Be clear, Scott Barnes is technically the man charge of making the big baseball hire at Oregon State.
But he does not really have a choice.
The Beavers’ athletic director has launched a search for the next OSU baseball coach, written a letter to the fan base and assembled a small search committee, but he’s essentially in an administrative headlock.
Barnes has to promote Pat Bailey or Nate Yeskie from within to permanently replace Pat Casey.
That’s it. That’s the search.
Even as Barnes probably should at least consider going outside with the hire to explore the long-term success of the program, if he does it alienates the fan base. Also, the prevailing theory is that a chunk of Casey’s decision not to return was rooted in loyalty to his old staff. If Barnes dismisses the staff he would then be faced with working alongside a very pissed off Senior Associate Athletic Director.
I spoke with Barnes this week and he indicated Casey would “be right there in the middle of this in helping with the search.”
Might as well let Casey make it.
While most baseball searches at most major universities would feel like peripheral hires, given how things have dragged out and transpired at Oregon State, there are a lot of eyes on Barnes. Remember, last month, the AD voted for “no” on a proposal that would have added a third paid assistant for baseball and softball.
That initiative didn’t pass. But if it had, it might have opened the door for Casey to return without displacing any of his current assistants.
Barnes’ letter to the fans on Tuesday night announcing that Casey wouldn’t be back came with a curious footnote. There was no statement from the three-time national champion coach anywhere in it. Also no press release with a quote. I asked the OSU AD about that, and he waved it off.
“That was actually a letter from me to the fan base so that wouldn’t have had a quote in it,” Barnes said. “Pat will talk when he wants to talk. I don’t think there’s anything to read into any of it. But it would be an emotional time for any of us.”
Be sure, it is a tricky time for Barnes. He worked through the embarrassing and abrupt midseason departure of football coach Gary Andersen a couple of seasons ago and now faces another high-profile decision that looks messy. He has to get this hire right, but also, doesn’t really have true autonomy.
Said Barnes: “It’s a little like coming after John Wooden with what Pat’s left here.”
OSU posted the job and now has to follow state law, which requires state-funded schools to interview qualified minority candidates for top coaching positions. Barnes is saying most of the right things. He’s talking about continued success. But he also stumbled early by saying that pitching coach Nate Yeskie hadn’t expressed interest. Yeskie apparently was interested in interviewing for the position and has since met with Barnes.
Meanwhile, former OSU player Andrew Checketts (now at UC Santa Barbara) is a strong “outside” candidate and probably someone Barnes will want to talk with. But if you’re Checketts, would you want to interview if you think the job really is not open?
Casey’s silence is deafening, too.
It doesn’t help the optics on this for Barnes. Some believe Barnes, weary with the swirling uncertainty and beyond the June 1 deadline in Casey’s revised contract, may have pushed the coach into making the decision this week. Others on campus feel Casey should have been more seriously considered for the AD job a few years ago when Barnes was hired from Pitt. Oregon State president Dr. Edward Ray went outside on that hire.
These are tangled times in Corvallis, see?
The best-case scenario for Barnes is to promote Bailey or Yeskie after a short charade of a search and have it work out brilliantly with piles of victories. It not only pacifies the fan base, but also keeps Casey happy and makes the AD look like he got the hire right.
Just about anything else.