Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs dismissed baseball coach Sunny Golloway Sunday afternoon “with cause.”
In a short statement released by the university, Jacobs alluded to concerns about the “student-athlete experience” for members of the team.
The athletic department declined to elaborate on any specifics surrounding the dismissal two years into the coach’s five-year contract signed in 2013.
Former Auburn relief pitcher Jay Wade, who played two seasons under Golloway, described the manager’s approach as vastly different from the team’s pervious coach John Pawloski.
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“It was like going from cold water to hot water,” Wade said. “They were two totally different personalities.”
Golloway brought a gruff, no-nonsense approach to Auburn from Oklahoma where he led the Sooners to eight NCAA tournament appearances.
Wade said returning players needed some time to adjust to the way Golloway “stressed perfection,” and ran intense team practices.
“I don’t know if I would call it a personality conflict, but he wanted to bring the way he did things at Oklahoma to Auburn, and the SEC,” Wade said. “He had a very specific approach.”
Wade categorized his relationship with his former coach as “fair.” He pitched for Golloway his senior season, going 4-2 with a 3.28 ERA in 22 relief appearances. The Tigers went 28-28, and didn’t qualify for the SEC tournament.
The right-hander respected his former coach, but didn’t always understand Golloway’s style, specifically referencing the manager’s fixation on Omaha.
“Everybody wanted to go to the College World Series, but on his first day he mentioned Omaha,” Wade said, referencing where the College World Series takes place. “There wasn’t a practice we didn’t hear it 10 times. It was always our goal, but it was just different to hear that all the time.”
Last year, there were reports that Golloway was under an internal investigation by the school for mistreatment of players, a charge that alleged verbal abuse.
Golloway’s conduct never crossed that line for Wade.
“I would say it (his language) was eye-opening,” Wade said. “It was just something to adjust to.”
Wade was “shocked” when he heard the news Sunday, and immediately thought of his former teammates who started fall practice this past week.
“Guys are scrimmaging right now, and it’s a different time of year that’s not as stressful, but it’s when guys are starting to get into that mindset,” Wade said. “Young guys especially are trying to get comfortable, and they look to the coach.”
The timing of the announcement will present unique challenges for this year’s team, but Wade said anytime a baseball team loses a coach, the leadership on the team is what’s important.
“It will definitely be different for the guys,” Wade said. “They have to just come together. Guys have to look to the teammates on their left, and guys on the right, and just make sure they are moving forward.”