Monday, June 8, 2009

Mike Bianco: By the Numbers

After yet another frustrating loss in a Super Regional, there's a small but noisy faction of Rebel fans calling for the head of Mike Bianco on a platter. His Rebel clubs' postseason failures are being compared to the Bills and the Cubs, and, unfortuantely, both hold a certain degree of validity.

But you can't just dismiss what Bianco has accomplished in Oxford. When Don Kessinger took over the baseball program via his Good Ole Boy Network connections, he amassed a 185-153 (54.7%) record in 5 seasons. When Pat Harrison tried to build an SEC team out of California rejects, he put together a 116-107 (52%) record in 4 seasons. In 9 seasons, Mike Bianco is 365-203-1 (64.3%) and has actually moved ahead of Tom Swayze in winning percentage. He's taken a program that fans were apathetic towards (at best) and has turned it into a marketing machine for the university.

Only two SEC schools have won as consistently as the Rebels have in conference over the last 9 seasons. South Carolina and Ole Miss are the only schools in the SEC to be at .500 or better in conference play each of the last 7 seasons. Over Bianco's 9-year tenure, only LSU and South Carolina have compiled a better winning percentage in conference than Bianco's squads.

LSU: 156-110-3 (58.65%)
South Carolina: 154-115 (57.25%)
Ole Miss: 152-118 (56.30%)
Florida: 147-122-1 (54.65%)
Alabama: 145-124 (53.90%)
Georgia: 140-128-1 (52.24%)
Arkansas: 134-131 (50.57%)
Vanderbilt: 124-142 (46.62%)
Tennessee: 122-144 (45.86%)
msu: 119-144 (45.25%)
Auburn: 114-156 (42.22%)
Kentucky 97-170-1 (36.33%)

If you go look at only the last 5 seasons, only Alabama has won a higher percentage of their SEC games, and it's by just a fraction of a percentage point.

Alabama: 86-63 (57.72%)
Ole Miss: 86-64 (57.33%)
Florida: 81-69 (54.00%)
LSU: 81-67 (54.73%)
South Carolina: 80-70 (53.33%)
Vanderbilt: 78-70 (52.70%)
Arkansas: 77-71 (52.03%)
Georgia: 76-72 (51.35%)
Kentucky: 68-80 (45.95%)
Tennessee: 65-81 (44.52%)
msu: 58-87 (40.00%)
Auburn: 54-96 (36.00%)

All that's left for Bianco to do is get over the seemingly insurmountable hump of winning a second game in a Super Regional. His squads have shared the division title twice, won the SEC Tournament, and shared the overall SEC crown this year. I know everyone is frustrated with the repeated Super Regional failures, but you can't ignore what Bianco has meant to this program.

All that said, there's little to no reason for the Rebels to not have advanced to Omaha yet. While Bianco is an elite recruiter and ambassador for the university, flawed game day logic and decisions keep him (at least until now) from accurately being recognized as an elite coach. Whatever approach he takes in Super Regionals has not worked, then or now. Something needs to change - whether it's philosophy or assistant coaches or both - but not Bianco.

And to the ones calling for his head... who is he replaced with? Who has won with the consistency that Bianco has against the same level of competition? Some suggest former Bianco assistant Dan McDonnell, but there's no guarantee that he or anyone else brought in could match Bianco's wins.

So what does all this mean? It means that firing Bianco would set the program back, not move it forward. He has built a once moribund program into a consistent winner that has been on the precipice of greatness for several seasons now. If Evan Button doesn't shortarm that throw Saturday afternoon, this entire argument is moot. But that's the way baseball is. Bianco is going to get the Rebels to Omaha... it maybe 2010, maybe 2011, but he's won too consistently over an extended period of time to not catch a break. I just want him to do it in Oxford.

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