OMAHA, Neb. — Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn and Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco have coached 71 games against each other in their 20 seasons that overlapped in the SEC, but they have never been in opposing dugouts at the College World Series.
That will change on Monday when the Razorbacks play the Rebels in the winners division of pool at Schwab Field, the latest in a series of big matchups between the programs belonging to the titans of SEC West baseball.
“It seems like we’re always going to run into SEC teams here in our league,” Van Horn said. “It seems like almost every year two, three or four teams make it. That’s the way it is. You will face them. If you don’t see them right outside the gate, you will see them.”
Arkansas and Ole Miss have won division titles together in nine of their last 18 seasons. The programs have occupied the top two spots in the SEC West rankings three times, most recently in 2018 when they shared the division title.
In 2019, the Razorbacks defeated the Rebels 14-1 in Game 3 of the Fayetteville Super Regional to advance to the College World Series.
In his 22nd season with Ole Miss, Bianco is the longest-serving coach in the SEC. Van Horn is in his 20th season with Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin for the second-longest tenure in the league.
“We’ve obviously had a few wars with them over the years,” Bianco said of Arkansas. “Some we won and some we didn’t, but I think it comes down to them being really good and we’ve been good. When you put two good teams together, they usually make pretty good baseball games.
“We respect them very much and what Dave has done there during his tenure is amazing work. He’s been there almost as long as I’ve been here so a lot of really good games and I’m sure Monday will be one again.”
The 72nd game between the teams coached by Van Horn and Bianco will add to what is believed to be a record for two SEC coaches, although there are no official stats. Longtime coaches Skip Bertman of LSU and Ron Polk of Mississippi State and Georgia coached 66 games against each other between 1984 and 2001.
Polk and Bertman take first and second place in wins as SEC head coaches. Bianco and Van Horn take third and fifth place.
Omaha will be the fifth city where Van Horn and Bianco have trained against each other. In addition to their home stadiums in Fayetteville and Oxford, Miss., their teams have played 10 times at the SEC tournament in Hoover Ala. and also met at a preseason event in Minneapolis in 2007.
Bianco has a 40-31 record in head-to-head games, but Van Horn’s teams have won 7 of 10 in the series.