By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
Northwestern State’s baseball tradition since 1990 is second to none in the Southland Conference.
But Southeastern Louisiana’s baseball resources are unquestionably second to none in the league currently, which could result in the Lions hiring Demons’ coach Bobby Barbier.
Baseball America national writer Teddy Cahill reported Thursday that Barbier has emerged as the likely pick at SLU, which fired veteran coach Matt Riser shortly after the end of the regular season. The Lions finished eighth in the nine-team league and did not qualify for the seven-team Southland Tournament, finishing with an overall record of 25-25 and a league mark of 9-14.
An announcement could happen as early as Monday, sources close to the SLU Athletic Department indicated. Barbier was unavailable for comment Thursday evening.
If Barbier is the choice at Southeastern, associate head coach Chris Bertrand – a former championship head coach at UT-Tyler after serving as a longtime assistant at LSUS – will be a prime and popular choice to take over the Demons’ program. Bertrand has been Barbier’s top assistant in the last seven years and has been a pivotal figure in recruiting and fundraising, and has worked with all coaching aspects, including coaching the pitchers, catchers and hitters at various times.
Barbier wrapped up this season as head coach at his alma mater by leading the Demons to a third-place finish at the Southland Conference Tournament, with a 29-27 overall record, 12-12 in the conference regular-season. NSU won series over five of the other six teams in the tournament, including beating regular-season and tournament champion Nicholls 2-1.
Barbier, a New Orleans native, was a standout player for the Demons from 2003-06, helping NSU to the 2005 NCAA Tournament and earning Academic All-America status in 2004. He still ranks in the school’s top 10 list for career RBIs.
In seven years as head coach, he is 181-169 overall and 89-88 in conference play. NSU’s best league finish under Barbier is third place in 2018, when they won the first Southland Tournament title in school history and won a game over San Diego State at the Corvallis Regional. Barbier was Southland Coach of the Year and Louisiana Coach of the Year that season.
NSU won nine Southland regular-season titles between 1991 and 2005 under some of the more successful coaches in college baseball (Jim Wells, Dave Van Horn, John Cohen and Mitch Gaspard, all who reached at least Super Regional play as SEC head coaches – all but Gaspard reaching the College World Series). However, Northwestern did not win a SLC Tournament crown until Barbier’s club went unbeaten in the 2018 event. The Demons then made the fourth NCAA Regional appearance in their NCAA Division I history (1991, 1994, 2005 and 2018).
His teams have routinely produced Major League Baseball draft picks – seven in the past five years. Four of the last five years, except in 2021, Barbier-coached Demons have been the top Southland picks in MLB’s annual draft.
Cleveland Guardians infielder David Fry developed under Barbier’s leadership. As the Demons’ pitching coach under current Louisiana Tech head coach Lane Burroughs, Barbier was credited with elevating Adam Oller from a catcher to an All-American pitcher, and Oller has reached the big leagues with the Oakland As. A third Barbier-coached Demon, outfielder Nick Heath, briefly reached MLB with Kansas City and Arizona.
Barbier’s second NSU team equaled the best single-season turnaround in school history, improving by 18 wins.
Barbier began his coaching career at NSU in 2007 under Mitch Gaspard, then moved to Alabama in 2010 as an assistant under Gaspard. Burroughs hired Barbier as his pitching coach at Northwestern after the 2014 season.
Southeastern athletic director Jay Artigues, a former Bossier Parish Community College baseball coach, was SLU’s head coach before giving way to Riser 10 years ago. Riser went 320-224 and led the Lions to four NCAA Regional appearances (the last in 2022), but was reportedly on thin ice in the 2022 season before his team won the conference tournament.
That earned Riser a contract extension which will require a buyout of $224,000 to be paid no later than 60 days after his termination on May 22, according to Lions Athletic Association president Allen Waddell.
Riser’s salary and outside income at Southeastern were essentially equal to the approximately $115,000 package Barbier has at NSU. But the Lions’ program annually leads the Southland in attendance, averaging well over 1,000 fans, and has what is uniformly considered the league’s best-funded program with a combination of university budget money and outside revenues.
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