ENID, Okla. —
Departing University of Oklahoma baseball coach Sunny Golloway had his critics despite an impressive 346-181-1 record in eight-plus seasons with the Sooners.
Tyson Seng wasn’t one of them.
“He treated me real well,’’ said Seng, who was a three-year letterman (2008, 2009 and 2011) for Golloway after making All-State with the Plainsmen. “We had a good relationship.’’
He remembers show understanding Golloway was when Seng chose to transfer to Northern Oklahoma College Tonkawa in the second semester of his true freshman year at OU to play basketball.
“He was real professional,’’ Seng said. “He said if you ever want to come back, let him know. Not a lot of coaches would have done that.’’
In fact, the baseball coaches worked a deal with the Sooner basketball staff for Seng to walk on the next fall. He walked on, but still was practicing baseball.
“I got to see what it was like to play two sports,’’ Seng said. “It just got to be too much with academics and practices. I thought about it and realized I would be spending more time practicing than playing.’’
Seng joked then pitching coach Tim Tadlock (now head coach at Texas Tech) was thinking the same thing. They wanted him to get basketball out of his system.
“They knew they would get me back on the field eventually,’’ Seng said. “It worked out for both of us.’’
Seng would have a career 3.86 ERA with the Sooners with 58 strikeouts in 77 innings. He hit .284 with three home runs and 21 RBI as a starting infielder as a redshirt freshman.
“He knows how to win,’’ said Seng of Golloway, who led the Sooners to their first conference postseason tournament championship in 16 years.
“He has his own special formula. Sometimes people don’t like it. He was hard on his players, but the one thing he did at both OU and ORU (Oral Roberts) is that he won. When you win, you have a good chance to go to other places. He figured out how to win.’’
Golloway had a 277-102 record in eight seasons at ORU from 1996-2003 after being an assistant at OU. He chose to return to OU as an assistant in 2004.
Golloway, of course, announced Friday he was taking the Auburn job.
“I was surprised he chose to leave,’’ Seng said. “He always acted like OU was his supreme job. Sometimes situations change. I don’t know. I knew he was happy when I played for him and he always liked the university. I didn’t see that coming.’’
Seng had a better understanding after reading Golloway would be making a reported $650,000 at Auburn, which dwarfed the $380,000 he was making at OU.
“Sometimes you have to do what’s best for your family,’’ Seng said. “He had success at the University of Oklahoma. It was time to move on.’’
Issue No. 2 was attendance.
Auburn was averaging 2,660 fans per game. The top five schools came from the SEC — 1. LSU, 10,811; 2. Arkansas, 8,251; 3. Mississippi, 7,840; 4. South Carolina, 7,385; and 5. Mississippi State, 7, 346. Texas A&M (4,478) and Florida (3,585) were ninth and 10th.
OU, on the other hand, wasn’t ranked in the top 48 (Virginia Tech was 48th at 1,329). OU ranked behind Texas, TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech among the Big 12.
This is with a team that had the No. 3 overall pick in the Major League draft (Jonathan Gray) and another in the top 60 (Dillon Overton).
OU hasn’t averaged more than 1,900 fans a game since 1999. It was the 11th straight year OU had finished outside the top 40 in attendance.
Auburn lists its top baseball crowds on its website. OU only lists its all-time top home crowd (4,544 against Texas on May 4, 1995).
Golloway told the Norman Transcript “it clearly is part of the equation. You clearly have a better home-field advantage with more people in the stands.’’
Baseball clearly played second fiddle to OU spring football during the season.
“OU is going to be a football school no matter what,’’ Seng said. “It was frustrating at times. During a big series, we always filled the place up, but mid-week games we didn’t. There should be more interest in Oklahoma baseball.’’
Seng said he didn’t know what the solution would be. Even Bill Veeck, baseball’s promoter deluxe, said winning is the best promotion at all to bring out crowds.
“I don’t know why they can’t draw,’’ Seng said. “It’s hard to figure out.
“ I’m sure one of the top priorities for a new coach would be getting the fans more involved.’’
The SEC Tigers play at Plainsman Park, a 4,096-seat facility which originally opened in 1950. The Sooners play at L. Dale Mitchell Park, which opened in 1982 and seats 3,180.
While fan attendance was an issue, OU’s program was still well-funded. In 2012, the last year figures have been reported to the U.S. Department of Education, the Sooners spent $808,135 on baseball. Auburn, according to the same report, spent $644,297.
Texas ($1,003,315) was the lone school to outspend the Sooners. Only three SEC schools (Arkansas, LSU and Florida) did
Media reports have Dallas Baptist’s Dan Heefner as the leading candidate, although OU has said it will conduct a nationwide search. Heefner is 5-0 career wise against OU.
“All I’m hearing is rumors right now,’’ Seng said. “I don’t know what direction they will go. My guess is they would try to do something like OSU did (hiring ex-Cowboy catcher Josh Holliday last year) and hire someone who is highly invested in the program. That may be a formula to get more people to watch.’’
Former Enid High star Ray Hayward, an All-American at OU as both a designated hitter and pitcher, would fit that category. He was fired as OU’s pitching coach in 2004.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see Ray back at OU,’’ Seng said. “He’s a great guy.’’
Seng, the pitching coach for the Enid Majors Connie Mack team, said he would be interested in a graduate assistant’s job with his alma mater.
“I defintiely would love to get involved with the University of Oklahoma again,’’ he said. “I’m not sure who is going to get the job, but it’s something to look into.’’
There will be other vacancies on the staff. Golloway told the Norman Transcript pitching coach Jack Giese and coordinator of baseball operations Ryan Gaines will likely join him at Auburn.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.