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From NSU to the SEC: Former Northwestern State Demon baseball skippers find success in the Southeastern Conference
Jun 01, 2013 | 300 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn (center) coached the Demons to two Southland Conference regular season titles in three years. After leaving NSU, he has made the College World Series five times with Nebraska and Arkansas.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn (center) coached the Demons to two Southland Conference regular season titles in three years. After leaving NSU, he has made the College World Series five times with Nebraska and Arkansas.
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Former Alabama coach Jim Wells began the trend of Northwestern St. managers to move on to the SEC. Wells coached the Demons from 1990 to 1994 and led them to a 192-89 record.
Former Alabama coach Jim Wells began the trend of Northwestern St. managers to move on to the SEC. Wells coached the Demons from 1990 to 1994 and led them to a 192-89 record.
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Mississippi State head coach John Cohen (center) guided NSU to two conference titles before coaching Kentucky and Mississippi State to SEC success.
Mississippi State head coach John Cohen (center) guided NSU to two conference titles before coaching Kentucky and Mississippi State to SEC success.
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It’s not new news to those familiar with the Northwestern State Demon baseball program, or college baseball experts, but the remarkable ties between NSU’s program and national powers in the Southeastern Conference have gotten wide notice this week.

Frequently during network television coverage of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, Ala., on Cox Sports Television, Fox Sports South and ESPN, announcers have mentioned the NSU connection and graphics have been showcasing the coaches who share NSU and SEC history.

One graphic, featuring the NSU logo, was entitled “COACHING CRADLE,” “Northwestern State to the SEC” listed the coaches and their SEC head coaching posts: Jim Wells, Alabama; Mike Bianco, Ole Miss; Dave Van Horn, Arkansas; Rob Childress, Texas A&M; John Cohen, Kentucky and Mississippi State; and Mitch Gaspard, Alabama.

Wells, an NSU alumnus, was the Demons’ head coach from 1990-94 and then Alabama coach through his retirement in 2009. Gaspard, a Wells assistant at NSU in 1993-94 and at Alabama from 1995-2001, was NSU head coach from 2002-07, then returned to Alabama as Wells’ assistant and was promoted to replace him. Bianco was a Wells assistant in 1991-92.

Van Horn ran the Demon baseball program from 1995-97 with Childress as his pitching coach. They left to go to Nebraska, then Van Horn was hired at his alma mater, Arkansas, and Childress became the Aggies head coach shortly afterward.

Cohen followed Van Horn at NSU and was the Demons’ coach from 1998-2001. He moved to Florida as an assistant for two years, then got the Kentucky job and five years ago returned to his alma mater, Mississippi State.

Additionally, two former Demon baseball staffers are third base coaches. Andy Sawyers handles that role for Childress at A&M. He was at NSU from 1995-97. Bobby Barbier, an Academic All-America first baseman for the Demons in 2004, coached under Gaspard at NSU and now at Alabama.

The current NSU head coach, Lane Burroughs, was a Cohen assistant for his first four years at Mississippi State, helping recruit virtually all of the players who have the Bulldogs ranked 10th nationally and unbeaten going into Saturday’s play in the SEC Tournament. Burroughs helped last year’s Bulldogs win the SEC Tournament before he was hired in June as the Demons’ head coach.

He has already signed a noteworthy 2014 recruiting class for NSU that could earn the Demons some notice in national recruiting rankings, experts say.
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