In an apparently emotional meeting today with the baseball coaches, Tom Osborne dismissed Mike Anderson and his staff after missing the Big XII Tournament for the third straight year. Anderson went 337-196-2 in nine seasons in Lincoln, with two Big XII titles and Nebraska's only College World Series victory.
My how things have changed. When Anderson took over for Dave Van Horn, the Huskers were among the elite teams in college baseball, playing in front of big crowds at Haymarket Park, and playing at home in an NCAA regional seemed to be the norm. But then pitching coach Rob Childress left for Texas A&M, and the program, quite frankly, hasn't been the same ever since.
This one is a tough call. Most folks who have dealt with Mike Anderson consider him a class act all the way around, and it's a sad day for him. That being said, the results are what they are, and I think it was clear that a change needed to be made. I'm not one to throw dirt onto the man, who should go out with some appreciation from Husker fans for getting the team to Omaha in 2005. Those weren't all Van Horn's players either; that was Anderson's third year in charge.
So who will replace Mike Anderson?The "clubhouse leader" that many seem to speculate on is Will Bolt, the former Husker shortstop who's now the coach at Texarkana College, a junior college. Prior to Texarkana, Bolt was an assistant at NU and then followed Childress to A&M. At Texarkana, Bolt's teams have made regular runs into the postseason.
I would expect Darin Erstad to get an interview at the very least. While he was dismissed from his position today, that was purely to clear the staff for the next coach to choose his own assistants. While his lack of background coaching might be viewed as a negative, Tony Gwynn was able to convert a long major league baseball career into a successful stint as a college head coach at San Diego State.
A wild card I'll throw out is Nebraska-Omaha head coach Bob Herold, who's led the Mavericks to seven NCAA tournament appearances (and one Division II College World Series berth) in 12 years. Herold had eight years of minor league managerial experience in Kansas City's minor league system.
Rob Childress might be interested in returning to Lincoln as well. Beergut with SB Nation's I am the 12th Man feels that Childress has to make it back to Omaha to keep his job. If that's any indication of what the typical Aggie fan is thinking, Childress might be happy to head somewhere where tying for a conference title would be considered an accomplishment rather than a failure.
If not Childress, perhaps assistant Andy Sawyers might also be interested. Sawyers was an assistant at Nebraska in 2000 and then 2003 through 2007.
One name that probably will get thrown out there is Virginia Coach Brian O'Connor. He's been an incredibly successful coach at Virginia, leading the Cavaliers to the NCAA tournament every season and making the College World Series in 2009. This season might be his best yet; they tied for the ACC regular season title. That raises the question why he'd leave a warmer-weather conference like the ACC for the B1G. Maybe Osborne can find the money. But there's also the pull of home; O'Connor was born in Omaha and grew up in Council Bluffs. But O'Connor is a Creighton alum, so wearing the Big Red of Nebraska may not be as attractive to him as Husker fans would hope. I think he's a longshot at best, and if he's a candidate, he likely won't be available to the Huskers for at least another month as long as Virginia's season is still going.
Another little aspect to keep in mind is Bubba Starling, the wunderkid football/baseball prospect who could possibly turn down first round major league money to play for the Huskers. Does Nebraska need to make a splashy hire to make it more enticing to Starling? ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman tweeted that part of the reason Starling chose Nebraska was because Notre Dame fired their baseball coach last summer. Starling won't change his mind because Anderson is gone, but whoever replaces Anderson may impact his eventual decision in August.