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What’s next for the University of Alabama athletic department? Are we just days away from the Tide announcing Bud Light as a major corporate sponsor?
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne must be wishing he could just deal with more simple, athletic-director matters such as coaches’ contracts, radio and TV deals, or soon replacing football coach Nick Saban, 71, when he retires.
But Byrne continues to have to deal with off-field, out-of-arena issues from a campus murder investigation involving his men’s basketball team, a basketball transfer arrested with a gun to the latest – a baseball coach apparently trying to be the next Pete Rose.
Good for Bryne for acting so swiftly on Thursday and firing Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon for his alleged direct involvement in a gambling controversy brought to light last week. No innocent until proven guilty jazz in this situation. Byrne had learned enough. And he literally made something go away as much as he could at this point by getting in front of the story – Damage Control 101.
Greg Byrne, Nate Oats Should Have Acted As Fast Previously
Byrne and Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats should have immediately acted in such a way earlier this year. They should have suspended basketball players Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley last January briefly for being on the scene – regardless of involvement or non-involvement – when teammate Darius Miles and friend/non-player Michael Lynn Davis were charged with capital murder. That would have helped Alabama better navigate the controversy ever since.
Miles and Davis have been in jail in Tuscaloosa since Jan. 15, and each have new bond hearings scheduled for May 24. A trial could soon follow that may have more damaging news Byrne will have to handle.
Alabama Previously Fired Baseball Coach For Off-Field Issues
Byrne dealt with strange controversy on arrival as Alabama’s athletic director from the same post at Arizona. A few weeks into the job at Alabama in May of 2017, he fired the Crimson Tide baseball coach who preceded Bohannon. That was Greg Goff, whom Byrne learned was trying to revoke several players’ scholarship money against NCAA rules.
Before Goff actually exited the players he wanted out and broke NCAA rules, Byrne fired him.
Yes, Alabama is the only school in the country to fire back-to-back baseball coaches for reasons having more to do with incidents off the field than on it. And this happened over a span of just six years.
Byrne replaced Goff with Alabama assistant coach Terry Rooney on an interim basis and then with Bohannon, who started before the 2018 season. Rooney had some success as Central Florida’s head coach with two NCAA Regionals in 2011 and ’12. And he was the pitching coach for LSU’s 2009 national title. So, he may have been a better pick. He is Purdue’s recruiting coordinator at the moment under Goff.
Brad Bohannon Was Not Winning
Bohannon may have been better at gambling on games than coaching them as Alabama’s coach for all we know. Through five seasons, he took the Tide to an NCAA Regional only once, in 2021. Last year, with plenty of time to get his program going, Alabama was just 31-27 and 12-17 in the SEC for 11th overall. He left the Tide at 30-15 overall and at 9-12 in the SEC for eighth.
Without him and hopefully with no coaches betting on the game, Alabama beat No. 5 Vanderbilt, 11-2, Thursday night under interim coach Jason Jackson. Byrne promoted him from pitching coach. But the Tide is likely not headed to the NCAA postseason once again this year.
Jackson is not expected to get the permanent job and may not have been a good call by Byrne – no matter how interim Jackson is. Jackson was involved in a previous controversy under Bohannon.
Former Alabama pitcher Johnny Blake Bennett filed a lawsuit against Bohannon, Jackson and trainer Sean Stryker recently for alleged negligent treatment of his arm injury in 2019.
The hits just keep on coming at Alabama.
And by the way, how hard is it to be good in baseball at Alabama?
The Tide’s NCAA Regional appearance in 2021 was its first since 2014. Coach Mitch Gaspard took Alabama to NCAA Regionals four times from 2010-14. He coached under Jim Wells, who took the Tide to three College World Series from 1996-99, including the national championship game in 1997 before losing to LSU. Wells took Alabama to six NCAA Regionals and a Super Regional from 2000 through his last season in 2009 before retirement.
Alabama Baseball Is A Mystery Of Failure
For that matter, how hard is it for Alabama to just to hire a decent baseball coach like Gaspard or a great one like Wells who do not break the rules? There have been virtually no significant NCAA investigations into baseball improprieties in history anywhere. But there is a big one uncorking at Alabama as we speak.
And college baseball has basically been operating with the NCAA Transfer Portal as we know it now in football and basketball for decades. Players have always freely transferred from the junior colleges without having to wait a year. With so few scholarships available at 12.7 per year, there is high turnover. And teams have often performed complete facelifts virtually overnight for years – as is the case now with football and basketball. So why can’t Alabama turn things around dramatically like so many others in recent years?
Of course, it really doesn’t matter at Alabama if baseball wins. It really doesn’t matter at Alabama if anything but football and men’s basketball win. And it might not really matter if men’s basketball wins either.
Which is why Byrne’s difficult spring just got tougher.
Before last week, it was a good bet he could just relax through another so-so baseball season before working on football at the spring meetings in Destin.
Now, Byrne has another sport at Alabama to deal with where all bets are off.