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June 14, 2013- -
AUBURN | Auburn's baseball program has spent the past 80 years providing up-and-coming coaches an opportunity to make their mark.
That changed today.
The Tigers on Saturday hired University of Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway to fill the vacancy created by John Pawlowski's dismissal last month. During his nine seasons as the Sooners' head coach, Golloway won 65 percent of his games and qualified for the NCAA Tournament eight times.
That run included four super regionals and a trip to the College World Series in 2010. He informed OU officials of his decision this afternoon after touring the Auburn campus earlier in the day.
"I'm really excited about this opportunity because I've always held the Auburn baseball program in very high regard," Golloway said. "The history of the Auburn program was a huge factor in making this decision. Secondly, the Southeastern Conference is the top baseball conference in America. Being able to compete in the SEC is a challenge that we look forward to. With our location, we are in a hotbed of talent. We will be able to hit the road recruiting right away, and we look forward to recruiting the best student-athletes to represent this outstanding university."
Golloway said he and his family were impressed with Auburn as soon as they arrived on campus for a visit with Jacobs on Friday.
"I had heard quite a bit about Jay and really wanted to meet him," Golloway said. "And right after I met him, I knew it was going to be a great fit. I think that's very important - who you're working with on a daily basis, the commitment to the student-athletes in your program, and making sure that everything is in place to pursue an opportunity to win championships. That's what we want to be about - we want to win championships."
Golloway, 55, has spent his entire career coaching in the state of Oklahoma. He was an OU assistant prior to taking the top job at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, where he went 335-156 in eight seasons. The Golden Eagles won consecutive conference titles and earned NCAA Tournament qualification during each of his final six years with the program.
He returned to OU as an assistant in 2003, but a twist of fate two years later allowed him to become the head coach. Larry Cochell, who hired Golloway away from ORU, was fired during the 2005 season for using racially insensitive language. Golloway was promoted to interim head coach and earned the job outright a month later.
The Sooners cracked the 40-win plateau during each of Golloway's nine seasons as head coach. He earned $385,000 per season with Oklahoma. Auburn paid Pawlowski $195,000 per season and currently owes him $449,000 as part of his buyout agreement.
With Auburn, Golloway finds himself facing a formidable yet feasible building project. The Tigers missed the NCAA tournament during four of Pawlowski's five seasons and haven't finished .500 in Southeastern Conference play since 2010.
Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs set out to land a big name. He accomplished that.
"The goal in this search was to find a proven winner who can put our baseball program in a position to compete for championships, and we found our man in Coach Golloway," Jacobs said. "His program at Oklahoma is one of only a handful nationally to have won 40 or more games each of the past five years, so his record speaks for itself. After having the chance to hear his vision for Auburn baseball, there is no doubt in my mind he has the tenacity, the passion and the drive to get our program back to a level that matches our strong baseball heritage."
Still, some significant resources exist.
Pawlowski's final signing class was unaffected by the First-Year Player Draft while several enticing player -- including outfielders Jackson Burgeen, Sam Gillikin and Rock Rucker along with senior catcher Blake Austin, senior shortstop and sophomore second baseman Jordan Ebert -- are expected to return for the 2014 season.
Golloway formally will be introduced as the Tigers' head coach Saturday morning at 11 a.m.