The atypical hire: Sunny Golloway and the future of Auburn baseball

Kyle Laferriere-US PRESSWIRE

Auburn has found itself with a home run hire and hope for the future of the program.

What If I told you that Auburn was capable of making an atypical hire? A hire that didn’t have any previous connections to Auburn, a hire that wasn’t on any original list, a hire that wasn’t an "up-and-comer" but was instead an "already arrived," a hire that has done one thing: win. Most Auburn fans would laugh. They would ridicule athletic director Jay Jacobs and say at the end of the day, JABA (Just Auburn Being Auburn) would win out.

We were all wrong.

Back when head coach John Pawlowski was let go, I wondered who, if anyone, would want the Auburn job. I sat down and created a list of who Auburn should go after, who the Tigers could go after, and who they would probably go after. Again, I was tempering expectations with the JABA mentality. I sat down, multiple times, and started coming up with lists. I would refine them after I analyzed each guy and thought, as an outsider but as a guy who knows a good bit about college baseball, if Auburn could get that coach.

The list went through stages. It evolved. The penultimate list was tweeted to Blake Ells in a DM while I sat at Bodega and enjoyed a beer. I still have that bar napkin at my house. Scribbled and stained, it represented, to me, Auburn at a crossroads. It showed me the Auburn baseball that I wanted and the Auburn baseball I thought the administration was capable of providing. I should just throw that list away right now.

Napkin_medium

Auburn’s newest head coach and the man tasked with taking the Tigers over the hump is Sunny Golloway from Oklahoma. Golloway is a guy who wasn’t on that original list. I’d be fair to say he wasn’t even on Auburn’s original list. Auburn didn’t make the first move and actively pursue him. Instead, he reached out to our tiny hamlet in Lee County. Had he finally had enough with current Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione and felt he was in a situation where the administration wasn’t going to give him what he wanted, and that’s what caused him to reach out? We will never know. He did take what some may view as a not-so-subtle dig at Castiglione (indirectly) in his introductory statements:

Golloway said he and his family were impressed with Auburn as soon as they arrived on campus for a visit with Jacobs on Friday.

"I had heard quite a bit about Jay and really wanted to meet him," Golloway said. "And right after I met him, I knew it was going to be a great fit. I think that's very important -- who you're working with on a daily basis, the commitment to the student-athletes in your program, and making sure that everything is in place to pursue an opportunity to win championships." (emphasis mine)

Here’s what we do know. His relationship with Castiglione had become "fractured" and he was looking for additional upgrades to both facilities and his salary. This upgrade was in addition to the $2 million in facility upgrades that had already been implemented. Golloway’s contract ran through June 2015. Castiglione had made a decision to not renegotiate the current deal, even though this was a coach who had just lead an Oklahoma team to a super regional. Castiglione was ready to cut his big fish free.

He swam right to the hook of Jay Jacobs.

I had heard rumors of this sour relationship already. I started doing a couple of Google searches on Golloway when his name first was mentioned by Aaron Fitt at Baseball America.

Outside of the normal message board chatter, I couldn’t really find anything that stood out. A couple of Auburn fans on The Bunker also expressed some hesitation about the hire, citing Golloway’s relationship with OU and with some players. Still, I hadn’t found anything crazy or thought provoking. So, I asked Jordan Esco at Crimson and Cream Machine where all of this resentment was coming from. Jordan explained that a number of the thoughts had come from former players and parents who took issue with Golloway’s coaching style. They were calling him a bit demanding and chiding him for not making friends among local (and prominent) high school coaches in the state (and thus straining recruiting relationships).

I can’t justify that and I can’t speak to that mentality. One thing I can speak about is that those sentiments are common among many college baseball programs. Baseball parents are sometimes the hardest to please because they have invested so much of their own personal expense and time into developing their children into top Division I athletes. They have a right to demand more from their coach because that same coach’s promises (if they don’t pan out) more than likely cost their child money directly. It’s a tough situation. It’s also a situation I saw a lot under Coach Pawlowski. There will never be a time to fully explain this or fully delve into this, but I can speak personally that many parents of Auburn players (both current and former) had become displeased with how Coach P had handled their son and their son’s career. That majority never became wholly vocal (nor would they), so that left frustrated parents reaching out to bloggers who follow an often overlooked sport.

Am I worried that Auburn could be getting the same thing with Coach G? Not right now. For this, he gets the benefit of the doubt. I’m of a simple mentality when it comes to baseball coaches and their relationships with players. I’m developing this mentality as a fairly young guy who has no children and only observes emphatically through others. I believe a coach should be demanding. I’m for a hard-ass approach when it comes to players. I’m of that cyclical "I had a hard ass-coach, it made me better, thus a hard-ass coach is best" mentality. Coaches who are too friendly with players leads to a team that is lazy and rife for off the field issues. I’ve seen that firsthand at Auburn with Tom Slater. Slater was a player’s coach. He had the hardest time drawing that imaginary line and demanding complete respect when needed.

One part of Chris’s interview with Jordan from CCM rang pretty close to home:

CaM: How would you describe Golloway as a coach?

JE: In a word, demanding. It's not something that is going to come across in interviews as he could not appear to be more humble when speaking in public. I've always been amazed by the drastic contrasts between the two supposed personalities you see and the one you hear about. But by all accounts he can be a very different person behind the scenes and an incredibly strict disciplinarian as a head coach.

That works for certain guys and those OU players swear by the guy. However, the flip side of that coin resides in the former OU players who no longer associate with the program as a result of their dealings with Golloway.

I don't really think it's fair to judge him entirely on things heard secondhand, but it's also a case of if you hear it enough times over the course of nine years there has to be at least some degree of truth to the talk.

I feel confident in saying Golloway gets the most out of his players, but he can also push them over the edge at times and force them to shut him out. It's a fine line and a lot of the time he straddles it without the finesse of some other head coaches, but it's fair to say he has more successes than failures.

That is Pawlowski. Like it or not, that mentality and that mindset is commonplace among many college baseball coaches.

Ultimately though, that will pan out in due time. You know what fixes all those issues, by the way? Winning. Winning cures all in the world of sports.

That’s what we have with Golloway: a guy who wins.

Coach G has been a head baseball coach for 17 Seasons at the Division I Level. Eight of those were at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. At ORU, he effectively built the Eagles into a powerhouse. After slumming it for two seasons as an independent, ORU joined the Mid-Continent Conference in 1998 and never looked back. The Eagles amassed an incredible 119-15 conference record (277-102 overall) and won the Mid-Con Tournament Title six straight seasons. He won 40 or more games every year in Tulsa and took over at Oklahoma in 2005.

How he ultimately got the OU job is probably where some of the initial resentment of Golloway at Oklahoma began. Before Golloway, Oklahoma was coached by Larry Cochell. Cochell, who came from Cal State-Fullerton. a college baseball juggernaut, quickly established himself as a legend in Norman. He won the 1994 national championship -- defeating Auburn in Omaha, by the way -- and was riding a solid string of NCAA Tournament appearances. Then in 2005, it all turned sour. On May 1, 2005, Cochell submitted his resignation after making racially-insensitive remarks about one of his players. Oklahoma was playing Wichita State on ESPN2, and he was speaking with ESPN play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne. He called Joe Dunigan III over and praised him to Thorne. As Dunigan was heading back into the field, Cochell made a statement that would taint his 15 years in Norman forever.

Tuesday, before the telecast of the Oklahoma-Wichita State game on ESPN2 and ESPNU, Cochell used a racially insensitive term in off-camera interviews with ESPN to describe Sooners freshman outfielder Joe Dunigan III, an African-American.

Cochell was speaking with play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne when he called Dunigan over to praise him for staying in school. When the freshman returned to the field, Cochell told Thorne, "There's no n----- in him." The network informed the school that Cochell used similar language in an interview with ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson.

To make matters more strained in the OU world, both Dunigan and Chuckie Caufield (the only other black player on the Sooners team) issued statements saying that Cochell shouldn’t have been fired.

Nonetheless, Cochell left and Golloway stepped in (after the original choice of Wichita State's Gene Stephenson was introduced at press conference and then turned down the Sooners). Those aren't exactly the easiest shoes to fill: a well-loved coach abruptly leaves a program he had taken to unprecedented heights, and now you have to keep it at that level of winning. You have to do this while all the while hearing whispers and rumors about how your previous boss shouldn't have even been let go. Every loss you have is magnified, and when you fail to advance past a regional, you will have a vocal minority (that slowly morphs into a majority if that fire starts to burn) say, "well, Cochell would have had 'em in Omaha". Golloway was no stranger to the Sooners' success under Cochell, either. He was an assistant coach under Cochell before (1992-95) and helped lead OU to CWS trips and that 1994 title.

Golloway persevered. He took OU to an NCAA Regional every year except 2007. He made it to Super Regionals four times, including back to back in 2012 and 2013, and made the College World Series in 2010.

Still, some Oklahoma fans had issues and were growing frustrated with Golloway’s inability to get over the hump and make it Omaha. It’s a similar sentiment that is percolating at Ole Miss: a coach who is winning, but now is a victim of his own success. Fans have grown restless because they have seen how close the teams are getting.

It doesn’t help matters that Oklahoma’s facilities have caused the Sooners being unable to host regionals. Before hosting a Regional in 2006, Oklahoma would bid to play Regionals in a minor league parks in Oklahoma City (30 minutes away). L. Dale Mitchell Park is a nice ballpark, but it (surprisingly) seats fewer fans than Auburn's Plainsman Park. Auburn, if you didn’t know, has one of the smallest parks in the SEC. Fans weren't exactly turning out in droves either. In 2011, OU averaged only 1,305 for home games. This is coming off of a College World Series trip. Compare that 2011 figure to Auburn. The Tigers averaged nearly 3,000 a game (2,967). In total, Auburn would draw 97,919 that year, while the Sooners managed 41,778.

Here’s where I’m having a hard time hearing arguments from Oklahoma fans that Golloway was wanting too much. It’s also where I’m seeing a clear reason why Golloway left OU for Auburn. It’s the facilities. OU has deployed about $2 million into renovations. Auburn, conversely, has invested more than $4 million with another $1 million coming in the future from Tim Hudson. Oklahoma had a coach who was winning, and he wasn’t being rewarded.

That mentality that playing in regionals isn't good enough is not going to be around Auburn right now. Auburn needs a coach who can get the Tigers to regionals year after year. It’s a level of success that has been strangely absent on the Plains. The way I look at: Under Slater, Auburn couldn’t make it to the SEC Tournament. The fired him and brought in Pawlowski. Pawlowski made it to the SEC, but couldn’t make it to a regional (aside from the blip that was 2010). So, they fired him and have now brought in Golloway. If Coach G can take Auburn to regionals on a consistent basis, then it’s a major improvement to the program. Let’s worry about not making it Omaha when the Tigers have consistently been invited to dance.

How does Golloway win? He wins with good pitching and small-ball offense. It’s a style of play that Pawlowski was trying desperately to establish here at Auburn. In the past four seasons in Norman, OU has posted ERAs of 3.76, 3.00, 3.31 and 2.95. The Sooners thrive on strikeouts (535, 450, 521, 533). Pitching is Golloway’s specialty. When he was with Team USA in 2002, the national team recorded its lowest-ever ERA up to that point. OU's pitching stats over the last four years:

YEAR


ERA


STRIKE


K/9


HITS


H/9


WALKS


BB/9


IP


2013


2.95



533



8.23



531



8.20



184



2.84



582 2/3


2012


3.32


521


7.80


578


8.65


218


3.26


601


2011


3.00


450


7.64


489


8.30


183


3.10


530


2010


3.76


583


8.62


595


8.80


225


3.33


608


Compare that to Auburn during that same period:

YEAR


ERA


STRIKE


K/9


HITS


H/9


WALKS


BB/9


IP


2013


3.40


318


5.81


458


8.37


189


3.45


492 2/3


2012


3.92


322


5.56


513


8.86


184


3.17


521 1/3


2011


5.09


412


7.15


599


10.40


226


3.92


518


2010


5.00


484


7.61


636


10.00


220


3.46


572 1/3


The glaring difference between the two is strikeouts. OU stayed consistent around eight Ks per nine innings. That huge jump from 2011 to 2012 signaled the end for Pawlowski. Overall the numbers are similar but it’s the Ks that allowed OU to compete inning by inning and keep opponents off the board. The consistency is also key. Both OU and AU had similar statlines, but the difference is that OU was able to stay the same while AU showed a huge drop during the 2012 Season. Pawlowski was making progress but the record wasn’t reflecting it in the end. That’s what Auburn fans can expect from the pitching staff. A staff that goes after hitters and tries to put fewer balls into play. Those strikeouts make the difference between a good staff and a great staff.

Golloway's developed these teams with solid, but not overwhelming talent. That's not to say he's had slouch recruiting classes, either. Three of his classes were ranked in the top 10, including the 2007 group that was ranked fourth.

It’s hard to compare recruiting classes in college baseball. Most the team rankings are behind paywall sites and aren’t archived. Still, most of Golloway’s players have come (naturally) from Texas and Oklahoma. That will have to change soon. Golloway himself knows that he’s entering into a more fertile recruiting ground:

"With our location, we are in a hotbed of talent. We will be able to hit the road recruiting right away, and we look forward to recruiting the best student-athletes to represent this outstanding university."

Before Auburn fans start trying to look at Oklahoma’s incoming signing class and looking to see if the Tigers can poach any recruits, let me pump the brakes. Most of those guys have already signed Letters of Intent at Oklahoma.

From a player and recruiting perspective, this is a challenge facing Golloway. He has to look at the current Auburn roster and determine where the holes are. The arms, thankfully, are there. Even with the potential loss of Conner Kendrick to the MLB Draft, Auburn has Michael O’Neal, Daniel Koger, Justin Camp, Chase Williamson, Daniel Koger and Trey Cochran-Gill ready to go as starters. When you add in guys like Cole Lipscomb and Matt Schultz, and incoming guys like Keegan Thompson and Kevin Davis, that’s 10 guys you are using to fill four spots. That’s a wealth of arms that are ready to go, arms that are experienced and probably just need a little bit better guidance. If anything, Golloway should look for a couple of JUCO arms to fill in relief roles.

Golloway’s focus shouldn’t be on pitching on this go-round of recruiting. Instead, for the incoming class, he should be looking to see what the makeup of his team will be offensively.

Before he can even do that, he has to convince the current players to stay. That is Golloway’s biggest sell. Auburn has holes on offense that need immediate fixing. The Tigers will lose the majority of their starting outfield (Wacker, Tella) and try to hang on to Hunter Kelley for an additional (and final) year. If Kelley does transfer out, then Auburn will be a blank slate in the outfield. Sam Gillikin is the obvious replacement in center field. Rock Rucker makes the most sense in left field. That leaves Right Field as a toss-up, with the likely choice being Jackson Burgreen. In the infield, it’s a different monster. Jordan Ebert will be the most consistent player and should she a great improvement next year at second base. Blake Austin (hopefully) returns. Damek Tomscha is a toss-up at third. Garrett Cooper will need to be replaced, likely by Patrick Savage, at first and Dan Glevenyak remains at shortstop. Still, there’s nothing to say that guys like Tomscha and Yak will automatically have their positions back. If anything, it should be an open race and fresh start that will allow guys like Dylan Smith, Anfernee Grier and J.D. Crowe to have a chance to compete.

What Auburn fans will need to pay attention to in the next few months is how many players decide that Golloway is not the right coach for them and transfer out. There are options out there. For upperclassmen there is the possibility of JUCO then draft. For underclassmen, there are four-year schools as long as they sit out the year.

Golloway’s biggest recruiting battle will be internally. He knows what style he is looking for, and honestly, (again, this goes back to that gruff and demanding demeanor) it is not outside of the realm of possibility to tell a guy that it is not going to work out. It happens (and will happen). Hell, it happened at Auburn with Brooks Beisner and Coach Pawlowski:

Beisner played in 46 games, starting 23, in the outfield and had batted .244 with two home runs, seven doubles, 10 RBIs and 14 runs scored. In his last at-bat, his only in the 2011 SEC tournament elimination game loss against George, he mashed a single.

"We kind of butted heads," Beisner said. "He told me at the end of the year I basically wasn't good enough."

With his Auburn scholarship cut to next to nothing, the "Yes, Sir/No, Sir" player had an obvious solution.

"It was just one of those things big schools do, decide to take money from kids," Tollett said. "He tried to appeal it, went through every avenue."

Bryan Beisner said Auburn didn't see Brooks' potential

"They just didn't see it, you know?" Bryan Beisner said. "I trusted that program, and they just totally screwed him."

I don’t use Beisner as an example to single out Pawlowski. I use it as an example to show that this is a common practice in college baseball and a practice that Golloway will more than likely employ.

Galloway’s style is simple: get guys on, get them over, and get them home. His teams do not hit for a ton of power, but do steal often and sacrifice a lot. Again, let's look at the past four years in OU:

YEAR


SB


SOs


SAC


WALKS


AVG


SLG %


HRs


RUNS


2013


63


325


77


193


.307


.391


33


351


2012


78


433


71


221


.313


.376


36


342


2011


77


407


66


227


.262


.446


41


415


2010


97


535


69


271


.282


.515


105


525


Now, let’s look at Auburn over those four years:

YEAR


SB


SOs


SAC


WALKS


AVG


SLG %


HRs


RUNS


2013


33


353


35


214


.278


.385


31


272


2012


113


372


60


232


.304


.432


35


351


2011


44


399


45


228


.296


.421


39


335


2010


61


465


58


261


.348


.549


131


584


Just like the pitching stats, the numbers are kind of similar in many area, but there’s one key difference that showed the difference between a good and a great team. For Auburn, it’s the sacrifices and steals. The Tigers had a major drop off last year. For Auburn, the numbers are all over the place with huge jumps and drops in steals and sacs between years. For Oklahoma, it’s a model of consistency: around 70 steals each year, around 70 sacs each. The walks are limited, the average is middle of the road and home runs are slight. Still, when you compare the two schools, look at the runs produced. That’s the main difference.

I can forewarn Auburn fans, Golloway’s style offensively is frustrating, probably more frustrating than watching Pawlowski adjust to small-ball style. When baserunners are on, the focus is simple and basic. There is very little swinging to fences. Consistent contact and pushing guys into scoring position is the name of the game. It is all precipitated on speed. The steals and steal attempts are what set up many of these situations. Golloway will be tasked with developing better baserunners at Auburn. Guys will need to be selected and highlighted based upon their ability to create positions on the basepaths. Watching a few Oklahoma games this past year, it was obvious that the goal for OU was to get guys 1-2-3 into scoring position and have guys 4-5-6 bring them in. So, Auburn will need two things: speed at the top and power in the middle. It’s easier said than done. Right now, Auburn doesn’t have a power bat in the lineup. Tomscha fits that mold a bit, but his tendency to go ice cold makes him an unreliable option. Savage could develop into that guy with a more full-time role. That’s left to be seen in 2014.

If I can compare Golloway’s style to anything, it’s a more moderate version of Auburn’s 2012 offense that was set up by guys like Bobby Andrews and Jay Gonzalez at the top of the order with Ryan Tella pulling a bulk of the on-base duties.

The perfect Golloway team will be built like Arkansas or UCLA. Power arms and moderate offense. That’s going to be a cultural shift for Auburn and will take a bit of time to develop, I’m afraid. The Hogs and Bruins were in good position because they had the arms to hold on to a one or two run lead and they didn’t feel pressured. Auburn last year was not that case. Auburn would push so frustratingly hard to score because there was little faith in the bullpen.

Of course, all this could shift in a year or two if the NCAA adopts a new ball to help boost the offensive numbers. The bats (and their dead state) are here to stay, but a proposal is being pushed through college baseball circles to go with a ball that has lower seams. The higher the seams, the better a pitcher can throw a breaking ball (which is why you see many Major League pitchers pick at the seams of a baseball on the mound). The raised seam is currently used and college pitchers have benefitted. When you lower the seams, the ball is a bit livelier off the bat because it has less spin and will travel on a more direct path. It’s an indirect science, but it’s something that’s on the NCAA’s radar.

The NCAA does not mandate any ball standards for regular-season play except that the ball's coefficient of restitution (COR) cannot exceed .555. The higher the COR, the farther a ball will travel. Professional baseball uses a ball with a maximum COR of .578.

In the NCAA tournament, games must be played with an official Rawlings ball with seams that are higher than the seams of a pro baseball. For that reason, college conferences generally use the raised-seam ball during the regular season to prepare for the postseason.

If the ball is changed, then Golloway will need to adjust both his pitching style and offensive methods. It’s not something to worry about now, but it something that should be kept in the back of the mind in years to come. If it gets to a point that Golloway is having consistent success, the last thing Auburn fans would want is for him to hyper-adjust to a change like Pawlowski did when the bats were switched to the BBCOR standard.

It’s hard to tell at this point which assistants will come with Golloway over to Auburn. His 2013 staff consisted of Jack Giese (pitching), Rich Hills (infielders), and Aric Thomas (outfield/baserunners). Both Thomas and Hills are Oklahoma alums and may not leave the program. If anyone is most likely to join Golloway, it would be Giese, who has a fantastic track record as a pitching coach.

Jack Giese (pronounced GEESE-ee), who spent the last two years as a pitching coach in the Tampa Bay Rays' organization, was named to the Sooners' baseball staff prior to the 2012 season.

Giese worked the past two seasons with the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Rays' Class A affiliate, and also previously held scouting positions with the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds.

In the first season under Giese, the Sooner hurlers struck out 500 batters, the third most in program history, and helped lead the way to OU's third Super Regional appearance. Jonathan Gray (100), Jordan John (100) and Dillon Overton (100) contributed a majority of that strikeout total and became the first Sooner trio to eclipse the century mark in individual strikeouts in the same season.

The addition of Giese would also mark a significant departure from Coach Pawlowski’s style. Scott Foxhall was the pitching coach in his first three seasons (and Auburn benefited), but then the keys were given to Pawlowski. Personally, I think it’s better to hand those reins to another coach and not have the head coach pull double duty.

My only recommendation, staffwise, is to hire to bonafide hitting instructor. When Auburn was successful, The Tigers had a full-time hitting coach (Link Jarrett). I fully believe that a full-time and devoted hitting coordinator will benefit the program. Last year, for Auburn, Ty Megahee was promoted to a full time assistant coach and no longer handled the hitters full time. Instead, the offense was run by Gabe Gross. I may be getting off on a tangent, and it’s unfair to compare the two programs, but last year Auburn was lost at the plate and on the mound, and a good part of that was due to the fact that too many roles weren't explicitly and directly defined. Too many cooks and kitchens or Chiefs and Indians or whatever.

Golloway will develop his staff however he sees fit. However, I think (and again, this isn’t a major point) that the staff should have clearly defined roles. Now would be a perfect opportunity to add new guys to the staff, guys that are familiar with the talent in Alabama and know the recruiting trails a bit.

The major question for Auburn fans is what will define success to Golloway on the Plains. Here’s where we come to a time for brutal honesty in regards to Auburn baseball.

Auburn baseball is in a state of disrepair right now. The signs and cracks were beginning to show after 2011 and they widened into a chasm by 2013. The issues are evident now that the smoke has cleared from Pawlowski’s tenure. The issues that are plaguing Auburn are fixable for the most part, but they need to be identified and, their corrections are what will define Golloway on the Plains.

The first issue is recruiting. Auburn recruited well up to a point. However, there was a major issue that I had with Pawlowski as a coach/recruiter. He could get some fairly highly-ranked recruiting classes, but they fell apart when they arrived. That’s IF they arrived at all. Some of CJP’s best recruits never made it to campus and instead went to the Major Leagues. The amount of transfers in and out of the program was also troubling. That left Auburn filling gaps and holes with too many JUCO guys. Again, that’s all well and good up to a point, but it does not translate into long-term success. The guys that were left were underdeveloped. The never really grew from year to year. Back to that Beisner article from earlier:

"At Auburn, I was good then, but I never really got better. I plateaued."

For Sunny Golloway to win at Auburn he needs to target guys that he can get on campus for three full years and develop. These need to be guys he won’t worry about losing to the MLB Draft. He’s already up against the wall in a bit in this regard because of the state of Alabama's lack of a lottery/tuition system. However, Auburn can fix that. To find a solution, the Tigers need to take cues from both the University of Alabama and from Mississippi State University. Bama offers the Bryant Scholarship, which gives tuition assistance to former players of Bear Bryant. Auburn could establish a Jordan Scholarship that would help with some guys (in fact, Dylan Smith who is already on the team would benefit). As for the Mississippi State model, the Tigers should take a cue from the Maroons and offer a tuition exchange program for neighboring states. It’s not a new concept, and it’s one that has been suggested before.

The solution: The lottery is not coming to the state of Alabama anytime soon. Any chance of a Hope-like scholarship system appears slim. So, what does one do to fix the problem? Open up the borders, for a start. Allow students from neighboring states to participate in a tuition exchange program. That would give the coaching staff a deeper pool of resources, as well as talent, bringing Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida into the fold without having to suffer the expense of out-of-state tuition.

Next is performance. Here’s your timetable for Golloway, plain and simple. The honeymoon period is going to be short and probably only going to last through the 2014 season. The excuses of "establishing his system" will be allowed next year but it will be a grain-of-salt excuse. Why? Because the talent cupboard isn’t that bare on the pitching side (Golloway’s strength) and because Pawlowski was already in the process of establishing an offensive mindset similar to Golloway’s before he was fired. The window, ultimately, is five years. However, Golloway’s leash should be deservedly shorter because of his established history. That’s why Auburn hired Coach G, because he wins. If he doesn’t win, then the worry will really begin to creep in. If Auburn isn’t in a regional by 2015, then I’m going to panic ever so slightly.

Can Auburn make a regional in 2014? I’m optimistic, but hesitant at this point, because I have no clue how the offense will shape up. The pitching should be there. The bats? Well, we won’t know until the summer. Here’s what can help Auburn: a better schedule. We saw this a bit last year. Auburn won more games, but won them against inferior opponents, and the lack of quality wins ultimately hurt Auburn down the stretch. Florida benefited because the Gators played a tough schedule. Auburn should follow suit, especially in Golloway’s first year. Take advantage of that honeymoon period in 2014 and schedule a bit tougher. If you lose, then you chalk it up to establishing the system. If you win, you look like a genius. Auburn should already be in talks to have at least one marquee and high-RPI series on the schedule for next year. The tournament (that preseason Auburn tournament) should also include another big-name team. The SEC will give its normal RPI boots and if Auburn can go into the SEC slate of 2014 with a winning (let’s say even around .750) mark, then that makes the ultimate goal that much easier.

That ultimate goal is ultimately how Golloway should be judged at Auburn: Just make Regionals. Auburn fans can dream big all we want, but right now the position the Tigers are in is that just making regionals on a consistent basis will be the first step into returning Auburn to the early 1980s and early '90s glory.

Golloway, however, has a higher standard. He wants to win championships:

"That's what we want to be about - we want to win championships."

Overall, I am excited about the Sunny Golloway hire. It showed a commitment by the administration to hire a proven winner and stop taking a chances on a mid-major coaches with potential. It was a marked departure from the previous baseball hires. Pawlowski came from Charleston, Slater was a Florida assistant, Steve Renfroe was an Auburn assistant, Hal Baird from East Carolina and Paul Nix from Troy.

I know it is tough for Golloway to leave Oklahoma, but I’m happy he’s made the change. It’s the little things that can make you like a coach. As I type this post at now 1:30 a.m. on Friday night/Saturday morning, I have my Spotify playlist (which is now on its fourth turn and rotation), and I’m watching a coach personally respond to thank you and well-wish tweets from Oklahoma fans on his Twitter account. That’s a little thing. It’s something to build on.

Golloway can win at Auburn. It will be a bit tougher than Oklahoma, but I have no doubt that he is the right guy for the job.

It’s time to be excited about Auburn baseball again. Hell, it’s a good time to be excited about Auburn athletics again. A new football coach, a new softball coach, and now a new baseball coach. To steal a line from Gus Malzahn’s marketing campaign: It’s a New Day. War Damn Eagle

Quick and final postscript: A lot of questions have been asked about how to pronounce Golloway’s last name. We probably won’t get a an answer until the press conference, but since I am from Alabama and have a slight drawl, I’m going with "Gawl-uh-way".

War Damn Eagle.

Can’t wait until spring.

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