The biggest Ole Miss sports news to break during my vacation was the decision by interim athletics director Keith Carter to not extend the contract of Mike Bianco.
It stood to reason that the school’s baseball coach of 19 successful seasons would almost certainly return for No. 20 when news broke in late May that his boss, athletics director Ross Bjork, would take the same job at Texas A&M.
Such a weighty decision would not likely be tackled by an interim AD.
Carter, though, did not rubber stamp an endorsement of the status quo. Instead he sent a signal that everything’s not OK.
It seems there always exists an undercurrent of discontent with some Ole Miss fans who believe the program should reach the College World Series in Omaha more often.
Carter agrees with that sentiment as he stated in our mid-June interview when he said he wanted to take a look at “what’s holding us up in the postseason,” and “to look at getting to Omaha a little more.”
Bianco will enter 2020 without the full-life of the four-year contract allowed by state law. He’ll have three years remaining on a deal that pays $1.1 million a year.
It’s a move that creates a murkiness around the program and for Bianco an uncomfortable question to address with recruits.
A similar action was taken by Bjork following the 2013 season – a fourth-straight season in which the Rebels did not host a regional – when he added one year to Bianco’s contract and did not fully extend him.
In 2014 the Rebels reached Omaha and were among the last four playing.
Next season, Ole Miss will face heavy losses among its hitters but will return two young weekend pitchers and welcome a highly ranked signing class.
What Bianco has done often during his Ole Miss run is get the Rebels close to Omaha but not inside. That adds to the murkiness.
One question when considering a change has been “who can you get that’s better?”
Well, the pool of candidates grows if you’re a 2 seed on the road as the Rebels were in 2015 or fail to reach postseason as the Rebels did in 2017.
In the last two seasons Ole Miss has hosted regionals back-to-back, has been a national seed once and has lost a super regional on the road.
The pool becomes shallower. Not many candidates can guarantee an Omaha trip, and for two years the Rebels have been very close. You can argue that they were seeded too high to have Tennessee Tech in their home regional in 2018. Then this season they were a game away.
The program the last two years is on more solid ground than it was in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Bianco’s challenge is to become something of a super regional regular but more importantly to get the Rebels back in the CWS … and not just once.
Only then can he emerge from the murkiness with support for his vision.
Parrish Alford (email@example.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. Read more at DJournal.com.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @parrishalford