June 4, 2013 marked the end of an era in Wichita, Kansas, an era that lasted 36 years.
Yesterday longtime coach of the Wichita State Shockers baseball program Gene Stephenson was fired. Stephenson was at the helm of the Shockers since 1978. He ranks second in wins among college coaches with a record of 1,837-675-3. Only Augie Garrido of Texas has more wins.
Athletic director Eric Sexton reportedly gave Stephenson an ultimatum to either retire or be fired. Stephenson had one year remaining on his contract.
Wichita State disbanded the baseball program in 1970 only to bring it back in 1977. Stephenson took over the helm in 1978 and quickly turned the Shockers into a powerhouse.
It took him only three years to get the team to the NCAA tournament and two more before they would appear in their first College World Series. In that 1982 season they would lose to Miami in the national championship game and set the single season record for wins with 73.
Stephenson would take Wichita State to 20 conference championships, 28 appearances in the NCAA tournament, and trips to the College World Series a total of seven times, winning one national title in 1989.
The past few seasons have been down years for the program. The Shockers had to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament to advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009. They were bounced from the tournament this year by Arkansas and eventual regional champ Kansas State.
Stephenson says he hopes to continue coaching.
Wichita State will begin a national search for his replacement immediately.
Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.