Baseball America has learned that Penn State will name Rob Cooper its next head coach, replacing Robbie Wine, who resigned in mid-June. Cooper has spent the last nine years as the head coach at Wright State, leading the Raiders to seven consecutive 30-plus-win seasons, six trips to the Horizon League championship game and three regionals.
Cooper has long been regarded as a rising star in the coaching ranks, one of the most talented coaches in the mid-major ranks. After two stints as an assistant with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, Cooper is spending this summer as the head coach of the 18-and-under national team, a mark of how highly regarded he is in college baseball circles.
Penn State’s search dragged deep into the summer, but the Nittany Lions made a splash when they finally made a hire. Cooper inherits a program that has not made a regional since 2000, but the Lions play in a beautiful facility that they share with the State College minor league team, and Cooper could guide them to the postseason in short order. The Big Ten has become more competitive than ever in recent years, but programs like Indiana, Purdue and Michigan have proven that it is possible to compete on a national level out of the Big Ten.
Sources expect Wright State to promote associate head coach Greg Lovelady to the head job. Lovelady, a former star catcher who helped Miami win national championships in 1999 and 2001, has done admirable work as Wright State’s recruiting coordinator, pitching coach and catching instructor. He is highly regarded in the Midwest.
If Lovelady is elevated, the 2013 coaching carousel will finally reach its conclusion. Last week, St. Mary’s hired San Diego State pitching coach Eric Valenzuela as its head coach. Valenzuela began his coaching career as a St. Mary’s assistant in 2002-03 before helping to elevate San Diego’s program as an assistant under Rich Hill. He spent the last four seasons as Tony Gwynn’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at SDSU. His recruiting chops are impressive, and his track record of developing arms includes successes like Brian Matusz, A.J. Griffin, Josh Romanski and Kyle Blair.
“Eric brings a tremendous track record and level of experience that we feel is the perfect foundation to lead our baseball program to the heights we believe it is capable of,” St. Mary’s director of athletics Mark Orr said in a release. “We expect our baseball program to compete and win both on and off the field and in the classroom, and Eric’s teams have been consistent high achievers in both of those areas.”