but has chosen to stay in Ann Arbor. But having led the Wolverines to a runner-up finish in the 2019 CWS and an impressive overall resume, he’s going to continue being the subject of rumors for high-end jobs. Is now the time for him to make a move?

Link Jarrett, head coach, Notre Dame: Jarrett, 50, has impressed in his three seasons in South Bend, to say the least. He last year led the Fighting Irish to their first ACC title since joining the league and came a win away from reaching the College World Series. This year, Notre Dame is again on track to host regionals, an impressive accomplishment for a program that had made the NCAA Tournament just once since 2006. Much like Bakich, Jarrett is in a good spot in South Bend, but his increasingly strong resume will continue to make him the subject of interest for major programs.

Cliff Godwin, head coach, East Carolina: Godwin has been a hot name in previous years but so far no one has been able to lure him away from his alma mater, including Alabama and Mississippi State. He very much wants to get East Carolina to the College World Series for the first time in program history. Would he be more open to leaving if the Pirates reach Omaha? He has a good thing going in Greenville and in 2020 signed a contract extension through 2025, but he’ll also continue to be highly sought after in the job market.

Mark Wasikowski, head coach, Oregon: Wasikowski has done excellent work at Oregon since taking over following the 2019 season. The Ducks last year hosted a regional and are in the mix to do so again this year. Wasiowski, 51, signed a significant contract extension following last season and it would take something special to pull him out of Eugene. But he’s built a strong track record of success throughout his career and has experience in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC.

John Szefc, head coach, Virginia Tech: Szefc is in the midst of a breakthrough season at Virginia Tech. The Hokies have won 40 games, won the ACC regular season title and are on track to be a top-eight seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. He’s won big everywhere he’s gone. At Maryland, he took the Terrapins to back-to-back super regional appearances, and he led Marist to four NCAA Tournament appearances. Having now broken through in his fifth season in Blacksburg, it won’t be easy to hire Szefc away. But any premium program that has an opening this summer should consider what Szefc has accomplished despite never coaching at a blueblood.

Chris Pollard, head coach, Duke: Pollard has taken a dormant program that hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1968 and turned it into a consistent regional team. While the Blue Devils will miss the NCAA Tournament this season, they’ve been to four of the last five and last year won the ACC Tournament for the first time in program history. That success came after Pollard took Appalachian State to a regional final. After those turnarounds, he should be getting looks for premium jobs.

Rob Vaughn, head coach, Maryland: Vaughn, 34, is having a banner year in his fifth season as head coach. The Terrapins won the Big Ten— their first conference title in 51 years, are on track to host regionals for the first time ever and he was named Big Ten coach of the year. Maryland, however, is not an easy job and its facilities lag behind other top programs in the conference. The Terrapins’ two previous head coaches parlayed their success into jobs at more resourced programs—Erik Bakich at Michigan and John Szefc at Virginia Tech.

Steve Owens, head coach, Rutgers: Owens, 56, has won everywhere he’s gone throughout his career, so it’s no surprise that this season he’s led Rutgers to a 40-win season and has the Scarlet Knights in position to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007. He’s only been at Rutgers for three seasons and there are facility upgrades slated for this year. But it’s a tough job and a more-resourced program might be able to make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Lane Burroughs, head coach, Louisiana Tech: Burroughs last year led Louisiana Tech to its best season in more than 30 years, culminating with the Bulldogs hosting a regional. This year, La Tech is again in the NCAA Tournament mix as Selection Monday approaches. He’s done a good job of building La Tech to this point and he also has experience in the SEC as an assistant coach. Burroughs is a part of the John Cohen coaching tree, which has been a popular one in recent job searches. A school in the Big 12 or SEC that prioritizes head-coaching experience would do well to take a look at Burroughs.

Scott Jackson, head coach, Liberty: Jackson has in six seasons at Liberty won nearly 200 games and the Flames this year are aiming for a third-straight trip to regionals, which would be unprecedented for the program. Jackson is in a good spot at Liberty, particularly as it prepares to move from the ASUN Conference to Conference USA, and he can choose any further moves carefully. Between his success at Liberty and his experience as pitching coach at North Carolina, he’s built a strong resume.

Jordan Bischel, head coach, Central Michigan: Bischel, 40, has a unique combination of youth and experience. He’s already been a head coach for 10 seasons and has won in NAIA, Division II and now Division I. In four seasons at CMU, he’s made two regionals appearances (its first since 1995) and won two Mid-American Conference titles—and the Chippewas are in the mix for both again this season. With a history of quick turnarounds, Bischel makes for a strong candidate.

Robert Woodard, head coach, Charlotte: Woodard, 37, last season led Charlotte to its first-ever Conference USA title and first conference title since 2013. The 49ers weren’t quite as good this year, but Woodard is still on the rise with a strong reputation both for his work as a pitching coach at North Carolina and his fast start as a head coach. This is just his third season at Charlotte and he’s in a good spot there. It’s his hometown and the program is on the ascent, particularly as it prepares to move to the American Athletic Conference.

Reggie Christiansen, head coach, Sacramento State: Over the last decade, Christiansen, 46, has built Sac State into one of the most consistent programs in California—only Stanford, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara have more wins since 2012—and has led the Hornets to their only three regionals appearances in program history. His roots in California and the Midwest (as an assistant coach at Kansas and head coach at South Dakota State) make for an interesting profile, especially with the Kansas job open.

Todd Interdonato, head coach, Wofford: Interdonato has been the head coach at Wofford for 15 years and has built the program into one of the best in the Southern Conference. He’s led the Terriers to a banner season this year, as they’ve won 40 games and their first-ever regular-season conference title. Interdonato runs a very aggressive offensive style and has succeeded despite the challenges of coaching at a selective, private school. His whole career has been spent in the Carolinas, but his style and track record should play in any region.

Lance Rhodes, head coach, Southern Illinois: Rhodes took over at SIU following the 2019 season and his debut season was cut short by the pandemic. In each of the next two years, however, he has won 40 games and this season led the Salukis to their first regular season conference title since 1990. Rhodes, 36, also has experience as an SEC assistant coach, as he spent three seasons as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Missouri. His varied experience and quick turnaround at SIU make him an interesting candidate.

Andy Sawyers, head coach, Southeast Missouri State: Sawyers, 46, has guided the Redhawks to back-to-back 30-win seasons and last year led them to the NCAA Tournament. He’s in his sixth season at SEMO and previously was an assistant coach at Kansas State and Texas A&M. His success as a head coach and track record as a hitting coach make for an intriguing combination.   

Matt Riser, head coach, Southeastern Louisiana: Riser, 37, has turned Southeastern into one of the best programs in the Southland Conference in his nine seasons as head coach. He’s led Southeastern to the NCAA Tournament three times and has won at least 30 games in every full season. He was the youngest Division I head coach when he began his tenure and is still among the youngest nationally.

Rucker Taylor, head coach, Davidson: Taylor has played an instrumental role in Davidson’s rise. The Vanderbilt alumnus came to Davidson as an assistant coach after the 2012 season and helped build the Wildcats’ 2017 Cinderella team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and advanced to super regionals. He was promoted to head coach a year later and has kept the Wildcats among the best teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference. This year, they are having a breakthrough season and won their first-ever regular season conference championship. Taylor, 37, is an up-and-coming coach to watch.

Jose Vazquez, head coach, Alabama State: Vazquez was promoted to head coach six years ago and has won three Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season titles, including this season. He was named SWAC coach of the year this spring, the second time he has won the award. Vazquez is a strong recruiter who helped build powerhouses at Bethune-Cookman and Alabama State and now has kept the Hornets as one of the top programs in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Alex Sogard, head coach, Wright State: The last three Wright State head coaches have left for jobs in major conferences: Rob Cooper (Penn State), Greg Lovelady (Central Florida) and Jeff Mercer (Indiana). Sogard, 34, figures to follow a similar path. He’s led the Raiders to three straight Horizon League titles and last year took them to the NCAA Tournament. Sogard is one of the 10 youngest coaches in the country but both Lovelady and Mercer were also very young when they moved on.

Shaun Stiffler, head coach, Virginia Commonwealth: In 10 years as the Rams head coach, Stiffler, 43, has led them to super regionals and three regular season conference titles in four seasons (2017, 2019, 2021). In making VCU a consistent contender in the Atlantic 10 Conference, he’s established himself as one of the best young coaches in the country and more high-end interest should follow.

Jim Foster, head coach, Army: Foster, now in his sixth season in West Point, has led Army to three straight Patriot League Tournament titles. It is the first time in program history that the Black Knights have made three straight regionals appearances. Foster, 50, previously was the pitching coach at Boston College, where he helped the Eagles reach super regionals in 2016 and helped develop Justin Dunn into a first-round pick. He also spent nine years as head coach at Rhode Island, winning a pair of Atlantic-10 Conference titles. In short, he’s won a lot at schools that aren’t traditional powers.

Rob Reinstetle, head coach, Toledo: Reinstetle has only been at Toledo for three seasons, but he’s quickly engineered a turnaround. The Rockets this year won more than 30 games for the first time since 2010 and finished third in the Mid-American Conference standings. Reinstetle previously was an assistant coach at Western Kentucky (which has an opening) and has SEC experience, spending three seasons on staff at Ole Miss from 2007-09.

Justin Haire, head coach, Campbell: Since he was promoted to head coach after the 2014 season, Haire has turned Campbell into the Big South’s powerhouse. The Camels have won the last four regular season titles and have made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Haire, 41, could be ready to take the next step.

Justin Hill, head coach, McNeese State: Hill, 42, has been at McNeese for nine years and turned the Cowboys into one of the best programs in the Southland Conference. He’s led McNeese to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments and this year the Cowboys are the top seed in the Southland Tournament. He’s done it all through some difficult circumstances, as McNeese and the larger Lake Charles, La., community have rebounded from the blow of two hurricanes in the fall of 2020, as well as the pandemic.

Tracy Smith: Smith spent the year out of college baseball after getting fired by Arizona State a year ago. While that arrangement didn’t lead to big success, Smith, 56, still has a long track record of winning. He’s won more than 800 games, taken three schools to regionals (ASU, Indiana and Miami (Ohio)) and in 2013 led the Hoosiers to the College World Series, a major breakthrough for the Big Ten after a 29-year drought.

Rob Childress, director of player development, Nebraska: Childress, 53, spent 16 seasons as the head coach at Texas A&M before being let go last year following a last-place finish in the SEC West. Prior to that, however, Childress had led the Aggies to 13 straight regionals and two College World Series appearances. He’s spent the last year as the director of player development at Nebraska, where he previously was an assistant coach from 1998-2005. If he wants another job as a head coach, he’d bring plenty of winning experience to his new program.

Greg Beals: Beals was fired following the season after 12 years at Ohio State. He led the Buckeyes to the NCAA Tournament three times in four years from 2016-19 and twice won the Big Ten Tournament. But an 11th-place finish this season led Ohio State to make a change. Beals, 53, has won nearly 600 games in 20 years as a head coach at Ohio State and Ball State and developed some high-end draft picks in both roles. His experience would be an asset for many programs.

Kerrick Jackson, president, MLB Draft League: Jackson has the most wide-ranging resume of anyone on this list. He currently is the president of the MLB Draft League, a summer league that is a joint partnership between MLB and Prep Baseball Report that is preparing for its second season. Previously, he was a head coach (Southern), a recruiting coordinator (Missouri), a scout (Nationals) and an agent (Boras Corporation). Jackson has a strong track record as a coach—at Southern, he won the SWAC in his second season, and he was a part of the coaching staff that last took Missouri to the NCAA Tournament (2012). His experience as a scout, agent and summer league president gives him a unique skill set that would be attractive in the right spot.

Mervyl Melendez: Melendez resigned as head coach of Florida International following the season, his sixth with the Panthers. While he never got it going at FIU, Melendez, 48, previously had phenomenal success at Bethune-Cookman and Alabama State. In 17 years total at the two schools, he led his teams to the NCAA Tournament 12 times and in 2016, his final at Alabama State, the Hornets went undefeated in SWAC play. Melendez is a strong recruiter and twice brought in Top 25 classes at FIU. 

Jake Gautreau, recruiting coordinator/hitting coach, Mississippi State: Gautreau, 42, is one of the most respected assistant coaches in the country, both as a recruiter and as a hitting coach. After last season helping the Bulldogs win the College World Series, he may be the premium assistant coach in the market. Adding to the intrigue is the Tulane opening. Gautreau starred for the Green Wave in college and coached at his alma mater from 2010-14, including about two months as interim head coach in 2014 when poor health sidelined Rick Jones. Gautreau is in an outstanding spot in Starkville, but it’s a matter of when, not if, he’ll get a chance as a head coach.

Sean Allen, recruiting coordinator/pitching coach, Texas: Allen, 42, has spent the last 10 years on staff under David Pierce, working at Sam Houston State, Tulane and Texas. Prior to joining Pierce’s staff at Sam Houston, Allen also was an assistant coach at Houston and Florida International. He has worked as both a hitting and pitching coach, in addition to being the Longhorns’ recruiting coordinator. His experience in a variety of roles should help him make the jump to being a head coach and he’s drawn serious looks for head jobs in recent years. Expect him to be in the mix at Tulane.

Nate Thompson, recruiting coordinator/hitting coach, Arkansas: Thompson is in his fifth season at Arkansas and he has an impressive track record as a hitting coach and recruiter not just with the Razorbacks, but also at Missouri State. Thompson checks a lot of boxes and will eventually become the newest branch of Dave Van Horn’s coaching tree. Is Kansas the right spot for him to make that jump?

Kevin McMullan, associate head coach, Virginia: McMullan, the 2009 Assistant Coach of the Year, has been voted by head coaches as the assistant coach with the brightest future as a head coach each of the last three times Baseball America has held the survey, most recently in 2020. He’s been Virginia’s recruiting coordinator for the last 18 years and helped the Cavaliers win the 2015 national championship. McMullan is clearly comfortable in Charlottesville, but there’s little doubt he’d be successful as a head coach.

Nick Schnabel, associate head coach, Michigan: Schnabel, the 2019 Assistant Coach of the Year, has played a key role in building Michigan’s program. As recruiting coordinator, he put together the Wolverines’ 10th-ranked 2017 class, the highest-ranked class in Big Ten history, and the rest of the roster for the 2019 CWS runner-up. He has coached all along the East Coast, from Chipola (Fla.) JC to Army, and has helped the Wolverines recruit nationally.

Bryant Ward, recruiting coordinator, UCLA: Ward has become one of the best recruiting coordinators on the West Coast, first at Loyola Marymount, where he landed the school’s first Top 25 class in 15 years, and then at UCLA, where he last year led the effort that hauled in the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class. John Savage’s assistant coaches have a strong track record as head coaches and Ward figures to one day add a branch to his coaching tree.

Mike Clement, hitting coach, Mississippi: Clement has been the hitting coach at Ole Miss for eight years and has helped the Rebels consistently become one of the best offenses in the country. He previously worked at Kansas State, Texas A&M and Texas-San Antonio and would be an especially strong candidate in that part of the country, but after eight years in the SEC he has a strong overall profile.

Dan Fitzgerald, recruiting coordinator, Louisiana State: Fitzgerald was the head coach at Des Moines (Iowa) JC for five years before moving to DBU for the 2013 season. He jumped to LSU last season and while this year may be too soon for him to consider moving again, he’ll be a Division I head coach sooner or later. His prowess as a recruiter and his role in helping make DBU one of the most consistent mid-major programs in the country should be attractive to athletic directors, and he’s now adding SEC experience to his resume.

Eric Snider, recruiting coordinator, Louisville: Snider has long been a well-respected assistant coach. He’s been on staff at Louisville for eight years, following 16 years at Illinois. He earns praise for his ability as both a recruiter and hitting coach. His Midwestern roots make him a strong candidate in the region.

J-Bob Thomas, recruiting coordinator, Texas Tech: Thomas, the 2017 Assistant Coach of the Year, is in his 10th season on staff at Texas Tech. He has helped Tim Tadlock build the Red Raiders into a powerhouse and stands out for his recruiting ability, as he’s brought in the first four Top 25 recruiting classes in program history.

Josh Jordan, associate head coach, Duke: Jordan, the 2018 Assistant Coach of the Year, has been with Duke coach Chris Pollard for the last 16 years, dating back to their Appalachian State days. He has been a key part of Duke’s rise and he last year brought in Duke’s first-ever top-10 recruiting class. Jordan’s role in the almost unprecedented success at Appalachian State and Duke should capture the attention of athletic directors.

Rob Walton, pitching coach, Oklahoma State: Walton, the 2016 Assistant Coach of the Year, has a standout resume. He’s in his 10th season at Oklahoma State, his alma mater, and helped the Cowboys grow into one of the top programs in the conference. Walton, 59, previously was a head coach at Oral Roberts for nine years, where he went 367-167 and made the NCAA Tournament nine times. He’s in a good spot in Stillwater, but if he wants to be a head coach again, he’d make a strong candidate.

Nate Yeskie, associate head coach, Texas A&M: Yeskie, 47, is one of the best pitching coaches in the country. He’s just finishing his first year in College Station, however, so this might not be the time to move on. But his work at A&M, Arizona and Oregon State over the last 14 years has been impressive. He helped recruit and coach the Beavers during their remarkable run from 2017-19 that included the 2018 national title and Adley Rutchman’s emergence as the 2019 Player of the Year. Yeskie’s approach and embrace of new analytics and technology should help him eventually transition to running a program.

Jeff Palumbo, associate head coach, East Carolina: Palumbo is in his eighth season at ECU and has helped the program develop into the class of the American Athletic Conference. He’s twice landed top 25 recruiting classes—the only two in program history—and those classes have delivered for the Pirates. The more ECU wins, the more attention Palumbo will get.

Noah Jackson, recruiting coordinator, California: Jackson has been an assistant on Mike Neu’s staff for the last six years, first at Pacific and now at Cal. He’s helped recruit and coach some high-level talent for the Golden Bears, including outfielder Dylan Beavers, who projects as a first-round pick this summer. Jackson, 40, is in a good spot at his alma mater, but he’s building a strong resume.

Jay Uhlman, interim head coach, Tulane: Uhlman is serving as Tulane’s interim head coach following the firing of Travis Jewett earlier this month. Uhlman has been at Tulane for three years and previously was associate head coach at Oregon under George Horton. He’s also previously worked at Kansas and Nevada, his alma mater. His experience as a recruiter and coach in several different regions and kinds of schools makes him an interesting candidate, but especially so out West.

Joe Jordano: Jordano spent 21 years as head coach at Pittsburgh from 1998-2018. He’s spent the last four years at IMG Academy in Florida, a place where colleges have been willing to hire from in the past. He won 871 games during his college career between Pitt and Division II Mercyhurst, and that experience would be an asset.

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