In a move that sent shock waves through the sport, Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon was fired Thursday morning amid a gambling investigation.
The news comes less than a week after ESPN reported that the Crimson Tide’s baseball games had been pulled from Ohio sportsbooks because of “suspicious wagering activity.” New Jersey and Pennsylvania followed suit.
Details about exactly what happened are still unknown, but Alabama released a statement that said Bohannon was being fired “for, among other things, violating the standards, duties, and responsibilities expected of University employees.”
Alabama won’t be making any further comments, citing an “ongoing review,” but The Athletic and D1Baseball are reporting that no players are believed to be involved. The Athletic is also reporting, citing two unnamed sources, that the decision to fire Bohannon was made after he was “found to be connected” with the aforementioned suspicious betting activity.
According to NOLA.com, red flags were triggered when a pair of large bets were made in Cincinnati involving Game 1 of last weekend’s Alabama-LSU series that was played in Baton Rouge. Both were on the Tigers, a heavy favorite as the No. 1 team in the country, to win the game.
Afterward, on May 1, Ohio gambling regulators issued an emergency order instructing the state’s sportsbooks to stop taking any bets on college games involving the Alabama baseball program. On May 3, sports gambling regulators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey also suspended bets on Alabama baseball.
ESPN later reported that surveillance showed the person who placed those bets was in communication with Bohannon at the time. It’s also worth noting that he and two other members of his staff are being sued by a former player alleging they mishandled his injury a few years ago.
Pitching coach Jason Jackson will serve as the interim head coach and more information will likely trickle out over the coming days and weeks, but it’s not too early to examine the potential ripple effects of the move.
Short-Term Impact on Arkansas Baseball
The immediate impact as it pertains to Arkansas baseball is minimal, but it isn’t nothing.
Alabama baseball had only a few hours to process the news of its head coach being fired before beginning a home series against Vanderbilt. On Thursday, the Crimson Tide rallied the troops and beat the Commodores 11-2.
It’s a critical weekend for the Crimson Tide, who are currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament, but are still hovering close to the bubble with a 10-12 SEC record. They’re third in the SEC West, but four games behind second-place Arkansas.
On the other side of that matchup, Vanderbilt is one of five teams currently vying for the top four seeds at the SEC Tournament, which receive a bye into the double-elimination portion of the event.
While LSU ends the year with a relative cakewalk, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, South Carolina and Florida each have comparable ends to the season from a strength of schedule perspective.
The Commodores, which entered the series leading the SEC East by 1.5 games, end the year with Florida and Arkansas, so this weekend’s series in Alabama was critical for them to pad their record a little bit. It’s not surprising that they won’t sweep Alabama, considering how hard road sweeps in the SEC are to come by. There have been only five in 49 series so far this season — so winning all three games would have been tough despite Brad Bohannon being fired.
Alabama Baseball an Unlikely Thorn in Hogs’ Side
From a more long-term perspective, Brad Bohannon was already on the hot seat because he had made the postseason just once in the four years the NCAA Tournament was held since being hired in 2018 and the Crimson Tide had never won more than 12 SEC games in a season.
If he had been able to coach out the rest of the season, though, there’s a good chance Alabama would have surpassed that total and made a regional, which may or may not have saved his job.
Despite those struggles, Bohannon’s teams have been an unlikely thorn in Arkansas’ side. Despite the programs consistently finishing on opposite ends of the SEC standings, the Razorbacks are just 7-6 against Alabama since 2019.
Four of those losses have been by double digits. The rest of the SEC has beaten Arkansas by 10-plus runs just twice over that span.
Included among those games was a 16-1 beatdown in the SEC opener during the Razorbacks’ historic 2021 season, last year’s 18-5 shellacking that kept them from winning a share of the SEC West and this year’s 12-1 loss in which the Crimson Tide punted out 22 hits — the most ever allowed during the Dave Van Horn era.
Of course, the lasting image of Bohannon that will be remembered by Arkansas baseball fans is him mocking the Hog Call after being ejected from Game 2 of this year’s series.
It was one of the more memorable blowups in recent memory, but Van Horn said later that Bohannon apologized the next day and he seemed to genuinely like the Alabama baseball coach — a point he reiterated when asked about his firing Thursday afternoon.
“I really like Brad,” Van Horn said. “I don’t know what’s going on there. I’m sure we’ll find out more throughout the day and the next few days. I feel bad for the players on the team. I feel bad for the coaches and fans. I don’t know what went on. I guess they’ve got something to be able to make that move pretty quick, so just a bad setup, bad situation.”
More coverage of Arkansas baseball from BoAS…