FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas associate head coach Todd Butler will be named head coach at Wichita State, according to the Wichita Eagle.
The newspaper cited a source as saying Butler will be announced as the Shockers’ coach “within the next day or two” on Saturday afternoon. Butler and Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn could not be reached for comment about the report.
Wichita State has been searching for a replacement for legendary coach Gene Stephenson, who resigned earlier this month after 36 years with the program.
Stephenson’s final game at Wichita State came in a 3-1 loss to Arkansas in the Manhattan (Kan.) Regional earlier this month.
Butler — who has been a candidate for several coaching positions the past few years — has been a key part of Van Horn’s staff for the past eight seasons, working as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. He was elevated to associate head coach last season after interviewing for an assistant coaching position at Texas.
Butler also would bring head coaching experience to Wichita State after leading McNeese State from 2001-03.
Arkansas’ best offensive season with Butler as hitting coach came in 2010, when the Razorbacks finished with a .306 batting average and hit a school-record 92 home runs. The Razorbacks haven’t been able to match the production the past few seasons, though, largely because of bat modifications and a recruiting philosophy that stressed pitching. Arkansas hit .271 in 2012 and .260 in 2013.
Butler is regarded as a strong recruiter, who was instrumental in helping Arkansas put together signing classes that helped the Razorbacks reach the College World Series twice during his tenure. It included Arkansas’ 2010 signing class, which produced pitchers like Ryne Stanek, Colby Suggs, Barrett Astin and Brandon Moore.
The group played a key role in helping Arkansas turn in a 1.89 earned run average in 2013, which was college baseball’s lowest ERA since the 1976 season.
Arkansas’ signing classes regularly ranked among the nation’s top 10 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Five of Arkansas’ classes were ranked in the top 10 with Butler on staff. The Razorbacks have had 57 players drafted in that time.
It’s not known where Van Horn would turn to replace Butler. One potential candidate could be former Nebraska coach Mike Anderson, who led the Cornhuskers from 2003-11. Anderson was an assistant on Van Horn’s staff at Nebraska from 1998-02 and worked as the head coach at Regis Jesuit High in Colorado last season.
Former Arkansas pitcher Colby Suggs has signed with the Miami Marlins.
The organization drafted Suggs in the second round with the 73rd overall pick. He reportedly received a $600,000 signing bonus, according to Baseball America. The number was below the recommended slot value of $759,200 for the 73rd pick.
Suggs moves on to pro baseball after leading Arkansas with 13 saves in 2013, which set the school’s single-season record. He appeared in 23 games and had a 1.74 ERA.
The Sulphur Springs, Texas, native went 9-2 with 13 saves and a 1.36 ERA in 65 appearances as a Razorback. He finished fifth on Arkansas’ career saves list.
He was among 11 Arkansas players drafted. Pitcher Ryne Stanek, the 29th overall pick in the draft, has not yet signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.