Seventeen days after Notre Dame’s baseball season ended short of an NCAA Tournament berth for the 12th time in 13 years, Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick is hitting the reset button.
Saturday morning the school announced Mik Aoki’s nine-year run as the Irish coach is over, specifically that the 50-year-old’s contract would not be renewed for the 2020 season. A national search for the 21st coach in program history has begun.
“I’m grateful to have worked with Mik over the last decade during our transition to the ACC,” said Swarbrick in a statement. “He has been a great representative of this university and its athletics program, and his passion for the student-athletes and our community over his tenure were evident to everyone he met.
“We wish Mik and his family nothing but the best as he continues his coaching career.”
Should Aoki’s next stop be a college head baseball coach, he’ll resume with a 458-516-2 career record. His mark with the Irish was 248-253-1 (.495), including 24-30 this past season and 13-17 in ACC play in 2019.
In Aoki’s first three seasons as ND’s head coach, the Irish played in the Big East. The last six were spent in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. ND finished seventh or lower in all three Big East seasons, and only once finished higher than sixth in the seven-team Atlantic Division of the ACC under Aoki.
That was 2015, when the Irish were the Atlantic runners-up, made the NCAA Tournament field and bowed out in regional play with a 1-2 mark.
“My family and I are disappointed that the Notre Dame chapter of our lives has come to a close,” Aoki said in a statement, “but we are looking forward to what comes next.”
More intriguing is what comes next for Notre Dame in terms of expectations.
In a 15-year run between 1992 and 2006, the last 12 of those under Paul Mainieri, the Irish made the NCAA tournament 12 times. That included a fifth-place finish in the 2002 College World Series, just the second time in school history ND made an appearance in the CWS.
In the three years that ND didn’t receive a tourney bid, the Irish were a combined 122-57.
Mainieri left for LSU in 2007, and won the national title in year three. He has taken the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in the past eight seasons, and they remain alive in super regional play this weekend.
Also still playing are two of Notre Dame’s academic peers, Vanderbilt and Stanford. Geographically similar Michigan is also in college baseball’s Sweet 16, and Indiana was in the NCAA Tournament and had 10 players drafted earlier this week.
The Irish had two drafted this week and 26 during Aoki’s nine seasons. Junior pitcher Cameron Junker was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in round 10, and senior pitcher Shane Combs went to the Cubs in the 31st round of the 40-round draft.
Dave Schrage was the first coach to succeed Mainieri. He was fired after a four-year mark of 119-104-1. Aoki was hired away from Boston College in one of Swarbrick’s earliest coaching hires in any sport.
Schrage resurfaced as the head coach of South Dakota State in 2012 and has spent the past three seasons leading the program at Butler.