Wichita State will announce Todd Butler as its baseball coach within the next day or two, according to a source close to the search.
Butler, 46, spent the past eight seasons as an assistant coach at Arkansas and was promoted to associate head coach after the 2012 season. He is regarded as one of the nation’s top recruiters, regularly helping Arkansas rank among the top classes as evaluated by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Baseball America ranked the 2010 class ranked No. 8, one of five classes in the top 10 during his time at Arkansas. He also served as hitting instructor and outfield coach.
Butler replaces Gene Stephenson, who was fired after 36 seasons earlier this month. Stephenson’s tenure ended with a 3-1 loss to Arkansas in the Manhattan Regional on June 1.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn almost lost Butler to Texas a year ago. He turned down an assistant’s job with the Longhorns and received a new title from Van Horn.
"Todd will be a head coach in a couple years," Van Horn said during a 2012 news conference. "The right job hasn't opened up. Todd is just known as a brilliant recruiter. He brings in our pitchers. He recruits everybody and just knows a lot of people. I didn't want to lose him."
Major League teams drafted 11 Razorbacks earlier this month, most in the nation and most in the program’s history. Pitchers Ryne Stanek, Colby Suggs and Barrett Astin went in the first three rounds, part of a staff that entered NCAA regional play with a nation’s best earned run average of 1.87.
WSU representatives will not comment on the hiring until it is officially announced, according to the source. A news conference is expected early in the week, perhaps Monday. According to the source, Butler agreed to coach the Shockers on Wednesday and family matters delayed the official announcement. Media reports connected his name to several openings this summer, including at Auburn, filled Friday by Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway.
Butler served as head coach at McNeese State from 2001-03, compiling a 90-83 record. His team reached the 2003 NCAA regionals after winning the Southland Conference Tournament. He worked as an assistant coach at Alabama from 1995-2000 and again in 2004 and 2005.
At Arkansas, he teamed with Van Horn to help the Razorbacks remain a national power. Since 2006, the Razorbacks advanced to an NCAA regional each season and played in the College World Series in 2009 and 2012. Arkansas won the SEC Western Division in 2007 and 2011 and finished second in 2006, 2010, 2012 (tied) and 2013.
The 2010 Razorbacks compiled a .306 batting average and set a school record with 92 home runs on their way to a super regional. In 2007, Arkansas hit 75 home runs, second in the SEC. In 2011, it led the SEC with 122 stolen bases, caught 27 times.
"He knows how to coach hitting," Van Horn said a year ago. "You can talk to any player that's been through here. Call them and ask them about Coach Butler's teaching and coaching and they'll tell you it's the best they've ever had, and they're moving up the ladder now."
Arkansas’ offense slipped the past two seasons, in part due to the change in bats. Van Horn, after the 2012 trip to Omaha, defended Butler’s work with the offense. In a sport that hands out partial scholarships, Van Horn said financial aid tilted in favor of the pitching staff.
In 2013, Arkansas hit .260, ranking 11th in the 14-team SEC, with 27 home runs. In 2012, Arkansas hit .271, ranking seventh, with 39 home runs.
"You can coach them up, but you've got to have guys that can hit," Van Horn said. "We've made decisions to go get pitching and invest money in pitching. We've had guys in the lineup the last couple years that weren't even on a baseball scholarship."
Butler played at McNeese State and Oklahoma. In 1988, he earned All-Big Eight and third-team All-America honors for the Sooners. He graduated from McNeese State in 1991.