BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- UAB coach Brian Shoop did the expected when asked about his 900th win as a college head coach. He deflected the praise following Saturday’s 4-0 win against Youngstown State at Regions Field.
“You know it is a longevity thing,” Shoop said following the milestone victory. “It means you have been coaching for a long time. It means you have had really good players. It means you have really good assistant coaches. I probably get too much credit for the wins. Wins are a team and program award, not an individual award. I’m very aware of that.”
Handling wins -- and loses -- with class is customary for Shoop, who is in his eighth season at the helm of UAB’s program and his 25th season as a college head coach. He’s put himself among the top active college baseball coaches in victories, with a 900-512-1 record, and produced some great players and teams. His Birmingham-Southern teams were 699-300-1 and captured a NAIA national championship in 2001. He coached NCAA regional teams at Birmingham-Southern and UAB and directed the Blazers to the Conference USA tournament championship in 2012. But his mark on college baseball doesn’t stop on the field.
Through seven seasons as the head coach, Shoop had 126 players named to the Conference USA Commissioner's honor roll for compiling a 3.0 GPA or better, while 31 student-athletes have earned the league's academic medial for totaling a 3.75 GPA or better. Shoop's squads have compiled team GPA's of more than 3.0 in five of seven seasons.
“He works on you as a man and player,” UAB senior outfielder Ryan Prinzing said. “He’s great at both of them. It’s been fun. It’s different because he works on every aspect of your life. But you learn to appreciate that because not everyone does that.”
UAB coach Ron Polk has seen Shoop’s career unfold -- a considerable part of it before his eyes. It was Polk who gave Shoop his start in NCAA Division I baseball coaching a couple of years after Shoop’s playing days were through at Malone, an NAIA program in Ohio. Polk was speaking at the Ohio Baseball Coaches Convention in Columbus, Ohio. He was told by Malone head coach Bob Starcher, a friend of Polk’s, that Shoop would be a good candidate for a graduate assistant position on Polk’s coaching staff at Mississippi State. Polk met with Shoop and soon hired him for the position.
Shoop spent seven seasons at Mississippi State during a time when the Bulldogs won three Southeastern Conference championships and earned six regional appearances with a College World Series appearance in 1985.
“In seven years, I felt like this guy has potential to be very good,” Polk, who won 1,373 games as a college head coach, said. “I was hoping he would stay at Mississippi State, but Birmingham-Southern offered him an opportunity to be a head coach. I thought it was his time to take that opportunity. He went there and had a great career there.”
Polk retired from head coaching following the 2008 season and joined the Blazers program as a volunteer head coach that summer. UAB assistant Perry Roth coached under Shoop at Birmingham-Southern and came to UAB when Shoop took the Blazers’ job.
“He has stayed the same,” Roth said. “He is the same person today that he was over there. Obviously, people change a little bit, but his character and foundation of who he is hasn’t changed at all. He is the same person. He cares more about the group, person, or individual than he does wins and he’s probably the most competitive person on the baseball field to be around.”
The competitive nature is just one reason that Shoop has built the impressive coaching resume and Polk sees many more wins in his future.
“I can see, even from the time he was with me at Mississippi State as an assistant, he has developed his skills as a coach, not only with the X’s and O’s, but also with the way he handles the kids,” Polk said. “I am very proud of him. I hope that 900 is not the end of the line. He still has a lot of years left in him and hopefully he continues to keep his good health. He has raised a great family. We are looking forward to the march to 1,000.”
Just as with Polk, Shoop is also building a legacy with former assistant coaches in his program making an impact as college coaches. The partial list includes NCAA Division I coaches Matt Bragga (head coach, Tennessee Tech), Bob Keller (assistant coach, South Alabama), Daron Schoenrock (head coach, Memphis), and Butch Thompson (assistant coach, Mississippi State).
“I think Brian Shoop has set himself as a good example for young coaches now, he basically is an old coach now,” Polk said. “Hopefully, the guys in our program can relate to him and say ‘I would like to work with kids.’ You have a pipeline. He has a pipeline of coaches and I certainly have a pipeline of coaches. I think the last count I had 67 of my guys doing something in baseball. Brian Shoop has also built up a pipeline too. That’s what it’s all about. Eventually, you have to give it up and pass the baton to the next generation of coaches.”
Right now, though, Shoop is content with the quest to win more games. That’s certainly possible with more performances like Saturday when Chase Mallard continued his hot start with seven no-hit innings. Mallard did not allow a hit in his first 14 innings this season. It was extra special for Mallard considering the special milestone.
“To be honest, it’s unexplainable,” Mallard when asked what it’s like to play for Shoop. “He’s like a father for us. He loves us dearly. I would do anything for him.”
Shoop would certainly be thankful if Mallard keeps pitching the way he has thus far, just as he’s grateful for help in reaching 900 victories.
“Thank you all to all of the players that I have had the privilege to coach,” Shoop said. “Thank you to all of the coaches that I have had the honor to coach with.”