LSU Didn’t Hire Ole Miss’ Mike Bianco, But He Just Swept The Tigers And Son Under The Rug

BATON ROUGE – Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco and his wife Camille had enough emotions swirling inside of them all weekend and over the last year.

They did not want to see their son Drew Bianco, who plays for LSU, come up to bat with the tying or winning runs on base in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday here at LSU’s Alex Box Stadium.

But there Drew Bianco was on deck for LSU with runners on the corners and Tyler McManus up with Ole Miss leading 8-5.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Mike Bianco said. “It was in the middle of McManus’ at-bat, and I saw Drew over there. And I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I do not want him batting. Oh my God.’ That is a no-win situation for the Bianco family. So, thankfully, it didn’t get to that.”

McManus struck out to end the game, giving the Rebels the 8-5 win and Mike Bianco the first three-game sweep by Ole Miss at LSU in history. The two programs have been playing since 1906.

Bianco, a former catcher at LSU (1988-89) and assistant coach (1993-97 with three national titles), and his wife, whom he met at LSU, have been dealing with such emotions since their son Drew began playing at LSU in 2019.

In Bianco’s first-ever at-bat against his dad and Ole Miss in 2019, he pinch-hit in the eighth inning and homered on the first pitch for the last run of an 8-3 win at LSU that May 3, which was his dad’s 52nd birthday.

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Pop struggled with the mixed emotions that night.

“You don’t feel too good because your team loses, but he hits a home run,” Mike Bianco said at the time. “I guess as a dad I’m proud, but disappointed in the way we played tonight.”

Mom is just glad it’s over. Bianco likely played his last home game for LSU on Sunday. He could play next season because of NCAA waivers concerning the COVID season everyone had cut short in 2020 when he was a sophomore. But he is not expected to return, and he did take part in Senior Day festivities Sunday.

“I’m very happy the weekend is over,” Camille Bianco said. “Mike was so happy we could all be here for Drew’s Senior Day. Mike has missed a lot of those type things.”

The Biancos’ sons Ben and Sam play at Louisville and St. Petersburg College in Florida, respectively. Their dad did not want his sons to play for him so they could experience things and learn and grow on their own while not being “the coach’s son.”

It would have been great for the Biancos had Drew got up and delivered the winning or tying hit, but at the same time, Mike Bianco really needed that sweep.

His job status was considered in many circles to be in serious trouble just two weeks ago on May 1 when the Rebels lost, 4-3, at Arkansas to fall to 24-19 and 7-14 in the SEC. That was their 10th loss in 13 games and their fourth consecutive SEC series loss after returning most of a team that reached a Super Regional last season and was ranked No. 1 early this season

Since that Arkansas loss, the Rebels have won seven in a row with a sweep of Missouri, a win over No. 11 Southern Mississippi and now a sweep of No. 14 LSU. Bianco could survive. He has been here before.

Ole Miss (31-19, 13-14) is now tied for eighth overall in the SEC entering the regular season finale against Texas A&M (33-16, 17-10) this Thursday through Saturday and has clinched a spot in the 12-team SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, set for May 24-29.

The Rebels have a chance to make the NCAA postseason. It would not be good for Bianco to break his streak of eight NCAA appearances out of a possible nine this season – just after rival Mississippi State won its first national championship in baseball last year. Ole Miss has never won a national title in baseball and has reached the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, just once (2014) under Bianco, who got the job in 2001. He and Ole Miss have lost an uncanny six of seven Super Regionals.

“It’s not about sweeping LSU or me,” Bianco said Sunday. “We needed to get three wins. We needed three wins to get back into the fight of this and put ourselves in contention, not just in the conference tournament, but the postseason.”

Sweeping LSU is sweeter than he let on, though.

Bianco interviewed for the LSU job after last season with LSU coach Paul Mainieri retiring. LSU athletic director Scott Woodward, an LSU graduate like Mike and Camille, interviewed Mike and his agent. But there were all those Super Regional losses, including to Arizona coach Jay Johnson last season. Woodward interviewed Johnson last year, too, and hired him fresh off a trip to the College World Series.

What if Bianco and Ole Miss had beat Arizona in that Super Regional third game last year? Bianco would have interviewed with Woodward fresh off an Omaha trip or in Omaha. Maybe Bianco gets the job. It could have been perfect, particularly since Bianco could have had the LSU job back in 2006 before then-LSU athletic director Skip Bertman hired Mainieri.

Bianco was just starting to win big at Ole Miss at the time and their kids were young. Neither Mike nor Camille were ready to go back yet. Mike took his name out. They were ready last year.

“As I’ve said many times, this place means a lot to my wife and to me,” he said. “We both graduated from here. I coached here. I played here. My son plays here. So, obviously it’s different coming here than going anywhere else.”

That is exactly why Bianco interviewed for the LSU job. He was interested. He has not gone after any other jobs in such fashion. Ole Miss fans and Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter need to remember that. Considering Bianco’s history at LSU with a trip to Omaha as a player in 1989 and four as a coach with national titles in 1993, ’96 and ’97, even the most ardent Ole Miss fans needs to understand why he would be interested.

Carter and Ole Miss people also need to realize just how strong a national contender Ole Miss has been under Bianco for virtually every year of his tenure, and it’s not easy to make that many Super Regionals. Better make sure, you get somebody better than him if you can, if a move is made.

And Bianco showed – in between reunions over the weekend – that this year is not over yet.

 

 

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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