Aug. 3, 2001
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri has signed a multi-year contract to continue as coach of the Fighting Irish baseball program, following a 2001 season that ranks among the most successful in the program’s 109-year history.
“During Paul Mainieri’s first seven years as the leader of Notre Dame baseball, the team steadily has progressed to the point of being one of the top programs in the nation and we certainly are delighted to have him continue as the leader of such an exciting program,” said Notre Dame director of athletics Kevin White.
“Paul and his staff have shown the ability to attract student-athletes who have been able to flourish at Notre Dame and his teams have played with an inspired and classy style that we expect from all teams at Notre Dame. I share in Paul’s excitement for the coming years. Notre Dame baseball is in good hands with Paul Mainieri leading the way for us.”
The 44-year-old Mainieri has helped continue the standard of excellence associated with Notre Dame baseball-with his tenure including four conference titles, four trips to the NCAAs, 29 players who have been drafted or signed free-agent contracts, and 10 players selected in the first 10 rounds of the Major League draft. His squads have extended the program’s string of consecutive seasons with 40-plus wins to 13-the nation’s fourth-longest active streak.
In addition to their on-field success, Mainieri’s Notre Dame teams have combined for a 100-percent graduation rate (47 of 47), among players who completed their eligibility or signed professionally after their junior year (seven such student-athletes have returned to complete their degree requirements). Thirteen members of the 2001 Irish team were named to the Dean’s List during the 2000-01 academic year while the 32-player squad combined for a 3.19 team grade-point average in the 2000 fall semester-the highest semester GPA of the Mainieri era.
“I feel very privileged to be at Notre Dame. It has been a very special place for me and my family and it has been a very rewarding experience to coach so many outstanding young men,” said Mainieri, one of eight coaches nationwide to be named his region’s coach of the year in 2001.
“I look forward to continuing our progress and making that next big step-which is advancing to the College World Series and contending for a national title. I feel very fortunate to have worked with great assistant coaches and support staff, our facilities continue to improve and the support from the administration has been tremendous-so we feel that the best days for Notre Dame baseball are still to come.”
Mainieri has compiled a 304-124-1 record (.710) in seven seasons at Notre Dame, with his 19-year overall record of 636-403-1 (.612) including six seasons at St. Thomas (Fla.) University followed by six at the U.S. Air Force Academy. His 456 wins on the Division I level rank sixth among active coaches who are 43 or younger (as of Jan. 1, 2001).
- Mainieri’s staff developed a veteran core of players that paid big dividends in 2001, after which an unprecedented six Irish players were selected in the 2001 Major League draft. The 2001 season included the program’s first No. 1 national ranking, a team-record victory total (49-13-1), a 22-4 conference record that represented the most wins in BIG EAST history and NCAA regional action at Eck Stadium for the second time in the last three years. The well-balanced Irish finished sixth nationally in ERA (3.22) and 26th in batting average (.322)-with just three other teams ranking among the top 26 in both categories-while also ranking 36th in fielding percentage (.964). The 2001 team’s .786 winning percentage ranks second-best by a Notre Dame team in the last 65 years.
- Highlights from the Mainieri era include a potent 1997 squad that set the Irish record for team batting average (.334), a ’98 offense that racked up a team-record 73 home runs and a breakthrough ’99 season that saw Notre Dame crack the national rankings with a 43-18 overall record, including a 20-5 conference mark (no BIG EAST team ever had won more than 18 games) and a 1-0 near-no-hit victory over eventual national champ Miami. The Irish played host to the 1999 NCAA South Bend Regional, attracting capacity crowds for most of the three days. The 2000 season yielded a 46-18 record and one of the program’s landmark moments at the NCAA Regional in Starkville, Miss., capped by a wild 24-hour stretch that saw the Irish play in each of the final four games of the tournament, with a near-win in the title matchup.
- During six seasons of BIG EAST play, the Irish have won more league games (103-33, .757) than any other team in the conference while losing just six of 54 BIG EAST weekend series.
- Mainieri’s last four seasons have comprised the career of the most-decorated player in the program’s history, as pitcher Aaron Heilman fashioned a rare four-year All-America career while becoming just the 14th player in Division I history to reach 40 career wins and 400 strikeouts.
- Notre Dame is one of just four schools since 1998 to produce two pitchers who have been drafted in the first round: Brad Lidge in ’98 and Heilman in 2001. Mainieri and his staff consistently have molded their players into top prospects, as Lidge was just a 42nd-round pick out of high school while Heilman was a 54th-round pick as a prep. Three other recent Irish players have developed into high draft picks despite going undrafted as preps, including pitchers Tim Kalita (7th round in ’99) and Danny Tamayo (10th round, ’01) and shortstop Alec Porzel (13th round, ’01)-with Tamayo and Porzel joining Heilman as three of the highest-drafted seniors in Irish history. All told during the Mainieri era, seven of nine Irish players that were drafted out of high school have gone on to be drafted in a higher round at Notre Dame while 13 that were undrafted as preps went on to be drafted as members of the Irish program.
- Other noteworthy additions in Mainieri’s tenure include catcher/DH Jeff Wagner (a four-time, first team all-BIG EAST selection from ’96-’99) and All-American infielder Brant Ust (’97-’99), who preceded Heilman as a member of the U.S. national team (Ust was a 6th-round draft pick in ’99).
- A former Chicago White Sox minor-league second baseman, Mainieri became the first civilian baseball coach at Air Force and averaged 26 wins (’89-’94) for a program that averaged only 15 wins in the six previous years. His ’94 squad led the nation with a .360 team batting average.
- In 1983 at the age of 24, Mainieri took over a St. Thomas program that had yet to post a winning season. Four of his six St. Thomas teams were ranked in the final NCAA Division II poll and his squads averaged 30 wins per season, after averaging only 18 in the six previous years. Mainieri’s head coaching career began in the fall of 1982 at his alma mater, Columbus High School in Miami, Fla.
- A four-year letterwinner in college, Mainieri played one season at LSU and one season for his Hall of Fame father Demie at Miami-Dade before helping the University of New Orleans-led by Hall of Fame coach Ron Maestri-win a pair of conference titles and advance to the 1979 NCAAs.
- A 1980 graduate of Florida International, Mainieri earned a master’s in sports administration from St. Thomas in 1982. Born Aug. 29, 1957, in Morgantown, W.Va., he and wife Karen have four children: Nicholas (17), Alexandra (16), Samantha (14) and Thomas (6).