The University of Alabama baseball team was having its best season under sixth-year head coach Brad Bohannon. With a collection of experienced upperclassmen along with talented freshmen, the Crimson Tide began the season 14-0 and have continued to play solid baseball in the rugged Southeastern Conference. However, Brad Bohannan was just fired by the school. What led to the sudden exit? It’s a very interesting and complex situation.
If you read the news about Bohannon’s firing over the next couple of days, you’ll come to learn that there was “suspicious wagering activity” surrounding Alabama’s games against top-ranked LSU last weekend, leading to Ohio, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania halting all bets on the team’s games. More on that in a bit as it appears to be the crux of the matter at least from the outside.
However, there is another factor that might’ve led to Alabama’s decision to let Bohannon go. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article (recently published) detailing how Bohannon and other members of the Crimson Tide baseball staff were sued for alleged negligence, wantonness, and breach of agreement for the handling of an injury by a former player who is no longer a member of the program. You can read more about the lawsuit in the article, but it can’t be ignored when discussing Bohannon’s firing.
As it pertains to the suspicious betting, things definitely get interesting. On Monday night, an ESPN report surfaced that the state of Ohio was halting bets on Alabama baseball games, citing “suspicious betting activity” surrounding the Tide’s games against LSU over the weekend. The bets apparently originated in Cincinnati at Great American Ballpark, which triggered U.S. Integrity, a Las Vegas-based independent monitor which monitors gambling data to detect abnormalities and misuse of insider information to send a warning to all its clients after Friday night’s game. The chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, Ronnie Johns, told NOLA.com that one of the bets was a parlay involving the Bama-LSU game, and another was a “large” straight-up bet on the game.
As someone who follows college baseball closely, I was actually watching the Friday game live. To be completely honest, I didn’t notice anything unusual about the game itself. LSU’s starting pitcher was Paul Skenes, who projects to be the top pitcher selected in this year’s MLB Draft this summer. Throughout the season, he has consistently made opposing hitters look silly, so simply stating that Alabama hitters “weren’t trying” would be a gross misunderstanding. In addition, after falling behind early, the Crimson Tide rallied to nearly come back and win the game before losing 8-6.
Not to speculate too much, but the issue may have popped up with Alabama changing their starting pitcher shortly before Friday night’s ballgame. Crimson Tide pitcher Luke Holman was originally the probable starter, but according to Alabama’s game recap story, reliever Hagan Banks was told “an hour before” the first pitch that he would be starting in Holman’s place. How that information may have reached some parties before others could be the cause. Multiple sources confirmed to ESPN’s David Purdum that “sportsbook surveillance video indicated” that whoever made the flagged bet in Ohio’s Great American Ballpark was in contact with Bohannon.
The combination of the lawsuit and the betting probe apparently left Alabama no choice but to fire Bohannon. The school announced that athletic director Greg Byrne had "initiated the termination process" for Bohannon for "among other things, violating the standards, duties, and responsibilities expected of University employees.” While there’s still a lot more information that will likely surface about the betting situation and the lawsuit, all indications suggest that this is a for cause firing. Anyone who follows college sports knows that the Alabama athletic department has been under fire so far in 2023, and this only adds to their off-the-field/court issues.
Where things go from here is anyone’s guess. Pitching coach Jason Jackson, who was also named by the ex-player in the lawsuit, has been named interim head coach for the time being. The Crimson Tide project to be an NCAA Tournament team with three regular season weekends remaining, but how the team handles this news will be interesting to watch. Nonetheless, it’s a tough situation for everyone involved.
Brendan can be found on Twitter @_bbell55