Keith Carter Explains Reason For Retaining Ole Miss Baseball Coach Mike Bianco

Keith Carter made it clear as to why Mike Bianco would be back in Oxford with the Ole Miss Rebels in 2024.
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco (5) shouts to his players during the Governor's Cup game against Mississippi State at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss., Tuesday, April 25, 2023.

Tcl Ole Miss Vs Msu
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco (5) shouts to his players during the Governor's Cup game against Mississippi State at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss., Tuesday, April 25, 2023. Tcl Ole Miss Vs Msu / Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger / USA

Why did Keith Carter elect to retain Mike Bianco as Ole Miss' head baseball coach after a third consecutive sub-.500 season? In short terms, he's earned it.

Bianco, who enters his 25th season with the Rebels, is two years removed from winning a national title after barely sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss had never won a College World Series before Bianco arrived.

After losing names like Tim Elko, Jacob Gonzalez and TJ McCants, regression was expected at Swayze Field.

"Coach B's had a great career with Ole Miss, built a lot of equity," Carter said during an alumni event earlier this week. "I felt like he needed another year at least to try to fix it. We know next year's going to be a huge year."

No one is downplaying the unsettling feeling around the ball club. The Rebels are used to being a legitimate threat to compete for the SEC championship each season and haven't even sniffed past the first round in Hoover, Ala.

Last month, the Rebels missed out on another postseason bid after being walked-off against Mississippi State during the first round of the tournament. Carter is hoping changes to the staff will suffice as a middle ground in the Bianco era.

"We are out in the market right now looking for a pitching coach, and I think that's going to be a really cool addition," Carter said. "It's really changing with the times, allowing Coach B to be more of a manager. Allow the pitching coach to really handle the pitchers.

"That's a big responsibility. You think about a roster of 40 or so, over half of those are pitchers, so you're spending a lot of time with those."

Jun 20, 2022; Omaha, NE, USA;  Ole Miss Rebels head coach Mike Bianco (5) greets a fan before the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Charles Schwab Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 20, 2022; Omaha, NE, USA; Ole Miss Rebels head coach Mike Bianco (5) greets a fan before the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Charles Schwab Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports / Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Bianco won't be in charge of the pitching staff anymore. Catchers might be known for their ability to call games, but the Rebels' pitching has been underwhelming at best since defeating Oklahoma in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

Last season, the Rebels finished with the third-worst team ERA in the SEC at 5.88. The year prior, their 6.40 ERA ranked 12th in the conference.

Bianco made it clear following the walk-off in Hoover he wanted to keep coaching in 2025. Firing him would have been costly to the athletic department, as his new contract brings him in an annual salary of 1.6 million.

The Rebels have the money to move off Bianco, but it doesn't mean they have to. Right now, Ole Miss is looking into upgrading Swayze Field, though those conversations have been put on pause for the time being.

With the NCAA now allowing schools to partake in revenue sharing with players, schools are set to distribute up to about $20 million annually to their athletes. Power Five programs will also collectively owe 24% of $2.8 billion in damages to former and current athletes, should an agreed court settlement receive approval from a judge.

The uncertainty around the fiscal year in 2025 likely factored into Carter's decision to keep Bianco for next season. It doesn't have to factor in after next season's results, however, regardless of the outlook.


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Cole Thompson

COLE THOMPSON

Cole Thompson is a reporter and columnist covering the NFL and college sports for SI's Fan Nation. A 2016 graduate from The University of Alabama, follow him on Twitter @MrColeThompson