Michigan coach resigns

By John Manuel
October 10, 2001

Former big league pitcher Geoff Zahn resigned as Michigan’s head coach in the wake of disputes with school administrators over his treatment of Wolverines players.

Assistant coach Chris Harrison, the program’s recruiting coordinator, was named interim head coach. Harrison has served as an assistant at Michigan since Zahn took over the program in September 1995. He was last a head coach from 1991-94 at NAIA The Master’s (Calif.).

Zahn, whose Wolverines teams went 163-169 (.492) and won the Big 10 tournament in 1999, issued a statement in the release announcing his resignation:

“Over the past year and a half, there have been personal circumstances that have taken much of the joy out of coaching for me,” said Zahn, 56. “I have always felt that when it ceases to be fun to come to work, it’s time to move on.

“I wish the team only the best as I believe they have the nucleus to have a great team.”

Players reported to fall practice at Ray Fisher Stadium Oct. 2 only to be met by school administrators, and assistant coaches Steve Foster and Steve Merriman conducted the practice. Zahn was nowhere to be found and had cleaned out his office, leaving only a voice mail message on his office phone: “This is Geoff Zahn. I’m sorry I’m not available, but you need to talk to Evelyn (Mullreed, the baseball secretary).”

Zahn, who went 111-109 during a 13-year big league career, was disciplined by athletic director Bill Martin in June 2000 for “style and communication issues” with his players. This summer, Zahn butted heads with pitchers Jim Brauer and Rich Hill, refusing to grant them releases from their scholarships that would enable them to transfer to other schools.

Both had standout summers in the Cape Cod League. Brauer, a rising sophomore, went 2-3, 1.84 for Yarmouth-Dennis with 41 strikeouts. Hill, a seventh-round pick of the Angels as a draft-eligible sophomore, went 1-2, 1.91 and had 46 strikeouts (and 25 walks) in 33 innings for Chatham.

Both pitchers were going through an appeals process through the university to obtain their releases and possibly transfer at the end of the fall semester.

Zahn and pitching coach Foster had a falling out that led to Foster resigning temporarily, a week prior to Zahn’s own resignation. But Foster remained on the staff, as his presence at fall practice indicated. Later that day, players were informed in a team meeting of the impending coaching change.