WICHITA, Kansas — Wichita State baseball coach Gene Stephenson took a look around Eck Stadium Saturday, wondering if it could have been his final appearance in a place he literally built from the ground up.
“I have no idea. This may have been our last home game. I’ve had no conversations with anybody.”
Stephenson’s contract expires at the end of the next season and he has yet to be offered an extension, leaving him with an uncertain future.
“If they think they can find better, they have that right to do so,” Stephenson said. “I’m not concerned about it. I’m just going to play.”
Earlier this week, Wichita State athletic director Eric Sexton said he wouldn’t address Stephenson’s future or the possibility of a buyout, other than to say all coaches are evaluated after the season.
In 36 seasons, Stephenson has led Wichita State to 7 College World Series appearances, including winning the national championship in 1989. He is the second winningest active coach in college baseball.
But in recent seasons, Stephenson’s teams have struggled to measure up to past standards. After finishing second in the Missouri Valley this season, the Shockers will have to win next week’s conference tournament in Normal, Illinois to avoid missing an NCAA regional for a fourth consecutive year.
“We’re confident we’re playing as well as we can with the players we have. There’s been some disappointing times this year,” Stephenson said.
When Gene Stephenson began coaching at Wichita State in 1978, he started with nothing; no program, no players, no stadium. On Saturday, after the Shockers defeated Northwestern to complete the regular season schedule, the 67-year old coach seemed almost wistful, even a little emotional as he pondered the possibility of this being his final game at Eck Stadium.
“Look around here. It’s changed a lot over 30 years. So, we’ll see you. Thank you.”
Then Gene Stephenson walked back to the dugout and started picking up the bats.