Michigan’s softball team was packing for its trip to Alabama for the NCAA Super Regional Tuesday afternoon while Rich Maloney’s career as the Wolverines’ baseball coach came to an end.
Maloney’s contract was not renewed after Michigan suffered its second consecutive losing season, finishing 10th in the Big Ten and missing the six-team conference tournament for the third time in the past four years.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon had little choice on the move. Maloney, 47, was one of the highest-paid coaches in the Midwest, topping out at nearly $350,000 this season, the final year of a five-year contract he signed after leading the Wolverines to an NCAA regional championship, shocking David Price and No. 1 Vanderbilt in 2007.
Maloney earned the big payday by guiding the Wolverines to a 46-14 record the following season, including a Big Ten record (26-5) for conference victories. Michigan also won the conference tournament and even hosted the NCAA regional, but failed to repeat as champs.
Maloney, who was the catalyst in the fundraising drive for the Wilpon Complex, could never repeat the success of the four consecutive NCAA tourney appearances (2005-08), highlighted by the ’07 and ’08 seasons.
Simply put, Maloney could not equal the talent of those NCAA tourney teams led by Zach Putnam, Adam Abraham, Nate Recknagel and Jason Christian.
The Wolverines were sub-.500 the last four seasons (104-118 overall, 38-57 Big Ten), the reason Maloney is no longer the leader of Michigan’s program.
It didn’t help that the Wolverines not only finished 10th in the Big Ten this season, but were 1-5 against Mid-American Conference opponents, losing twice to Eastern Michigan.
Now, Brandon has the job of finding Maloney’s replacement. You can bet Jake Boss will be getting a raise at MSU after leading the Spartans to a share of the Big Ten regular-season title last year and a spot in the conference tournament for the third time in the last four years. The tourney begins Wednesday in Columbus.
Boss, a former Michigan assistant under Maloney, guided Eastern Michigan to an NCAA tourney appearance in 2008 before taking over the MSU job and still owns a home in Ypsilanti.
Boss would be a perfect fit at Michigan, but MSU fans are hoping he remains in East Lansing for the long haul.