Sept. 17, 2002
Paul Mainieri counted himself among those who were not surprised in the least when his Notre Dame baseball team made its historic run to the 2002 College World Series, an accomplishment that was recognized with last weekend’s Sept. 14 ring ceremony at Eck Stadium (see linked photo gallery). But he was the most surprised spectator at the end of that ceremony, when the Notre Dame National Monogram Club presented the ninth-year Irish coach with an honorary Notre Dame varsity monogram.
Notre Dame associate athletic director Bill Scholl (himself an honorary monogram recipient) was a fitting presenter of the award, due to his dual roles as executive director of the Monogram Club and sports administrator for the Irish baseball program.
“Paul Mainieri consistently has taken the Notre Dame baseball program to new heights, heights once considered unattainable for a northern program,” said Scholl during the presentation. “Clearly, as demonstrated by today’s ceremony, there no longer are any heights considered to be unattainable for this program.
“If Paul were a college recruit, he would be a considered a five-tool player. Thank you, Paul, for all you do to make Notre Dame a better place.”
(Paul Mainieri biographical notes)
Mainieri was the nation’s only coach to repeat as his region’s coach of the year in 2002, after guiding the Irish to a team-record 50 wins and the program’s second College World Series appearance (first since 1957). His last two Notre Dame teams have combined for a 99-31-1 record, representing the nation’s third-most wins during that two-year span.
The 2001 BIG EAST coach of the year, Mainieri ranks as the second-winningest coach in Notre Dame baseball history (354-142-1/.713), also previously coaching six seasons at both the U.S. Air Force Academy (152-158) and St. Thomas (Fla.) University (180-121).
One of the nation’s most well-respected coaches, the 45-year-old Mainieri has helped continue the program’s standard of excellence during his first eight seasons, with: five conference titles, five trips to the NCAAs, 354 victories, the program’s first No. 1 national ranking (in 2001), 30 players who have been drafted or signed free-agent contracts, and 12 players selected in the first 10 rounds of the Major League Draft (plus seven All-America and six Academic All-America selections). His Irish squads also have extended the program’s string of consecutive seasons with 40-plus wins to 14 – the fourth-longest active streak in all of Division I baseball.
In addition to their on-field success, Mainieri’s Notre Dame teams have combined for a 100-percent graduation rate (54 of 54), among players who completed their eligibility or signed professionally after their junior year (eight such student-athletes have returned to complete work or currently are working toward completion of their degree requirements). Notre Dame is the only Division I baseball program to produce Academic All-Americans in each of the last three years, with two players selected to the elite academic team in 2000, ’01 and again in ’02.
Mainieri also oversaw the introduction of season tickets for 2002 games at Eck Stadium, with nearly 1,000 season-ticket holders signing on to support the Irish. A lateseason showdown with Arizona State attracted 2,900 fans, setting an Eck Stadium attendance record.
The hard work put into the recruiting process by Mainieri and ninth-year assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Brian O’Connor has yielded impressive results – highlighted by the nation’s top-ranked freshman class in 2002.
Mainieri played one season at LSU, one for his father (Hall of Famer Demie Mainieri) at Miami-Dade and two at the University of New Orleans – helping UNO advance to the 1979 NCAA tournament during his senior season. A 1980 graduate of Florida International, he played two minor-league seasons before earning 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 (18, a freshman at Notre Dame), Alexandra (17), Samantha (15) and Thomas (8).