Why don’t Mike Bianco’s sons play at Ole Miss? It’s a family matter
You’ve got to respect Mike Bianco, the Ole Miss baseball coach.
For a lot of reasons.
But the latest reminder, the one that came this week in the announcement that his son, Drew, has signed to play baseball at Ole Miss rival LSU, says a lot about Mike Bianco and family.
Known by fans and peers as a classy winner on the field and a gifted, caring family man off the field the veteran Rebel baseball could be called an extreme competitor. There’s no other way you become the starting catcher on a college baseball team that finished third in the College World Series (LSU, 1989) and go on the become the winningest coach in Ole Miss history with 662 victories.
But when it comes to family, that’s where Bianco draws the line. It is about winning, but not winning at all costs.
He wants his sons to be their own man.
That’s why Drew Bianco has signed to play at LSU and both he and his family are thrilled about it, with no apologies.
With four boys, Bianco decided when he took the head coaching job at Ole Miss in 2000 that none of their children would play collegiately for him.
No matter how good, no matter the temptation to add a few more Rebel wins by adding top talents, the Bianco boys were destined to play for anybody but Dad. Even if it means playing for a fierce rival.
“We always wanted them to have an experience like I did (in college),” Mike Bianco said. “…You’ve got to grow up and you’ve got to live and get an education. I think that’s what college is all about. We wanted them to experience that. We didn’t want them to come (to Ole Miss) because of that.”
In other words, get out from under the family and find your path, even if it means father and son will become fierce rivals on the field when LSU and Ole Miss battle in baseball as elite college programs fighting to win it all.
“I’d like them to go somewhere where they make it or don’t and sink or swim on their own,” Mike Bianco said a couple of years ago. “They don’t have to be the coach’s son. You’re not playing because you’re the coach’s son and you didn’t fail because you’re the coach’s son.”
But if you think that makes it tough for the father and son, imagine how Drew Bianco’s mother, Camie, will manage it all.
“She’s panic attack at every Ole Miss baseball game,” Drew Bianco told Oxford Eagle sports writer Jake Thompson. “We make jokes about it all the time and how fun it’s going to be.”
They key for the Bianco’s though is that they realize baseball isn’t bigger than family.
“At the end of the day it’s just baseball games,” said Drew, in his senior year at Oxford High School. “They’re still my parents. I hope I win and he’s hoping he wins. So, we’ll just see what happens.”
Drew was The Oxford EAGLE area Player of the Year in 2017, so letting him get away to LSU still isn’t that easy for Bianco and Ole Miss, of course. But, it isn’t the first time a family member has been giving a blessing to go somewhere else. Ben Bianco is a freshman at Louisville. Younger brother Sam, still at Oxford, is a likely prospect as well.
But he won’t play at Ole Miss, either.
And that’s unique since the national-caliber Oxford High School baseball program helped Bianco have the number one recruiting class in America two years ago, contributing standout signees including Grae Kessinger, Thomas Dillard and Houston Roth.
Drew Bianco will play at LSU, however, following in the footsteps of his father, and he’s thrilled about it, calling it a dream come true.
It’s unlikely that Ole Miss fans will go so far as to cheer for the Tigers. But it’s a safe bet that Drew Bianco will get plenty of support from Rebel fans.
After all, he’s part of the family.
David Magee is Publisher of The Oxford Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.