Iowa baseball has stability at the top for the foreseeable future, as the University of Iowa announced that they’ve extended head coach Rick Heller through 2024.
Coming off what’s arguably the best season in program history, there had been murmurs that Heller deserved a big contract extension for putting Iowa baseball on the map. The Hawkeyes went 39-22 in 2017, including 15-9 in conference play, and won the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in program history. Iowa then went on to the NCAA Regionals, where they beat top-seeded Houston in their first game before being eliminated.
While the figures of the contract have yet to be released, this is a huge step for a program that’s certainly on the rise and looks to cement itself as a top-tier program in the Big Ten. Heller has led the Hawkeyes to one of their most successful stretches in program history, winning 140 games and earning two NCAA Regional berths (2015, 2017). He’s seen 15 players go on to be drafted in the MLB Amateur Draft, coached five All-Americans, and had at least one all-Big Ten first-team selection in each year at the helm of the program.
Most importantly, Rick Heller seems set to keep the program trending upward in years to come. With promises of upgrades to Duane Banks Field, Heller has been able to bring in top-rated recruiting classes - Iowa had the Big Ten’s top-ranked class in 2015 (18th nationally), third best in 2016, and fifth in 2017. With more upgrades due to the baseball field, it’s likely the success on the recruiting trail keeps up in future years.
From the UI’s release:
"The progress this program has made in four seasons under Rick has been incredible," said Barta. "Rick has changed the culture from day one with the win, graduate, and do it right principles at the forefront. We're excited to be able to reward Rick with this contract extension to keep him in Iowa City for the foreseeable future.
"You can feel the excitement and buzz surrounding the program throughout the state. We are excited to continue building on that and are looking forward to the 2018 baseball season."
"I am proud to be part of such an outstanding, team-oriented athletics department and university," said Heller. "With the fantastic leadership of Gary Barta and President (Bruce) Harreld our baseball program has grown significantly in the last five years and we look forward to working together to keep it moving forward.
"I am humbled that Gary and Bruce have given me the opportunity to be a Hawkeye for a long time. It's a privilege to go to work each day with such an amazing group of coaches, staff, and student-athletes."
Congratulations to Coach Heller on his extension. Plenty of people are excited about Iowa baseball in 2018, and he’s the big reason why.