Entering his 10th season at the helm of the UAB baseball program in 2016, head coach Brian Shoop has molded the Blazers into one of the most successful programs on a regional and national level.
A 25-year veteran in the sport with nearly 1,000 career victories and more than 250 at UAB, Shoop is near the top of the NCAA’s career active wins list.
After a highly successful 2014 campaign, Shoop guided the Blazers to the Conference USA Championship game in 2015, the second time in four years the Green and Gold have reached the league’s title game.
The C-USA Championship capped what was the program’s third 30-win season in the last four years, as UAB finished sixth in the C-USA regular season standings, but used a magical conference tournament run to prove its case as one of the premier programs in one of the toughest leagues in the nation.
While Shoop led the Blazers to a lot of high points throughout the spring, he also garnered a couple of individual accomplishments along the way. He claimed career win No. 950 in April vs. Louisiana Tech, and was also the national recipient of the Jerry Kindall Character in Coaching Award, given annually by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Four Blazers were named All-Conference in 2015, highlighted by James Naile’s selection to the first team, Esteban Tresgallo and Adam Lau earning second team honors, and Ryan Ruggles landing a spot on the all-freshman squad.
Under Shoop’s guidance, UAB went 9-6 vs. teams in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, including a doubleheader sweep over Ole Miss in Oxford, three wins over Florida Atlantic, two wins over FIU and two over Rice, claiming that series over the Owls for the first time in four years.
To cap the very successful 2015 season was the MLB Draft, where three Blazers were taken, the most since the 1996 campaign. Senior Alex Luna went in the 10th round to the Kansas City Royals, while junior James Naile was a 20th round selection to the Oakland A’s, and Adam Lau was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 37th round.
In the first 32 years as a program, no UAB player had ever been drafted higher than the 16th round, but within the last five years, under Shoop, four have been taken in the 14th round or higher. To further reinstate the development within the UAB program, all three of those players taken in 2015, were previously undrafted.
In 2014, the UAB baseball team had one of its best seasons in program history. The Blazers recorded 35 wins, their most since 1993, and finished in second place in Conference USA, their best finish in the regular season as a league member. UAB was ranked as high as No. 30 in the nation in the NCBWA Poll. Shoop was named the 2014 Keith LeClair Conference USA Coach of the Year, his ninth conference Coach of the Year award in his coaching career. Five other members of the squad earned postseason recognition from C-USA, including Assistant Coach of the Year Josh Hopper and Pitcher of the Year Chase Mallard. Mallard became the fourth All-American in program history, as well.
It was a record setting season in 2014. UAB set a program record with nine shutouts during the 2014 campaign, which ranked 14th in the nation. The team held a school-best 2.87 ERA, which ranked 24th in the country. The club won 20 games in conference play, a UAB record. In addition, UAB defeated No. 9 Alabama and No. 29 FIU, marking the eighth straight year the club has topped a ranked opponent.
In 2013, Shoop guided the UAB baseball team to its third consecutive appearance in the Conference USA Tournament. For the seventh straight season, the Blazers topped a nationally-ranked program, as UAB defeated No. 18 Rice, 10-9, on May 3, 2013. John Frost became the seventh Blazer to earn All-Conference USA First Team honors under Shoop's watch. Off the field, Ryan Prinzing became the first member of the UAB baseball program to earn Academic All-America honors.
Shoop led the Blazers on a historic run in 2012, guiding the Green and Gold to its first-ever Conference USA Tournament Championship and second NCAA appearance in program history.
In 2012, UAB finished the regular season as the No. 7 seed in the Conference USA Tournament field. The Blazers advanced to the championship game by knocking off nationally-ranked UCF and Tulane before shutting out Memphis, 5-0, to capture the league's tournament crown as the lowest seed to ever win the championship. The 2012 Blazers joined the 1991 squad as the second team to compete in the NCAA Tournament.
His first nine seasons have been marked by significant improvements on the diamond and a high standard of success both in the classroom, in competition, and giving back to the community. Shoop guided UAB to four consecutive winning seasons, marking the longest stretch of finishing above .500 since a span from 1995-98.
UAB put together a 35-win season in 2014, the most in program history since 1993. The Blazers have finished with 30-plus wins in four of the last seven seasons.
In 2012, the Blazers earned four wins against top-20 ranked programs and have defeated 21 nationally ranked team over the past eight seasons. UAB opened 2012 by defeating then-No. 16 Clemson on the road in the season opener. Later in the year, the Blazers defeated UCF on two occasions, when the Knights were ranked 14th in the regular season and 16th in the Conference USA tournament, along with then No. 5 Rice.
In 2010, the Blazers finished in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Conference USA standings, just one game out of third place, and three games out of second. The Blazers just missed the 30-win plateau during the 2011 campaign, ending the year at 29-28 and advanced to the league tournament. The Blazers have advanced to the conference tournament eight times in the past nine seasons under the watch of Shoop.
In 2010, Shoop's Blazers won series against then-No. 4 Rice and eventual College World Series participant Southern Miss. The 2010 season was historic for Shoop in terms of milestone victories. The Blazer skipper earned his 100th UAB victory April 6, 2010 at Alabama and picked up his 800th career victory May 14, 2010 against Tulane.
After earning the Conference USA Tournament crown, Shoop had six players named to the conference All-Tournament team. Prior to 2012, UAB had only five players ever named to the league's postseason all-tournament squad. All-Tournament selections included Ryan Nance, Chase Mallard, John Frost, Jeff Schalk, Keith DePew, and MVP Michael Busby.
Schalk was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team in 2012, while both DePew and Nance earned the nod on the conference All-Academic team.
Four Blazers earned All-Conference recognition in 2011, led by first-team selection Jamal Austin. Teammates Nick Crawford, Dillon Napoleon and Ryan Woolley earned second-team honors, while John Frost was named to the Conference USA All-Tournament Team. Napoleon also earned the conference's Newcomer of the Year award, the first Blazer to ever earn the honor.
Following the conclusion of the 2011 season, both Austin and Woolley were selected in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. Both players were selected in the 13th round with Austin going to the Seattle Mariners and Woolley being picked by the Detroit Tigers. The selections (at the time) marked the second and third highest draft picks in program history, behind only Chris Hammond was drafted in the sixth round by the Cincinnati Reds in 1986. Under the guidance of Shoop, 16 UAB players have gone on to play in the professional ranks, including Turner Lee and Chase Mallard off the 2014 UAB team, and James Naile, Alex Luna and Adam Lau off the 2015 club.
Since Shoop took over the program in 2007, UAB has racked up 29 All-Conference honors. That season, the Blazers immediately improved from an eighth-place Conference USA finish the previous year to a three-way tie for fourth place, marking the best finish for the program since 1998. A year later, Shoop coached Ryan Keedy to third-team All-American status. Keedy turned in one of the best statistical seasons in UAB history in 2008, leading Conference USA with a .423 batting average and setting a school record with 29 doubles. The eventual 16th-round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs also blasted 10 home runs and drove in 69 runs.
The 2008 season was also highlighted by the Blazers' academic success. UAB earned the Conference USA Sport Academic award for baseball after posting a team GPA of 3.06 for the 2007-08 academic year. The team has continued its success in the classroom with 24 players earning a GPA of 3.0 or better in at least one semester last year. In 2009, UAB pitcher James Oliver was named the Conference USA Scholar-Athlete of the Year for baseball and in 2012 Keith DePew was named UAB's top senior student-athlete.
Through nine seasons as the head coach, Shoop has had 162 players named to the Conference USA Commissioner's honor roll for compiling a 3.0 GPA or better, while 37 student-athletes have earned the league's academic medal for totaling a 3.75 GPA or better. Shoop's squads have compiled team GPA's of over 3.0 in six of eight seasons.
Shoop was appointed as the head coach of the UAB baseball program on June 12, 2006 by Interim Director of Athletics Richard Margison.
Shoop came to UAB after serving 17 seasons at the helm of the Birmingham-Southern program, where he compiled a record of 699-300-1 (.700). In November 2008, the school inducted Shoop into its Sports Hall of Fame. The winningest coach all-time at Birmingham-Southern, Shoop won 40 games or more nine times, including an eight-year run from 1994-2001 that was capped off with a 55-win season. He finished with at least 32 wins in 16 of his 17 years at the school with his only sub-32-win season coming in his first campaign back in 1990.
Whether at Birmingham-Southern or now at UAB, Shoop is quick to recognize the contributions of his assistant coaches and their impact on his programs.
"What a blessing it is every day to come to work with our incredible staff," Shoop said. "Perry (Roth), Josh (Hopper) and Coach (Ron) Polk are an incredible group possessing so much baseball knowledge they daily pass along to our players. But they are even better people, fun to work beside, and they provide a tremendous example to the young men we have the privilege of coaching. Interacting daily with our staff, our support staff and our players makes working at UAB a true joy."
With the move to UAB, Shoop found himself in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. The conference season has always been a time when his teams have shined in the past, capturing a remarkable 209 victories in league play at Birmingham-Southern.
Under Shoop, the Panthers claimed the Big South regular season championship in two of his last three years at Birmingham-Southern (2004 and 2006). His 2004 squad earned a berth in the NCAA Athens Regional following a 47-18 season that made him the recipient of the 2004 Big South Conference Coach of the Year award as well as the ABCA Coach of the Year honor.
When speaking of recruiting the finest talent in the country, Shoop believes UAB is a premier institution to attract quality young men and players.
"When I took the job here, a lot of people would say that I'd have to lower my standards in what we were looking for in young men, and I kept saying, `Why?'" Shoop said. "We have a 14-point plan and we try to stick to that. We graduated 67 straight players at Birmingham-Southern, and I'm fully committed to these kids getting their UAB degree.
"We try to be pretty thorough through interviews, and I hope that we're not compromising character for ability. We have a higher expectation of our guys off the field than on the field, and we want the school and community to view the UAB baseball program as a source of pride. My experience is that winning has been a by-product of doing things the right way."
Shoop's goal is to instill a winning tradition at UAB that stems from the philosophy of building a well-rounded team.
"We're trying to recruit a pitching staff that gives us a chance to win, and we put a very high value on defense," he said. "We'll try and recruit a balanced offense. I don't really want sluggers like the `Bronx Bombers' one through nine. I want a combination offense that has a balance between bunting, running and power. I want to be able to attack the game in multiple ways. We want mentally tough guys who are hard workers, and we also try to recruit good families. What their moms and dads are like is important to us."
At Birmingham-Southern, Shoop's teams averaged 41 wins a season and captured nine regular season conference titles and eight league tournament championships. He led his squads to 10 regional appearances and finished no worse than third, with three runner-up finishes and four regional titles. The Panthers were ranked in the final NAIA poll in 10 of Shoop's first 12 seasons, including eight top-10 rankings and four top-five finishes. In 2006, his final season with the Panthers marked the 16th straight winning season for Birmingham-Southern as his team finished 33-22.
In 2001, Birmingham-Southern's final year of NAIA competition, Shoop led the Panthers to a school-record 55 wins on the way to claiming the NAIA National Championship, the program's first-ever national title. Shoop was named the 2001 NAIA National Coach of the Year and Region XI coach of the year from the ABCA. Following the Panthers' run to the 2001 national championship, Shoop was selected to greet President George W. Bush at the Birmingham International Airport during his visit to Alabama and the "Magic City."
Shoop has been the recipient of his fair share of accolades from his peers during his time spent as a head coach. Twice he was named TransSouth Conference Coach of the Year, and he has been honored as the ABCA Mid-South Region Coach of the Year on three occasions. Shoop was named either conference or district coach of the year in seven of his last 11 years at Birmingham-Southern, and he served as the NAIA Southeastern Region Baseball Chairman for four years. In his career, he has been the guest speaker at the ABCA National Convention three times, and in 1996, he was inducted into the Malone (Ohio) College Athletic Hall of Fame.
Before running the Birmingham-Southern program, Shoop served as an assistant coach at Mississippi State under legendary head coach Ron Polk. Over a seven-year span (1983-89), he helped the Bulldogs win three Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships and earn six regional appearances with a College World Series appearance in 1985. During his tenure in Starkville, Shoop coached Major League Baseball standouts Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Brantley, and Bobby Thigpen and was instrumental in recruiting some of the top players in America.
Shoop has also helped to develop some of the game's top NCAA Division I coaches in Matt Bragga (head coach, Tennessee Tech), Bob Keller (assistant coach, South Alabama), Daron Schoenrock (head coach, Memphis), and Butch Thompson (assistant coach, Mississippi State), to name a few.
"It has been a blessing and privilege to work with coach Shoop," said UAB assistant Perry Roth. "He is, in my opinion, the best coach in all of America. He is incredibly organized and prepared and thinks the game at a different level. What truly separates him is his love for his players and his faith. When you have an opportunity to be around him, you can't help but grow as a coach and grow as a person."
An Ohio native, Shoop began his coaching career at his alma mater, Malone (Ohio) College, where he was an All-District performer. Malone was the Ohio NAIA champion in each of Shoop's six years as a player and coach.
He earned a double degree in physical education and business/economics from Malone and a master's degree in sports administration from Kent State University. He has also completed his doctoral course work in educational leadership at Mississippi State.
Shoop and his wife, Brenda, reside in Birmingham and have five children: Scott, Emily, Hannah, and twins Sarah and Jesse.