June 29, 2012 - 10:15am
BY LIZ NAGLE AND MATT SLOVIN
The Michigan baseball program has found its new head coach after a nationwide search that began with the May 22 announcement stating former coach Rich Maloney and the Wolverines had parted ways.
The athletic department announced Wednesday afternoon that Erik Bakich will be the 19th head coach in program history.
Bakich, 34, is widely regarded as one of the brightest young minds in college baseball, as well as one of its strongest recruiters. He will leave Maryland after three seasons as head coach. The Terrapins failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in each.
Bakich, who is the youngest head coach among BCS-conference schools, expects his youth to help him, especially on the recruiting trail.
"I’ve been very fortunate to get an early start to a coaching career and get opportunities at a very high level, spending 11 years in the ACC and the SEC," Bakich told the Daily on Thursday. "And not many people can say they’ve had those opportunities."
Prior to Maryland, Bakich served as an assistant coach for seven seasons at Vanderbilt, under esteemed head coach Tim Corbin. As the hitting coach for the Commodores, Bakich helped Vanderbilt rise to prominence, where it advanced to the NCAA Tournament five times during his time in Nashville.
Known as a tireless recruiter, Bakich emphasized how much easier it is to sell a recruit on a program that has sound academics. Corbin compared the Vanderbilt job to the Michigan one, because of the similar academic approach. Bakich agreed that it's no coincidence his three stops have all been solid academic institutions.
"I’ve been very fortunate to be at great institutions, and I feel like those institutions have really helped with the recruiting process,” Bakich said. "And the highlight of that will be here at Michigan and with all the tremendous assets that this university has academically and athletically.
"Our focus is always going to be on recruiting. There are some very good players that are committed to be here this fall. There are a few that are committed to be here the following fall. We’re certainly going to identify those guys and start a relationship with them with our new coaching staff immediately.”
The new coach stressed that the Michigan job is quite the "opportunity" for him and went on to state his lofty goals for the program, which has struggled mightily in recent seasons.
“Being in the ACC and the SEC, I’ve been able to see some of the best programs and the best teams and how they recruit and how they build a program and how they build a team,” Bakich said. “Coming to the Big Ten, I think there’s opportunity to win championships. And we’re certainly going to try to use the blueprints of places that I’ve had the opportunity to be in the past, build the program, develop our players with the recruiting and development approach and bring championships back to Michigan.”
Bakich played collegiately at East Carolina.
“For us, the focus is always going to be the process orientated approach on everybody getting better every single day and improving, even if it’s one percent, every single day in striving to reach whatever their maximum potential is in all areas of their life,” Bakich said.
One member of Bakich's Maryland staff, pitching coach Sean Kenny, is an Ann Arbor native. Though the University's job board lists an opening for an assistant coach as well, it hasn't yet been announced whether Kenny, with his local ties, might follow Bakich to Michigan. The Michigan staff already includes assistant Wayne Welton and pitching coach Steve Merriman.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned to www.michigandaily.com for updates.