NCAA Tournament Coaches Reveal Their Favorite Bands Or Musicians


Image credit: Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder (Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images)

Music is central to the baseball experience. Whether it’s an organist or a DJ, someone is waiting to fill the dead air in between innings or at bats. Music plays during batting practice, on long bus rides, in the weight room.

So, on the eve of regionals–and with a hearty hat tip to Matt Norlander and CBS Sports, who completed this project for men’s basketball earlier this spring, I asked all 64 coaches whose teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament who is their favorite band or musician.

There was a real enthusiasm to the responses. Oklahoma State’s Josh Holliday ran off half a dozen bands, noting he was listening to Phil Collins while responding.

“I love music!” he wrote.

That about summed up the exercise. East Carolina’s Cliff Godwin initially gave me a list of 13 artists ranging from Tupac to Miley Cyrus (the older stuff) to George Strait before cutting it down to a top three of Eminem, Kenny Chesney and Kelsea Ballerini. NC State’s Elliott Avent also sent along a ranked list of six choices. Clemson’s Erik Bakich tried to give me a five-way tie before settling on Billy Currington (He also listed Morgan Wallen, Jon Pardi, Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley. Noticeably absent is Kenny Chesney, whose music sparked Michigan’s College World Series runner-up run in 2019.).

The most popular band was Pearl Jam, which was named by seven coaches. That tracks well with the average age of a college baseball coach and the height of Pearl Jam’s popularity.

The next most popular artist was George Strait, who was named by four coaches. That tally doesn’t include Texas’ David Pierce, who picked the Ace In the Hole Band, for which Strait was the lead singer before setting off on his solo career.

“I was country before country was cool,” Virginia’s Brian O’Connor said of his George Strait pick.

For some, the answers were personal. UC Santa Barbara’s Andrew Checketts selected UCSB alumnus Jack Johnson, who Checketts has seen perform twice on campus. Texas A&M’s Jim Schlossnagle (David Nail) and Oregon State’s Mitch Canham (Pain) both selected artists which whom they are friends. Pain was a part of the “O-State Ballaz 2020” song, a callback to Canham’s 2007 song when he was the Beavers catcher.

Kansas State’s Pete Hughes had the most personal answer of all, as he went with Gracie Hughes, his daughter. She’s a student at Kansas and plays folk rock. If you’re in Lawrence this weekend, you can see her at Uplift Coffee on Saturday.

Almost no matter what kind of music you like, there’s a good bet one of the coaches the tournament appreciates it as well. Two coaches included Taylor Swift in their long lists, though neither made the cutdown versions I eventually coaxed out of them. But in addition to the plethora of country and classic rock, there’s pop and rap and even EDM.

So, flip through the list and sample some tracks. Think of it as a soundtrack to the NCAA Tournament.

AlabamaRob VaughnSean McConnell
ArizonaChip HaleJourney
ArkansasDave Van HornZach Williams
ArmyChris TraczGeorge Strait
BryantRyan KlostermanChris Stapleton
ClemsonErik BakichBilly Currington
Coastal CarolinaGary GilmoreBrooks & Dunn
Dallas BaptistDan HeefnerShane & Shane
DukeChris PollardTyler Childers
East CarolinaCliff GodwinEminem/Kenny Chesney/Kelsea Ballerini
EvansvilleWes CarrollDave Matthews Band
FloridaKevin O’SullivanEric Church
Florida StateLink JarrettMatchbox Twenty/Luke Combs
Fresno StateRyan OverlandPearl Jam
GeorgiaWes JohnsonMatthew West
Georgia TechDanny HallLuke Bryan
Grambling StateDavin PierreJagged Edged/Maverick City
Grand CanyonGreg WallisAdam Duritz/Counting Crows
High PointJoey HammondNew Edition
IllinoisDan HartlebDierks Bentley/Chris Stapleton/Kid Rock
IndianaJeff MercerGeorge Strait
Indiana StateMitch HannahsChris Stapleton
James MadisonMarlin IkenberryDave Matthews Band
Kansas StatePete HughesGracie Hughes/Eddie Vedder
KentuckyNick MingioneCasting Crowns
Long IslandDan PirilloPearl Jam
LouisianaMatt DeggsLauren Daigle/Morgan Wallen/Def Leppard
Louisiana TechLane BurroughsThe Eagles
LSUJay JohnsonJason Aldean
Mississippi StateChris LemonisAC/DC
NC StateElliott AventToby Keith/Statler Brothers
NebraskaWill BoltStoney Larue
NiagaraRob McCoyZach Bryan
Nicholls StateMike SilvaBob Seger
North CarolinaScott ForbesGeorge Strait
Northern KentuckyDizzy PeytonSturgill Simpson
OklahomaSkip JohnsonStevie Nicks
Oklahoma StateJosh HollidayHall & Oates
Oral RobertsRyan FolmarAlabama
OregonMark WasikowskiAlan Jackson
Oregon StateMitch CanhamPain
PennJohn YurkowPearl Jam
San DiegoBrock UngrichtChris Stapleton
StetsonSteve TrimperPearl Jam/Audioslave
South CarolinaMark KingstonBilly Joel
Southeast MissouriAndy SawyersMetallica
Southern MissChristian OstranderPearl Jam/Metallica/Grateful Dead
St. John’sMike HamptonMichael Jackson
TennesseeTony VitelloYoung Dolph
TexasDavid PierceAce In The Hole Band
Texas A&MJim SchlossnagleDavid Nail
TulaneJay UhlmanPearl Jam
UC IrvineBen OrloffZac Brown Band
UC Santa BarbaraAndrew CheckettsJack Johnson
UCFRich WallacePearl Jam
UConnJim PendersFrank Sinatra
UNC WilingtonRandy HoodCounting Crows/Jayson Arendt
VanderbiltTim CorbinFive For Fighting
VCUBradley LeCroyJohn Cougar Mellencamp
VirginiaBrian O’ConnorGeorge Strait
Wake ForestTom WalterBrett Young
West VirginiaRandy MazeySugarland
Western MichiganBilly GernonREO Speedwagon
WoffordJJ EdwardsDJ Tiesto

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