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Tulane Baseball Coaching Search, Job Profile And Candidates

Tulane on Monday announced that it had dismissed coach Travis Jewett, bringing an end to a six-season tenure in New Orleans.

Under Jewett, the Green Wave went 160-138-1 overall and 61-56 in American Athletic Conference play, but crucially, made zero postseason appearances.

In each of the last four seasons, Tulane has at times looked poised to make a leap, but has never quite been able to get there. It finished third in the conference in 2019, second in 2021 and was 15-2 at the time the 2020 season was canceled, but none of those seasons ended in the Green Wave making the championship game of the conference tournament or finishing close to the at-large bubble.

Similarly, this season’s team scored impressive series wins over Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State in non-conference play and got off to an 8-4 start in AAC competition, but has since faded and went into the final regular season weekend once again facing the reality of having to win the conference tournament to get into a regional.

It was always going to be tough for Jewett to get more time after coming up empty on the postseason over six years (five postseasons if you remove 2020), but it’s also true that he was in a tough spot when you compare him to his predecessor David Pierce getting the Green Wave to a regional in each of his two seasons at the helm and to Tulane’s rich history in general, which includes College World Series appearances in 2001 and 2005.

The world of college baseball today is too different for Tulane to do some of the things it did 15-plus years ago, including spending much of the 2005 regular season ranked No. 1 in the country. Expecting a new coach to make the Green Wave a national title contender would be unfair and unrealistic.

But the program still has enough going for it that it’s reasonable that fans have gotten restless with the Wave’s inability to be in the mix to make the postseason when it’s all said and done. Changing that will be the top priority for the next man in charge.

Previous Head Coach

Travis Jewett: 160-138-1, six seasons

Job Description

The true heyday of Tulane baseball may not be returning, but it’s fair to expect the Green Wave to have been to regionals more often than twice in the last 14 years. Tulane’s location in New Orleans gives the program plenty of access to talent, whether locally or in Texas, and Greer Field at Turchin Stadium is a solid facility that draws large crowds when the team is good. Tulane is a high-level private school in a major city, a formula that has worked well for the likes of TCU and Vanderbilt. That can cut both ways, however, as Tulane is not cheap and has a high level of academics. The positives certainly seem to outweigh the negatives with this program, and the administration is undoubtedly hoping to see that expressed in the win column.

How Will Conference Realignment Affect Tulane?

One wild card for Tulane’s success moving forward is the shifting sands of conference realignment. Tulane remains in the American, but much around it is changing. On paper, the next iteration of the AAC still looks like a multi-bid league with East Carolina sticking around, Florida Atlantic joining as a steady regional-contending program and Charlotte and Texas-San Antonio coming in as programs on the rise. With Houston and Central Florida, two of the higher ceiling programs in the league, leaving for the Big 12 along with Cincinnati, however, it’s no guarantee that it ends up being as good as the previous iteration of the conference. Then again, is it better for Tulane if it ends up as a big fish in a slightly diminished conference? Time will tell. The conference itself may soon face difficult questions. As the NCAA changes its basic structure and loosens rules, baseball may soon be able to offer more than 11.7 scholarships and two full-time assistant coaches. How would the AAC and Tulane respond in such an environment?

Does Tulane Go Back Inside The Family?

Last time Tulane had an opening, it went with a high-profile assistant coach with no previous ties to the program in Jewett, who most notably had stints at Arizona State and Vanderbilt before landing in New Orleans. There will certainly be other high-profile assistants in that mold interested this time around, but will the focus instead shift back to someone from within the Tulane family? In his career as Tulane’s coach from 1994-2014, Rick Jones built quite an impressive coaching tree, and there is plenty of fruit on that tree for Tulane to choose from.

Roster Outlook

The next coach will have quite a bit of exciting young talent on his inaugural roster, provided those players choose to remain at Tulane rather than entering the transfer portal. Sophomore catcher Bennett Lee had a down year in 2022, but in 2021, he was the AAC’s newcomer of the year after hitting .440. Freshman outfielders Jackson Linn and Teo Banks represented two of the highest-profile recruits of the Jewett era, and while only Linn has had a breakout season as a freshman, both are teeming with ability. Freshman shortstop Gavin Schultz has elbowed his way into more playing time as the season has gone on as well. On the mound, freshman righthander Grant Siegel has been arguably the Green Wave’s most effective pitcher this season and fellow freshman righthander Michael Massey has been in the weekend rotation most of the season. Assuming the development of some depth around that star power, the next coach will have the core in place to have his team make a push for the postseason in 2023.

Tracy Smith (Andrew Woolley Four Seam Images)

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Michigan tabbed Tracy Smith as its next baseball coach.

The Candidates

Tulane has a proud baseball history and while the Green Wave have won at least 30 games in each of the last three full seasons, no NCAA Tournament appearances didn’t reach that standard. Now, athletic director Troy Dannen will look for the coach who can push the Green Wave back to the top of the AAC.

The search has to start with Mississippi State assistant coach Jake Gautreau, 42. He starred at Tulane, helping the Green Wave to the 2001 College World Series and was drafted in the first round that year. After his playing career ended, he returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach, where he brought in the program’s last Top 25 recruiting class (23, 2013). He spent five seasons on staff and served as interim head coach during the 2014 season when Rick Jones was sidelined by an illness that eventually led to his retirement. Gautreau is in his fifth year at Mississippi State, where he’s burnished his credentials as a recruiter and won the 2021 national championship. He in 2020 tied for third in a Baseball America survey of head coaches asking which current assistant coach would make the best head coach. While Gautreau checks just about every box for Tulane, he’s well compensated as an assistant coach at Mississippi State and could get in the mix for bigger jobs than Tulane sooner than later. Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee all have hired SEC assistant coaches to lead their programs in the last six years and Gautreau is the SEC assistant coach best positioned to make that leap now. Is the call of his alma mater strong enough to bring him back to New Orleans? The whole search may hinge on that question.

Gautreau isn’t the only former Tulane player who will be in the mix for the job. Southeastern Louisiana coach Matt 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 reportedly interviewed for the job both in 2014 and 2016. Expect him to be in the mix again and, with a few more years of seasoning, perhaps this is his time.

Texas assistant coach Sean Allen also has strong ties to Tulane. He’s been an assistant coach for David Pierce for a decade, including the two seasons Pierce spent as head coach of the Green Wave. Allen, 42, 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. His hands-on experience at Tulane is a plus, as he knows what it takes to win at the school.

Tulane pitching coach Daniel Latham is another Green Wave alumnus to watch. He was the closer on Tulane’s 2005 CWS team and is a member of the school’s athletics hall of fame. His work as a pitching coach both at Southeastern Louisiana under Riser and at Tulane under Jewett has been strong. It would be a little unconventional to hire a coach already on staff after dismissing the head coach, but far from unprecedented.

If Tulane goes outside the family, as it did six years ago, keep an eye on McNeese State head coach Justin Hill, 42. He played at LSU and has coached all over the state. He’s taken McNeese to the last two NCAA Tournaments and this year has the Cowboys as the top seed in the Southland Conference Tournament. In nine years as head coach, Hill has turned McNeese into one of the top programs in the Southland.

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