Sunny Golloway: Genius or Crazy Man?
Photo by Julia Bennett/al.com
New Auburn baseball coach Sunny Golloway seemed to win over the Auburn family last fall with a series of humorous videos that played on the Jumbotron during Tiger football games. Winning over his new team has not been so easy.
As AubTigerman reported last week, this is a squad that at least temporarily, is engulfed in turmoil. Following yesterday’s 12-5 win over Presbyterian, Golloway’s bunch sits at 6-5 overall.
Despite the slow start, Golloway reiterated last week his intentions to get this team to Omaha and the College World Series this season. With losses so far to Alabama A&M, East Tennessee St and Presbyterian, this is either an extreme case of coach speak or Galloway is insane.
There are some back in Oklahoma that would claim he’s the latter.
When he bolted to Auburn last year from Oklahoma, there was a flood of angry comments from current Oklahoma players and former Sooners alike. Most Auburn people at the time attributed it to sour grapes and gave it little thought.
Now a month into the season, similar comments are coming from Auburn players recently kicked off the team by the new coach.
In news that made headlines last week, three veteran players were released following a disastrous weekend of play, including senior Hunter Kelley, who shared his feelings afterwards with The Anniston Star.
“When I got in there (Golloway’s office),” Kelley said, “he just started off by saying, ‘Hunter, I don’t think you’ll be able to help this program this year. I just don’t think your attitude should be in this program.
“Me, of course, I was devastated. I didn’t know what he was talking about. It just kind of blew me away because, these are my brothers, and I’ve played ball all my life. I’ve never heard anybody tell me that.”
Cleaning house is nothing new in college athletics. We’ve seen it with Gus Malzahn and every coach before him. However, kicking three upper classman off the team following a weekend of bad play is rare, if not unprecedented in Auburn Athletics.
Golloway was quick to defend his decision.
“Players have to understand that we are just a part of something that is much greater than we are individually,” Golloway told AuburnTigers.com. “We are going to play for what is on the front of our jerseys and not on the back. Be proud of your name, but play for Auburn. Play the way we ask you to play.”
Success and controversy is nothing new to Golloway.
A winner of 40+ games in each of the last four seasons at Oklahoma, he appears to have burned more than a few bridges back in Norman. The most outspoken has been former Oklahoma All-American and former major league player Joe Simpson.
Speaking to The Oklahoman following Golloway’s departure last year, he said, “I’m so thrilled that he’s gone that they could hire a basset hound and it would be an improvement,” said Simpson, an Atlanta Braves broadcaster the past two decades.
“I haven’t had anything to do with the program since near the end of the Larry Cochell era. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it as long as Sunny Golloway was the head coach because I think he’s a sorry individual. I think he’s a bad guy. I want to thank Auburn University for taking him off our hands and getting him out of Norman.”
The question Auburn people must answer is what’s fact and what’s fiction. Eventually we’ll all know what kind of coach and more importantly, what kind of person Golloway is and whether he’s a fit for the University.
Athletic director Jay Jacobs strongly defended his new coach yesterday in a conversation with The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
“…the bottom line is what we had didn’t work,” said Jacobs. “I made the decision to change baseball coaches, so we’ve done that. The baseball coach that we had and the players that we had, both are a combination of the parts that didn’t work.
“So it’s Sunny’s job to make it work to get us back to Omaha, to winning SEC championships and playing in regionals and super regionals. Some people just aren’t meant for a certain system. That’s just how it is. Some students come to school here and they’re here for a few weeks and realize, ‘You know what? I shouldn’t have come here.
“…It’s just that what we’ve been doing in baseball hasn’t worked, so I’m 100 percent supportive of whatever Sunny thinks we need to do to get this baseball team to be competitive, because that’s what we owe our student-athletes. That’s what we owe that baseball team: A chance to win championships.”
It’s hard to argue with Jacobs thinking. There are two sides to every story and right now Golloway is doing it his way. Auburn knew what they were getting when they made the hire.
For now, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
At the end of the day, college athletics is a business. Auburn hired a baseball coach that wins – and he does it his way. If he duplicates the success he had at Oklahoma, all of this will be forgotten. If not, then it will continue to come up.
Right now, I’m betting on Sunny Golloway.