Ole Miss baseball is going to Omaha, and that affects way too many people to make this about one person.
This evolving story line is pretty darn close to being about one man, however.
Mike Bianco is going to say the right things. He’s going to encourage his players in defeat, he’s going to show respect for his opponents in victory.
So as Bianco sat at the table for postgame interviews Monday night, minutes after his team defeated No. 6 national seed Louisiana Lafayette in a super regional, he brought as many people into the big tent as he could remember.
He talked about former players and current players. He talked about family, children he was able to share the moment with in person, another son on the phone. He talked about a father in the dugout, a mother in the hospital in Florida that he hoped to call soon.
He talked about the support of the administration.
And that’s what makes one man such a central focus of what’s going on right now.
Support from the administration – as for any coach in any sport in any big-time athletics program – comes with certain demands. They include in order: winning, winning and winning.
Being a solid citizen in the community and a representative of the university are important but less so than those first three obligations.
That definition of winning is worded differently at different places.
Bianco changed the definition at Ole Miss and created a situation where simply reaching the NCAA tournament was not enough. Most SEC teams do that.
Playing in back-to-back road regionals in 2012-13 after missing the NCAAs altogether in 2011 created uncertainty around Bianco’s long-term future as he began the 2014 season with two years remaining on his contract – just half of the four-year max allowed by state law.
That contract status will be addressed soon.
While leading Ole Miss baseball to a fan following not seen in the program’s history, Bianco also gained detractors along the way for getting the Rebels to Omaha’s doorstep but not into its living room.
The Rebels will try to win a national championship in the days ahead, and in doing so they will battle the “happy to be in Omaha” mentality.
Honestly, no program should be happier.
Why it’s taken so long for Ole Miss baseball to reach this level will remain a mystery.
For a time, the Rebels were quite possibly the nation’s most high-profile program without a recent visit.
If the Rebels play sloppy and go two-and-out, there will be a bad taste. Losing usually leaves that.
For now, a program – and one person in particular – can exhale and savor a very important achievement.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.