50 Names To Watch On The 2024 College Baseball Coaching Market


Image credit: Tom Walter (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

The college baseball coaching carousel has spun hard in recent years. There have been more than 40 changes in each of the last three summers.

After so much turnover, it’s possible this summer will be a little slower. With so much uncertainty in college athletics right now, as everyone waits for the final word on the possible settlement—and fall out—from a trio of antitrust lawsuits against the NCAA, most notably House, perhaps athletic directors will wait to see what the new order looks like before making a change. Or, perhaps, the market will continue to operate as it has over the last three years.

No matter what, Baseball America will be tracking all the changes here. To help prepare for all the potential moves, we present our annual list of coaches to watch this summer as all the changes play out.

Cliff Godwin, head coach, East Carolina: Godwin’s name is sure to come up for any SEC opening. He’s been involved in searches at Alabama, Mississippi State and LSU in the past and while it hasn’t worked out at any of those places for a variety of reasons, expect to see him again connected with nearly any opening in the conference. Godwin, however, very much wants to get his alma mater 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 2022 signed a contract extension through 2029, but he’ll also continue to be highly sought after in the job market.

Tom Walter, head coach, Wake Forest: Walter has built Wake over the last 15 years and last year got the Demon Deacons to another level, winning the ACC for the first time since 1963 and taking them to the College World Series for the first time since 1955. That earned him some deserved buzz on the market last summer and a contract extension. Walter is in a comfortable spot at Wake, a program he’s now built into a power and has heavily invested in the program. But if a high-end powerhouse came to Walter with a big offer, could Wake match it?

Brian O’Connor, head coach, Virginia: Hiring O’Connor away from Virginia wouldn’t be easy or cheap. He was a part of the search process at both LSU in 2021 and Texas in 2016 and stayed put. He in 2021 signed a contract extension through 2027 and makes more than $1 million. O’Connor, 53, won the 2015 national championship and has taken the Cavaliers to Omaha six times, including last season. He’s been at Virginia for 21 years and the list of jobs that could even possibly hire him away is a short one. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another blue blood make a run at him, if such an opening exists this summer.

Dan McDonnell, head coach, Louisville: Hiring McDonnell away from Louisville is sure to be difficult and won’t come cheaply—he has a seven-year rolling contract (it has an annual option to extend) that’s worth more than $1.25 million and grows annually. So, why are we even including him here? For starters, the administration at Louisville has completely turned over since he first signed that deal, from the president to the athletic director. McDonnell has also been vocal in the last two years about the need for the athletic department to continue to back the program and build some of the facility improvements it had previously committed to. That seems to have gotten better in the last 12 months and Louisville has a plan in place to renovate the clubhouse and eventually build the new facilities. But McDonnell’s go-to word has been commitment. Is there another program willing to make a bigger commitment? It’s hard to imagine any program outside the SEC could hire him away and there are unlikely to be many SEC openings. There’s also the question of whether hiring McDonnell would still be met with as much enthusiasm in a fan base as it would have been five years ago. Louisville made a super regional in 2022 but missed the tournament in 2021 and 2023 and is bubbly this season.

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 contender in the ACC. Duke is on track to reach regionals for the sixth time in seven seasons and last year made super regionals for the third time in five seasons. That success comes after Pollard took Appalachian State to a regional final. Pollard has gotten looks in recent coaching searches and that will continue as Duke continues to win.

Mark Wasikowski, head coach, Oregon: Wasikowski, 53, has done excellent work at Oregon since taking over the program following the 2019 season. He’s led the Ducks to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances and has them on track for another this spring. He signed a significant contact extension in 2021 and it would undoubtably take something special to pull him out of Eugene. An unknown is how Oregon’s move to the Big Ten will affect baseball. The Ducks should be one of the top programs in the conference right away, but the job may be about to get harder (or easier? It’s difficult to say). Wasikowski’s track record of winning and experience coaching in the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC makes his resume stand out.

Lane Burroughs, head coach, Louisiana Tech: Burroughs led Louisiana Tech to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2021-22 and the Bulldogs hosted regionals in 2021. After a down 2023, this spring they’re back. They won Conference USA, the program’s first conference title since 1986, when it played in the Southland. In addition to his work in building La Tech to that level, he also has experience in the SEC as an assistant coach and is a part of the John Cohen coaching tree, which has been a popular one in recent job searches. Burroughs has gotten long looks in recent years but signed a contract extension through 2027 at La Tech. Still, a school in the Big 12 or SEC that prioritizes head-coaching experience would do well to take a look at Burroughs.

Patrick Hallmark, head coach, Texas-San Antonio: Hallmark, 50, has put together an impressive track record as a head coach first at Incarnate Word and now at UTSA. The Roadrunners have won more than 30 games in three straight seasons, in 2023 finished as runners-up in Conference USA, their best conference finish since winning the Southland in 2008; and this season successfully managed the transition to the American Athletic Conference, finishing as runners-up to East Carolina. He was a longtime assistant coach for Wayne Graham at Rice and spent a season as an assistant at Missouri. UTSA is trending up, but it’s still a tough job and Hallmark could earn looks from bigger programs.

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 (UCF) and Jeff Mercer (Indiana). Sogard, 36, figures to follow a similar path. He’s led the Raiders to five straight Horizon League titles and three straight NCAA Tournaments. Sogard is one of the 20 youngest coaches in the country but both Lovelady and Mercer were also very young when they moved on.

Justin Haire, head coach, Campbell: Haire has guided Campbell to five straight NCAA Tournament appearances. While that streak is likely to end this season following the school’s move from the Big South to the Coastal Athletic Association, the Camels still won more than 30 games for the sixth straight year. Haire turned the Camels into a premier mid-major program, achieving both on-field success and developing high-end talent like All-Americans Cade Kuehler and Zach Neto. He’s never worked in a major conference, but his program building has him ready to make the jump. He got a long look at Georgia a year ago and that kind of attention will continue.

Eddie Smith, head coach, Utah Valley: Smith last season led the Wolverines to 34 wins and an appearance in the WAC Tournament championship game. It marked UVU’s first winning season since 2016 and a massive turnaround as the Wolverines won no more than 18 games in the six previous seasons. UVU this year probably won’t win 30 games again, but it did earn the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. Smith, 40, is young and still just three years into his head coaching career, but he has an impressive resume as an assistant. He worked at LSU, Tulane, Notre Dame, Santa Clara and Virginia, and was also a head coach at Lower Columbia (Wash.) JC for four seasons. He could quickly work his way into bigger jobs.

Mike Silva, head coach, Nicholls State: Silva, last year in his second season at Nicholls, this year led the Colonels to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998 and their first regular season conference title as a Division I program. This year, they finished as runners-up. Prior to his arrival, Nicholls hadn’t had a winning season since 2017, but he’s quickly turned it around. Silva previously was an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State and spent a year as a professional scout.

Billy O’Connor, head coach, Xavier: O’Conner, 37, took over his alma mater in 2017, following six years as an assistant coach. He led the Musketeers to the NCAA Tournament in 2023 and a winning record in four straight seasons, the program’s longest streak in 40 years. He’s one of the youngest coaches in college baseball and has the look of a rising star.

Randy Hood, head coach, UNC Wilmington: Hood, 55, is in his fifth season as head coach at UNCW. He last year led the Seahawks to both the CAA regular season and tournament titles, the first time they did the double since 2016. This year, they finished as runners-up in the regular season. He’s spent nearly his entire career with the Seahawks, save for six years at Campbell, his alma mater. It probably wouldn’t be easy to pull him out of Wilmington, but he’s a well-respected coach with a strong track record of success that would be worth a look.

Matt Deggs, head coach, Louisiana: Deggs, 52, has a strong track record as a head coach. He this year led the Ragin’ Cajuns to the Sun Belt title, their first since 2016. He also was successful at Sam Houston State, where he in 2017 led the Bearkats to super regionals. Off the diamond, Deggs has a unique backstory. He was once a fast-rising assistant coach at Texas A&M but was fired in 2011, when his drinking problem got out of control. He was out of the game for a year before the late Tony Robichaux gave him a second chance at Louisiana. Deggs took that chance and ran with it, becoming head coach at Sam Houston two years later. He’s been very open about his journey and won a lot along the way. He’s in a good spot, but his track record and the exciting style of baseball his teams play could make him attractive at major conference jobs.

Jose Vazquez, head coach, Alabama State: Vazquez was promoted to head coach eight years ago and has won four Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season titles, including going back-to-back in 2022-23. He was named SWAC coach of the year in back-to-back seasons as well. 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.

Omar Johnson, head coach, Jackson State: Johnson has been the head coach at Jackson State since 2007 and has not had a losing season in 18 years. He’s led the Tigers to two NCAA Tournaments (2013-14) and has won the division seven times. Johnson’s teams play an exciting, aggressive style of baseball that regularly puts them among the national leaders in stolen bases. He’s got a good thing going at Jackson State, but if he wants a new challenge, he deserves a long look.

Reggie Christiansen, head coach, Sacramento State: Over the last decade, Christiansen, 47 has built Sac State into one of the most consistent programs in California. It’s won at least 30 games for 11 straight years, the longest streak in the state, and he has led the Hornets to their only three NCAA Tournament 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.

Eric Newman, head coach, UC San Diego: Newman, 51, has led the Tritons through a very successful transition from Division II to Division I. He last season led UCSD to the Big West championship in only its third season in Division I and led it to the Division II College World Series in three straight years from 2017-19, including a runner-up finish in 2017. Prior to arriving at UCSD, he was the pitching coach at Nebraska and the head coach of Dallas Baptist. Newman is an accomplished winner who’s in a good spot now but could draw interest for bigger jobs.

Ryan Folmar, head coach, Oral Roberts: Folmar, 49, last year led the Golden Eagles on a Cinderella run to the College World Series. Midnight struck at the end of last season and this year has been more like the day after the ball, as ORU is under .500 and mired in the middle of the Summit League standings. Still, Folmar has 12 years of head coaching experience, has won nearly 400 games and drew interest for jobs in major conference in the wake of last season’s success. He’s spent his whole career at Oklahoma State, his alma mater, and ORU, but he’d be a solid candidate well beyond the state of Oklahoma.  

Skylar Meade, head coach, Troy: Meade, 39, has won more than 100 games in his three seasons at Troy and last year led the Trojans to the NCAA Tournament, their second appearance in a decade. They’re bubbly this season and if they do get in, it would be just the second time in the program’s Division I history (and first since 2006-07) that they made back-to-back tournament appearances. Before taking over at Troy, Meade was the pitching coach at South Carolina, Michigan State, Middle Tennessee State and Eastern Illinois. The Louisville alumnus has strong ties through the South and Midwest, making him an intriguing candidate.  

Will Davis, head coach, Lamar: Davis, 39, this season led Lamar to the Southland championship and more than 40 wins, the first time the program has done either since 2004. This was the Cardinals’ third straight year of more than 30 wins and Davis seems to have really found his stride in the role he’s held for eight years. Prior to taking over at Lamar, he spent eight seasons on staff at LSU, his alma mater, and helped guide the Tigers to the 2009 national championship. His profile is on the rise.

Ryan Klosterman, head coach, Bryant: Klosterman, 41, is in his fifth season at Bryant and this year led the Bulldogs to the America East title and was named the conference’s coach of the year. He’s 120-95-1 in his time with Bryant and has won at least 30 games in two of the last three seasons. Prior to taking over at Bryant, he spent eight years as an assistant coach at UCF, giving him strong ties to the Sunshine State, as well as the Northeast.

Jason Jackson, associate head coach, Alabama: Jackson has long been regarded as one of the best pitching coaches and recruiters in college baseball and is in his seventh season on staff at Alabama. That includes his time last season as interim head coach, as he guided Alabama to super regionals through a tumultuous two months. Jackson stayed on staff after Rob Vaughn was hired as head coach and has helped the Tide as they track toward their third NCAA Tournament appearance in four seasons.  

Jake Gautreau, recruiting coordinator, Mississippi State: Gautreau, 44, is one of the most respected assistant coaches in the country, both as a recruiter and as a hitting coach. He helped the Bulldogs win the 2021 College World Series and has drawn strong interest over the last few years. With Mississippi State headed back to the NCAA Tournament after a couple tough seasons, his stock figures to be up.

Sean Allen, associate head coach, Ohio State: Allen, 44, has a long, successful track record as an assistant coach. Prior to Ohio State and he’s worked at Texas, Tulane, Sam Houston State, Houston and Florida International. He has worked as both a hitting and pitching coach, and his experience in a variety of roles should help him make the jump to being a head coach. He’s drawn serious looks for head jobs in recent years and should again this summer.

Nate Thompson, recruiting coordinator, Arkansas: Thompson is in his seventh 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.

Matt Hobbs, pitching coach, Arkansas: Hobbs is in his sixth season at Arkansas and this year has guided the nation’s top pitching staff. He previously coached at Wake Forest, Missouri, San Francisco and UC San Diego, giving him cross-country experience.

Kevin McMullan, recruiting coordinator, 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 20 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, assistant head coach, Clemson: Schnabel, the 2019 Assistant Coach of the Year, played a key role in building Michigan before last summer following Erik Bakich to Clemson. As Michigan’s recruiting coordinator, he put together the Wolverines’ 10th-ranked 2017 class, the highest-ranked class in Big Ten history. At Clemson, he’s helped the Tigers quickly rise back to the top of the ACC and are tracking toward a second straight top-eight seed in the NCAA Tournament. He’s in a good spot at Clemson but is on a track to be a head coach.

Jimmy Belanger, pitching coach, Clemson: Belanger is in his second season at Clemson and has helped the Tigers rise to the top of the ACC. He’s previously coached at Florida State, Kentucky, Maryland and Monmouth, earning strong reviews along the way. His experience in the ACC, SEC and Big Ten makes for a strong, all-around profile.

Josh Jordan, recruiting coordinator, LSU: Jordan, the 2018 Assistant Coach of the Year, is in his second season with the Tigers and helped them to the 2023 national championship. Before joining LSU, he was an assistant coach at Duke for 10 years, helping Chris Pollard build the Bule Devils into a consistent regional team. He recruited three Top 25 classes at Duke, the only three in program history, including a top-10 class in 2021. While he’s in a good spot in Baton Rouge, three of LSU’s assistants have landed head coaching jobs in major conferences in the last two years (Dan Fitzgerald, Kansas; Wes Johnson, Georgia; Jason Kelly, Washington) and Jordan, 44, is on that kind of track.

Nate Yeskie, pitching coach, LSU: Yeskie, 49, is one of the best pitching coaches in the country. His work at LSU, Texas A&M, Arizona and Oregon State over the last 15 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 Rutschman’s emergence as the 2019 Player of the Year. He only just arrived in Baton Rouge a year ago for his second stint as Jay Johnson’s pitching coach, but three of LSU’s assistants have landed head coaching jobs in major conferences in the last two years (Dan Fitzgerald, Kansas; Wes Johnson, Georgia; Jason Kelly, Washington).

Jeff Palumbo, associate head coach, East Carolina: Palumbo is in his 10th 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.

Bill Cilento, associate head coach, Wake Forest: Cilento is in his 14th season at Wake Forest and 16th overall on staff with coach Tom Walter. As recruiting coordinator, he’s played a key role in building the Demon Deacons’ top-ranked team, including their first-ever Top 25 classes. With Wake fresh off last year’s ACC title and CWS appearance, as well as its push to host regionals again this year, Cilento is in a good spot, but he’s also positioned himself for big opportunities.

Corey Muscara, pitching coach, Wake Forest: Muscara is in his third season at Wake Forest and last year helped the Demon Deacons win the ACC title and reach the CWS. His pitching staff led the nation in ERA and strikeout rate. Prior to arriving at Wake, he coached at Maryland, St. John’s, Southern New Hampshire and Binghamton. Muscara has received head coaching interest already and that will continue as the Deacs continue to shine.

Derek Simmons, recruiting coordinator, Indiana: Simmons, 37, has built an impressive, varied resume as an assistant coach, working at Central Michigan, Kennesaw State, Alabama, Kent State and Indiana. Simmons is in his fifth season at IU and in a good spot, but his time as a head coach is coming.

TJ Bruce, associate head coach, TCU: Bruce, 42, was head coach at Nevada for seven seasons before Kirk Saarloos hired him away two years ago to join his staff at TCU. Bruce runs the Horned Frogs’ offense and in 2023 he helped guide them to the College World Series. Bruce went 171-168 at Nevada and led the Wolfpack to the 2021 NCAA Tournament and two regular season Mountain West Conference titles. He also was an assistant coach at UCLA, helping the Bruins win the 2013 national championship, and Long Beach State. Bruce has what it takes to be a successful head coach again, but it’ll have to be the right situation to hire him away from TCU.

Nolan Cain, associate head coach, Texas A&M: Cain, 38, has spent the last three seasons on staff at A&M and last year was promoted to associate head coach. He helped guide the Aggies to the 2022 College World Series and leads their recruiting efforts. Previously, he spent seven years on staff at LSU, his alma mater, under Paul Mainieri, including five years as recruiting coordinator. Both Mainieri and Jim Schlossnagle have fruitful coaching trees and Cain could be the next branch.

Josh Elander, associate head coach, Tennessee: The Volunteers have developed into a power under Tony Vitello and Elander, 33, has been with him every step of the way. He’s done an impressive job as Tennessee’s hitting coach and recruiting coordinator, landing top-five classes in two of the last three years. With the Volunteers again the top-ranked team in the country, he’s certain to draw interest, though he’s still one of the youngest assistant coaches in the SEC and in an excellent spot already.

Monte Lee, associate head coach, South Carolina: Lee, 47, has an impressive coaching resume. He was the head coach for seven seasons at Clemson and led the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament four times, including twice as regional hosts. He also was the head coach at College of Charleston for seven years and led the Cougars to super regionals in 2014, as well as two other regional bids. He’s in his second stint as an assistant coach at South Carolina, as he previously was on Ray Tanner’s staff for six years. Lee has won a lot in his career, and he’ll get another shot as a head coach sooner or later.

Austin Wates, associate head coach, Kansas State: Wates, 35, is in his sixth season on staff at K-State and last year was promoted to associate head coach. He is the Wildcats’ hitting coach, as well as their recruiting coordinator, and has helped Pete Hughes rebuild the program. K-State is tracking this season toward its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013. Wates was a scout for the Mariners for two years before joining the K-State staff.

Steve Rodriguez, assistant coach, Texas: Rodriguez, 53, is in his second season on staff at Texas after 19 years as a head coach. He spent 12 years as head coach of Pepperdine, his alma mater, and led the Waves to their first-ever super regionals appearance in 2014. He spent seven years as the head coach of Baylor and led the Bears to three straight regionals from 2017-19, their first NCAA Tournament appearances since 2012. Rodriguez has a long track record of winning and will eventually get another shot as a head coach.

Chuck Jeroloman, assistant coach, Florida: Jeroloman, 41, is in his fifth season on staff at Florida, where he works with the hitters and in recruiting. He last year helped guide the Gators to a runner-up finish at the College World Series and has consistently landed top-10 classes. Prior to his time at Florida, he worked at South Florida and Jacksonville. Jeroloman is in a great spot as an assistant, but his experience in the Sunshine State would be an asset for many jobs.

James Ramsey, associate head coach, Georgia Tech: Ramsey, 34, is in his sixth season at Georgia Tech and was promoted to associate head coach three years ago. He’s very much on the young side – he was the 2012 ACC player of the year—and Danny Hall has said he’d like Ramsey to succeed him as head coach. There’s no formal plan for succession, which means Georgia Tech might still run some sort of search. Ramsey’s day as a head coach is coming, he’s well regarded in the industry and is a good hitting coach.

Thomas Eager, recruiting coordinator, Stanford: Eager is in his ninth season as an assistant on David Esquer’s staff, including the last seven at Stanford. He’s well respected as a pitching coach and recruiting coordinator and spent last summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He’s also helped the Cardinal advance to the College World Series in each of the last three seasons, as well as win two Pac-12 titles. This year was a down season on the Farm, but his time as a head coach is still coming.

Noah Jackson, recruiting coordinator, California: Jackson, 41, has been an assistant on Mike Neu’s staff for the last eight years, first at Pacific and now at Cal. He’s helped recruit and coach some high-level talent for the Golden Bears and could this summer have a fourth first round pick in six years. Jackson is at his alma mater, but he’s built a strong resume.

Scott Stricklin: Stricklin last year was fired following his 10th season as Georgia’s head coach. While he never truly got the Bulldogs firing on all cylinders, he has a solid overall track record as a head coach and his experience would be an asset to many programs. He led Georgia as the No. 4 overall seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, took Kent State to the College World Series in 2012 and has a 632-399-1 record in 19 seasons. Stricklin, 52, should get another solid opportunity as a head coach if he wants it.

Greg Lovelady: Lovelady last year was fired after seven seasons at UCF. He won at least 30 games in all six full seasons he spent in Orlando and won the 2017 American Athletic Conference title. But he couldn’t get the Knights back to the NCAA Tournament after 2017 and the Knights moved on. Lovelady, 45, has a strong track record, however. He previously was head coach at Wright State for three years and twice led the Raiders to the NCAA Tournament. He is 349-204 in 10 seasons as a head coach.

Troy Tulowitzki, director of player development, Texas: After 14 years in the big leagues, Tulowitzki retired in 2019 and joined the coaching staff at Texas. He spent three seasons as the Longhorns volunteer assistant coach. He stepped away from the program for a year before returning this year as director of player development. Tulowitzki also has coached with USA Baseball in a variety of roles. He has a unique resume, wants to be a head coach and has drawn interest in the last couple years. Finding the right fit will be key.

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