Athletic Director Keith Carter and Ole Miss has extended head baseball coach Mike Bianco’s contract by four years, the maximum allowed in the state of Mississippi, the school announced on Tuesday.
Bianco was named as head coach of the Rebel baseball program in 2000, has an overall record of 767–440–1 in his 20 seasons and has made the postseason in 16 of his 19 full seasons with six super regional appearances. After the team’s winning start in 2020, Bianco was named the National Coach of the Year for the first time in his career.
“This new contract is beneficial for Ole Miss and Mike, and there were productive negotiations to reach a deal that works well for both sides,” Carter said. “I look forward to Mike’s continued leadership in our program and to fully supporting him as we try to bring a national championship to Oxford.”
When former AD Ross Bjork left for Texas A&M in May of 2019, Carter took over in the interim. He made the decision not to roll over Bianco’s contract in June after Ole Miss lost to Arkansas in the NCAA Super Regional and failed to reach the College World Series. Bianco and the Rebels signed the nation’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class in 2016 and much of the signees came and went without advancing to Omaha.
“I felt like as an institution and as an athletic department that we just needed to pause on the extension there and put that on hold,” Carter said in June of 2019. “Maybe that puts us in a little bit better position as an athletic department and as an institution financially. I just wanted to make sure that we were making decisions that were fiscally responsible and the right decisions for our department.”
Carter’s decision meant that Bianco would coach the 2020 season with only one year remaining on his contract for the first (and only) time since 2014, when Ole Miss finished third in the College World Series.
After that Omaha birth, Bjork negotiated a four-year contract that was bonus-heavy in favor of Bianco. As goals were met, incentive premiums increased his salary without a super regional birth to show from 2015 to 2018. His salary was nearly $1.2 million in 2020.
According to Rebel Grove, the new contract between the two parties moves the bonus focus toward reaching super regionals and the College World Series.
Ole Miss began the 2020 season with an opening-day loss to No. 1 Louisville, but rattled off a dominant 16-game winning streak to take the series and finish the season as the hottest team in the nation. When the year came to an abrupt stop, the Rebels were hitting .294 and had already crushed 37 dingers.
There is no telling whether the 2020 team was ‘the one’ or if Bianco would have been able to coach a fast, powerful, fun team to the next level, but it certainly felt like all of the pieces were there to make a serious run for the national title. Bianco is not expected to see major turnover in his roster, outside of Tyler Keenan and Anthony Servideo heading to the big leagues, and will return the core of his lineup and all three weekend starters.
“Mike is one of the best baseball coaches in the nation, and this contract is intended to ensure he remains a Rebel for a long time,” Carter said. “Year in and year out, Mike has established Ole Miss as one of the premier programs in college baseball, and I don’t think there is a hotter team in the country heading into next season.”
An official announcement from the university came on Tuesday, but terms (bonuses, salary and buyout) have yet to be announced. Assuming the numbers add up and aren’t as outlandish as the contract Bjork presented, Carter is making the best decision based on the success of the 2020 year and the potential for 2021.
”Camie and I are very appreciative of the support from Chancellor Boyce, Keith, the IHL Board of Trustees and our Foundation Board of Directors,” Bianco said. “We’ve missed playing in front of the best fans in America, but we know the health and safety of everyone is more important than baseball. I look forward to getting back on the field with our guys at the appropriate time and building a 2021 team that will make Rebel Nation proud. Thank you for the opportunity to continue to lead Ole Miss Baseball.”