Steven Williams

New Ball State baseball coach Rich Maloney made it clear what his decision to come back to Ball State was all about. Coming back to a smaller school and taking a pay cut meant it was more about making money and dealing with the pressures of high level competition each year.

Ball State made it clear what its decision was all about, too. Baseball matters in Muncie again.

When Athletic Director Bill Scholl announced the return of Maloney, who spent the last 10 years rebuilding a Michigan program before a disappointing final two years, it was a change in culture when it comes to how baseball is viewed and what expectations will be like moving forward. Everything said during the new coach's press conference indicated the lengths that Scholl was willing to go to change the future of Ball State baseball.

Ball State hadn't hired an experienced baseball coach in at least its last three hires. Both Maloney and Greg Beals were taking on their first head coaching endeavors when they were given the opportunity at Ball State and former coach Alex Marconi was an assistant coach before his promotion. It's hard to believe Scholl doesn't have a huge role in the change in view of the baseball program. This time, he was able to get somebody experienced in a major conference, and with a track record of success at Ball State.

But he couldn't have done it without President Jo Ann Gora either. Maloney explained how important his meeting with Gora was during the interview process and Gora proved it by putting the money where her mouth was.

According to the Star Press, Maloney's new five-year contract with Ball State begins with a $125,000 first-year salary. While it's a far cry from the $350,000 he was making at Michigan, it's a pretty big step up for Ball State after only paying Marconi $58,940. Not to mention Marconi's deal was a year-to-year contract with no long-term security. Quite the opposite for Maloney, who now has five years and the backing of the university that Marconi didn't have.

It's a working relationship that will likely benefit both sides, but the extra risk Ball State is taking monetarily will pay off. Even if it doesn't, Scholl's first big initiative will be supported by the fact that everybody else wanted Maloney back.

There's also Maloney's big goal at Ball State to consider, to garner enough support to build a new baseball venue. One that he said players will want to come to Ball State for and fans will get excited about.

Like he said at the press conference, they wouldn't have brought him here if there wasn't a different and refreshing commitment to baseball - one that is controlled by Scholl's ideas of which sports actually have a chance to compete nationally. Obviously, Scholl sees the parity in college baseball with Kent State and Stony Brook's impressive tournament runs and his actions are evidence of the support the baseball program hasn't seen in years.