NORMAN — Following the announcement that he'd accepted Auburn's head baseball coaching position, Sunny Golloway answered several farewell tweets late Friday night and early Saturday morning.
One Oklahoma fan asked Golloway for one last “Boomer Sooner.”
“Boomer Sooner program will do great!” Golloway responded.
Indeed, Golloway leaves the Oklahoma baseball program in good shape — much better shape than he received it in — and his old job will be an intriguing one for coaches around the country.
Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione indicated in a news release Friday evening that a national search for Golloway's replacement was already underway, and early speculation in the college baseball community largely centers around Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner.
Arkansas associate head coach Todd Butler, who played at Oklahoma in the late 1980s, was also considered a strong contender for the OU job, but a source told the Wichita Eagle that Butler accepted Wichita State's vacant head coaching position Saturday.
Heefner became Dallas Baptist's head coach in 2007, and quickly led the Patriots to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in his inaugural season. DBU has appeared in three NCAA Tournaments under Heefner, who has tallied a 216-123 record.
Oklahoma has gotten an up-close look at Heefner's teams over the past several years, and it hasn't always been pretty for the Sooners.
Dallas Baptist has beaten Oklahoma in five straight matchups, including a 2-0 Patriots' win April 30 and a 3-2, 10-inning victory in the 2011 Fort Worth Regional, which Dallas Baptist eventually won to advance to its only Super Regional appearance in school history.
Heefner interviewed for the Wichita State job early last week, but removed his name from consideration.
Regardless of who Oklahoma ultimately hires, that coach will take over a strong program on solid ground, something that couldn't have been said for the OU squad Golloway inherited in 2005.
Under previous coach Larry Cochell, Oklahoma won the 1994 national title and made three College World Series appearances. But after the Big 12 Conference was formed, the Sooners struggled to remain on that elite level.
From 2001 through 2004 — Cochell's last four full seasons — Oklahoma never reached 40 wins, and finished two of those seasons with losing records.
The Sooners were reeling through another rough season — 23-20 overall, 7-11 in Big 12 play — when Cochell resigned amid controversy over racially insensitive comments.
Golloway took over as interim coach and led the Sooners to a strong finish that included an NCAA Tournament appearance.
But after the season, Castiglione introduced longtime Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson as Cochell's permanent replacement. Stephenson announced only hours later, though, that he would remain with the Shockers.
Three days later, Golloway's interim tag was lifted, and Oklahoma's baseball program began a steady climb back toward prominence.
The Sooners missed the NCAA Tournament just once during Golloway's tenure, and reached the 2010 College World Series.
During the 2013 season, OU won its first Big 12 Tournament title since 1997, finished with a 43-21 record — the program's fifth straight 40-win season — and reached the Baton Rouge Super Regional, where the Sooners lost to LSU last weekend.