Multiple sources told the Journal-World on Tuesday that Central Michigan baseball coach Jordan Bischel was in Lawrence and on KU’s campus, presumably to interview for the open Kansas baseball job.
Bischel, who turned 41 on June 2, just completed his fourth season in charge of the Chippewas and, in his first three seasons, reached two NCAA regionals.
He won 47 games in Year 1 in 2019 and finished first in the Mid-American Conference with a 22-5 record. Like the rest of the world, he had the 2020 season wiped out by COVID-19. And, in 2021, he won 42 games with a 30-9 record in the MAC and another first-place finish and NCAA regional appearance.
This season, the Chippewas finished 38-16 overall and second in the conference at 30-7.
Bischel is also a two-time MAC Coach of the Year and his 2022 team was ranked 16th in the preseason by Collegiate Baseball.
Prior to his stint at CMU, he coached four seasons at Northwood, where he reached two NCAA DII regionals and finished first in the conference twice and third in the conference twice.
He owns an overall record of 275-130 in nine full seasons as a head coach, including a two-year stop at NAIA Midland in 2013 and 2014. Prior to that, from 2010-12, he was an assistant coach at nearby Northwest Missouri State.
Other than the age — and younger is in no way a bad thing here — there seem to be a lot of similarities between Bishcel and Kansas football coach Lance Leipold. Both are grinders, who have paid their dues at smaller schools, know how to work hard and value substance over style.
In addition to that, Bischel was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and played college baseball at St. Norbert College, in De Pere, Wisconsin, where he was a first baseman and pitcher and then started his coaching career as an assistant.
From what I’ve been able to gather, Bischel is very well liked by his players and brings a lot of energy to the field with him.
According to his bio on the CMU website, “the cornerstones of Bischel’s formula of success are strong starting pitching and an offense fueled by a high on-base percentage, moving runners, wearing down opposing pitching, and taking full advantage of scoring opportunities.”
The 2021 Chippewas ranked fourth in the nation in walks with 340, were sixth in on-base percentage at .415, were 28th with 408 runs, were third with 55 sacrifice bunts, and ranked 29th with 79 stolen bases.
CMU’s 3.71 team earned run average was 17th in the nation and Chippewa pitching finished 37th nationally in hits allowed per nine innings at 8.09.
Bischel is one of a handful of people — head coaches and assistants — who have been on KU's radar during the current baseball search, which is likely to continue with more in-person interviews throughout the week.
The Kansas baseball coaching search continues to make its way toward a resolution, but, as of Monday afternoon, sources told the Journal-World that no finalists had been formally identified and the timeline for a hire remained up in the air.
After several Zoom interviews last week, the long list of applicants has been cut down to a more manageable number and it appears as if KU’s internal search committee is now preparing to invite candidates to campus for in-person interviews.
Those are expected to begin this week, and sources with knowledge of the search told the Journal-World that the goal remains to have a new coach in place well ahead of the July 1 transfer portal deadline for spring sports athletes.
While going through the process of hiring Kansas football coach Lance Leipold in the spring of 2021, KU Athletic Director Travis Goff showed his ability to manage that type of timeline. He knew then that he needed to get a new football coach hired as quickly as possible to ensure that the program entered summer workouts on solid footing. There’s no reason to think that Goff won’t follow a similar path here, therein giving KU’s new baseball coach at least a week — if not longer — to work through whatever transfer portal efforts are needed, be it with returning players or new talent.
With NCAA regionals, super regionals and the upcoming College World Series taking place throughout the search thus far, it has not been lost on anyone on either side how important the Zoom element has been in the hiring process.
With that said, it seems as if there still no substitute for face-to-face interviews, which significantly benefit both parties.
The only new names that landed on my radar during the past few days are KU pitching coach Ryan Graves, who did receive a formal interview, and Ole Miss assistant coach Mike Clement.
I can’t see Graves getting the job, but he absolutely deserved the chance to interview for it. Clement is another quality candidate, but he is most interesting because a couple of sources told me they wondered about Clement because of the timing, with Ole Miss scheduled to play in the College World Series, which opens Friday in Omaha, Nebraska.
The other names on the list are names that have been there from the beginning. A couple of different sources said Monday that they got the feeling that Goff and company are prioritizing hiring someone with head coaching experience. The more I’ve talked to people and the more I’ve compared this to Leipold — a veteran with a reputation as a program builder — the more that makes sense.
If that’s the case, that would put current head coaches Jordan Bischel (Central Michigan), Lane Burroughs (Louisiana Tech) and Rob Vaughn (Maryland), along with longtime former Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress, in a tier by themselves.
I haven't heard whether anyone involved in the search feels strongly about one candidate over another, but, with head coaching jobs open at Baylor, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and USC, KU landing a sitting head coach from that list would be a nod to the way the search was conducted and demonstrate the value KU, as a whole, carries on the national stage.
That’s not to say assistants like Nate Thompson (Arkansas) and Justin Seely (Oklahoma State) are out of it, but the guess here is that the job will go to a head coach and I still think the end of the week is realistic for some kind of announcement.
People familiar with KU’s search, even before the Zoom interviews began, said it was clear that the search committee had done enough research and vetting on the front end — another shared trait of the search to find Leipold — to be able to move quickly when it reached this point in the search.
Don’t overlook Omaha’s close proximity to Lawrence, should KU officials need to make a quick trip up there. And don’t think for a second that announcing the hire just before or during the College World Series wouldn’t be good for business. Talk about maximizing your exposure.
The University of Kansas will have a new head baseball coach in a matter of days.
The guess here is that we’ll know his name by the end of next week, perhaps earlier. This much we know already, though. Before KU’s new coach hosts his first team meeting or fills out a single lineup card, he already will have had a major impact on the Kansas baseball program.
He’ll have brought it together.
Don’t get me wrong, the 2023 KU roster is going to look different — think transfer portal — the philosophy and approach is likely to change — think more local recruiting — and building the program into a consistent winner will not happen overnight.
But the program appears to be moving forward with a serious injection of support. And we’re not just talking about the backing of the KU athletic administration, which is positioned to make a strong hire and may be in that spot because of a possible willingness to pay well above what former head coach Ritch Price was making.
For the first time that I can remember, players from all kinds of eras of Kansas baseball have really rallied around the program during the past couple of weeks. Credit KU AD Travis Goff for some of that. His approach to hiring coaches — across all sports, high-profile or low — is all-inclusive and seeks input from anybody connected who is willing to give it.
But Goff only deserves part of the credit here. The former players themselves deserve the rest. They’re a proud bunch. Most of them didn’t really win much at KU. But they all enjoyed their experiences and laid it on the line for the program, the school and their teammates every time they took the field.
Most often they were overmatched. Rarely did they care. And now that the program has reached the point where it can make a key hire that can reset the path of Kansas baseball for the foreseeable future, many of them are stepping up and doing what they can to be involved.
Some of that has been through conversation and consultation. Some has been financial. And some has been by simply showing they care and that the program matters.
You know the saying about keeping one’s ear to the ground to feel and hear if any footsteps — animal or human — were approaching in the distance? This is like that, only, with as many ears as the KU baseball family has to the ground right now, they’d know if a cotton ball hit the turf in California.
Most of the input from many of these guys is both consistent and trivial. As was the case with the football search for Lance Leipold, KU has an internal search committee in place and is getting assistance from outside sources to help things run smoothly and quickly. They’ll be the ones who make the final decision, not a bunch of former players.
But the interest and insight from these former Jayhawks has shown the KU administration that a bunch of people care whether they get this one right. Baseball will never be a big revenue sport, but there are enough people out there who need and want it to be more than an afterthought.
Feeling that, you’d have to think, will both raise the stakes and provide a shot of adrenaline for those making the hire.
The search has reached a new phase and things could start moving even more quickly from here. It sounds as if Zoom interviews — maybe a dozen or so — will be conducted sometime this week, with the goal being to narrow things down to a final list early next week. I’d bet on the final group having three names in it. Those candidates, I presume, would then be brought in for in-person interviews.
I heard more than 100 applicants threw their name in the ring. One person told me it might’ve even reached as high as 150. And it sounds as if KU’s search committee took a serious look at each and every application it received.
While there surely were some easy thanks-but-no-thanks names in the pile, there also were, and are, some pretty impressive resumés in it, too. At this point, I think every type of background you could imagine is still in the mix — Power 5 head coaches, mid-major up-and-comers, longtime assistants and more.
As things stand right now, I still feel like this has a power coach kind of feel to it, with Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn, longtime Texas A&M head coach and current Nebraska assistant Rob Childress and Louisiana Tech head coach Lane Burroughs firmly in the mix and possibly among the leading candidates.
But there are definitely a couple of assistants and mid-major coaches who are very much still alive, and I don’t get the sense that these Zoom interviews are in any way just a formality.
It’s now been two weeks since Kansas baseball coach Ritch Price announced his retirement, and while things have been mostly quiet on the search to replace him, the process is underway.
Here are a few thoughts as KU moves into Week 3 of the post-Price era.
• As of late last week, I don’t believe any candidates had been formally interviewed just yet. But I think that’s probably coming very soon.
• If you weren’t careful, you might think you were watching a replay of the search that found KU football coach Lance Leipold. As expected, KU AD Travis Goff has gone about this search in a very similar way, starting with internal conversations and evaluation followed by conversations with former players. I heard a recent conference call of former KU baseball players included around 40 people, all of them with sincere interest in helping Goff determine exactly what the program needs from its next coach.
• From the sound of things, the interest KU has received from potential candidates has been very encouraging.
• A couple of new names worth adding to the candidate pool include Lousiana Tech head coach Lane Burroughs, whose team was just eliminated from the postseaon on Sunday; Duke assistant coach Josh Jordan; and Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn. There may be others, too. These were just a few names I heard in the past week or so that may be in the mix. Many of the names on our initial list from two weeks ago have either expressed interest in the job or been a part of the conversations about what the program needs.
• My guess is this thing will be wrapped up in the next couple of weeks. The fact that the college season is ending for a lot of programs — with the College World Series set to begin next Thursday — likely will open up the pool a little more and make interviews and contact easier for people on both sides. Beyond that, I would imagine KU wants to move as quickly as possible here because the next coach, whoever it is, is going to have to hit the transfer portal to make sure his first team includes a full roster. The deadline for spring sports athletes to enter the portal in order to transfer before next season is July 1.
It’s been a rough couple of years for the Kansas baseball program, which lost its final game of the season over the weekend and saw longtime head coach Ritch Price announce his retirement on Sunday.
But even with those challenges rising to the forefront, one could argue that the program is currently in the best position it’s been in in a while.
The reason? Because the man who will hire Price’s replacement — second-year KU AD Travis Goff — already has shown he knows how to handle these types of things.
Don’t get me wrong; we don’t yet know whether KU football coach Lance Leipold will be the guy who gets the Jayhawks back on track. But all signs point to Leipold being the right fit and starting down the right path.
One of the biggest reasons Goff found Leipold when he went searching for KU’s next football coach last spring was because he picked up the phone and called the right people when starting his search. More importantly, he listened to what they had to say. That led him to Leipold. And there’s no reason to think Goff will not take the same approach when looking to hire Price’s replacement.
Like Kansas football, the KU baseball program needs a serious shot in the arm. Winning has been tough. The facilities need to be upgraded. And getting people to care again is critically important and also figures to be an incredible challenge. Beyond that, there are some inherent obstacles to having success at Hoglund Ballpark that are different from those KU’s football program faces but equally as difficult to navigate.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look at a few names of potential Price replacements that Goff might be given when he makes those phone calls to former Kansas baseball players and coaches who still care a great deal about the program’s success.
• Rob Childress, Director of Player Development at Nebraska
Let’s start here with this one. When I asked around about the job on Sunday night, I was told by a couple of different people that Childress would not just be a home run hire for Kansas but “a (expletive) grand slam.”
The 53-year-old may not have the most eye-popping title today, but his resume sure does. After serving as an assistant at Nebraska under Dave Van Horn, who got the Cornhuskers program going again, Childress was hired to be Texas A&M’s head coach in 2006. He was there until 2021, when a new AD inexplicably asked him to leave. Think of this as what happened to football coach Frank Solich at Nebraska.
All Childress did during those 16 seasons in charge of the Aggies was go to two College World Series, make it to 13 consecutive NCAA regionals — including six trips to a Super Regional — and finish at or near the top of both the Big 12 and SEC standings on multiple occasions.
He’s had opportunities to be a head coach again since leaving A&M, but he seems to be waiting for the right one. Could the chance to jump back into the Big 12 be enough to entice him? It’s certainly worth finding out.
• Kyle Crookes, Central Missouri head coach
Now in his eighth season at UCM, after two seasons as the program’s top assistant, Crookes has racked up a record of 302-108 at Central Missouri, including a 46-9 mark this season.
He has led the Mules to three MIAA regular season and four MIAA Tournament championships and three NCAA Central Region crowns. In 2021, he led the Mules to a runner-up finish at the 2021 NCAA-II College World Series.
Prior to joining Central Missouri, he served eight seasons as the head coach at Hutchinson Community College. He recorded a 292-164 overall record in eight seasons leading the Blue Dragons. His teams won or shared three Jayhawk League West championships, won two Region VI crowns, and made two trips to the NJCAA World Series, including a third-place finish at the 2010 World Series.
Crookes is a 1999 graduate of Centenary.
• Nate Thompson, Assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Arkansas
A native of Goodland, with a master’s degree from Fort Hays State, Thompson’s Kansas connections are significant.
So is his record as a baseball coach. With stops as a volunteer assistant at Nebraska, a full-time assistant at Hutchinson Community College and the head coach at Missouri State, Thompson, 39, has enjoyed a rapid rise to a big role with a major college baseball program.
During the past four seasons, he has been in charge of Arkansas’ offense and, from 2018-20, his Razorback hitters led the SEC in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, weighted on-base average, on-base plus slugging percentage, runs, homers, extra-base hits, runs batted in, total bases and sacrifice flies.
• Kevin Hooper, Atlanta Braves Minor League director of player development for position players
You can’t talk about baseball in Lawrence, Kansas without mentioning Hooper.
The Lawrence native who starred at Lawrence High and later with Wichita State, is one of the greatest baseball players to ever come out of Lawrence.
He was originally drafted in the 49th round of the 1998 MLB draft by Cleveland but did not sign and was drafted in the eighth round in the 1999 draft by the Florida Marlins. From there, he played with five different Major League organizations, including the Detroit Tigers, who called him up to the big leagues for parts of the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
He then went on to play for the Wichita Wingnuts, which named him team MVP in 2008 and later named him the team’s manager.
Beyond that, Hooper, 45, already has shown interest in returning to college to coach. He was in the mix for the WSU job in both 2013 and 2019. In 2013, the Shockers hired someone with proven college experience. In 2019, they hired a former pro but not Hooper.
More important than his baseball success stories, however, is the fact that Hooper’s a winner. He has won everywhere he has been, he has overcome all kinds of adversity and people telling him he couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that and has proven the doubters wrong at every step.
If KU were to go this direction, there would be doubters. After all, Hooper has not recruited at the college level and would need to surround himself with quality assistants who know that grind and know the college game inside and out.
But Hooper loves being doubted and he’s smart enough to do whatever is needed. Beyond that, building the Wingnuts’ roster year after year was like recruiting and he’s always been viewed as a great leader who guys love playing for.
• Reggie Christiansen, Sacramento State head coach
Let’s move quickly into a few names with KU ties and it starts with Christiansen.
Although he hails from California and did not play at KU, he was a Price assistant in 2003 and 2004. He then went to South Dakota State, where he won 96 games over four seasons before moving on to Sacramento State in 2011.
Interestingly enough, it was his departure at SDSU that cleared the way for Ritchie Price to take over the Jackrabbits program before joining his father at Kansas.
In 11 seasons at Sacramento State, Christiansen, 46, has won 368 games and finished fourth or better in the WAC nine times. That includes three trips to NCAA regionals in 2014, 2017 and 2019.
• Shane Wedd, Sam Houston State assistant
Wedd, 44, is one of the few former KU players currently coaching college baseball.
A catcher and designated hitter at Kansas from 1997-2000, Wedd is also a Lawrence native who grew up bleeding crimson and blue.
His path in coaching has taken him on a journey in and out of the state of Kansas, starting as both the director of baseball operations and general manager of the Kansas City Sluggers youth organization under former KU coach Dave Bingham to a stop in the Jayhawk League at Pratt Community College.
From there, he went to North Central Texas College, where he was an assistant from 2012-14 and the head coach in 2017.
After that, he made the jump to Division I with Sam Houston State, where he started out as a volunteer assistant in 2018, moved to director of ops in 2019 and has been a full-time assistant coach for the past three seasons.
Despite being in Texas for the past decade, Wedd has stayed in close contact with the KU program and cares about it as much as anyone. Even if he’s not a finalist for the job, he’d be a smart person to connect with during the search.
• Ryan Schmidt, Hutchinson CC head coach
Another former KU player, Schmidt pitched at Kansas from 1999-2000 after starting his playing career at Barton Community College.
A native of Valley Center, Schmidt won 107 games in five seasons as the head coach at Pratt Community College before being hired by Hutch in 2013.
During his 10 seasons leading the Blue Dragons, Schmidt has racked up 356 wins, which included three seasons of 40 or more wins and two more of 39.
Schmidt has produced 51 All-KJCCC players, 20 All-Region VI Players and 65 total players to four-year programs, including 58 to Division I. Schmidt has also produced eight Dragon players to be drafted or sign undrafted free-agent contracts into professional baseball.
Before Pratt, Schmidt served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Barton Community College from 2004-07. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach and intern for the entire athletic department at Fort Hays State University from 2002-04. Schmidt graduated from KU in 2000 with a degree in secondary education and earned his master’s degree in sports administration at Wichita State in 2003.