BASEBALL: A familiar face
Ball State re-hires baseball coach after 10-year absence
Coming back to Ball State wasn't hard for Rich Maloney, despite spending 10 years at Big Ten power Michigan and having an opportunity to build up another baseball program.
It was pretty easy, actually, to come back to a place where he built so many great relationships. On Friday, he was announced in a press conference as Ball State's head baseball coach, a position he held from 1996 until 2002.
"When you look at all the friends, and I mean, I have so many friends," Maloney said. "How many guys get to leave a place to chase a dream - because I always had a dream of going to Michigan - [and] be successful for 10 years and through an uncanny series of events be able to have the opportunity to come back to a place that you love and where you're very well received."
His dream at Michigan didn't end in any sort of athletic failure.
On the field, Maloney's teams succeeded during the majority of his tenure. Under his leadership, Michigan won three Big Ten Championships, two Big Ten Tournaments and the 2007 NCAA Regional title during the 10 seasons with the program.
But even after all of Maloney's successes, something wasn't quite the same for him. After returning to Ball State, he said he hopes to recapture something that faded along the way.
"I think when you play at the highest level and you have all the resources at a great university like Michigan, with that there is a tremendous amount of pressure," Maloney said. "At the end of the day, what really matters is the relationships."
Athletic Director Bill Scholl said when he talked with Maloney over lunch to discuss the job, Maloney told him what was so special about Ball State.
"I think they had a wonderful time last time they were here," Scholl said. "Recent experience has caused him to kind of reassess why he coached. It is about the student athletes and it's not necessarily about being in the brightest lights you can find."
Those relationships were the reason he found his way back to Ball State. When he returned for his press conference, he was greeted by a number of familiar faces. He hugged former players and colleagues before being announced. He was right at home.
"We wouldn't have come back unless it was a great place," Maloney said. "Unless we had so many friends and people we consider family otherwise we wouldn't have considered it."
Perhaps coming back was exactly what he needed for a fresh start - a new dream.
Maloney said he always wanted to reach the College World Series with Ball State. Despite amassing a 256-144-1 record over the course of seven years and winning two Mid-American Conference regular season titles, that dream was never realized.
He left Michigan after a mutual agreement to not extend his contract in late May, just days before it was announced that Ball State coach Alex Marconi resigned after two years and a 29-71 record.
Scholl said he had his eye on Maloney as soon as the Ball State position opened up. A couple of Maloney's closest friends at Ball State, former coach and current associate athletic director Pat Quinn and tennis coach Bill Richards, made calls to Maloney in an effort to determine if there would be any interest in his return.
Scholl said once Maloney was interested, he jumped up to the top of candidates Scholl wanted to lead the Ball State program.
"From that point forward, while I continued talking to other candidates, I was really focused on him as being the right guy if we could make it work," Scholl said.
It was that determination and persistence that convinced Maloney to return to Muncie.
When Maloney indicated to Scholl that other offers were coming in and moving quickly, Maloney said Scholl went above and beyond.
"He says, 'Well, can I hop in the car and come see you?'" Maloney said. "So we set it up for the next day and he came to see me and it meant a lot to me. He was great."
From then on, it was just a matter of negotiating until a contract was agreed upon Wednesday night and signed later on Thursday.
Scholl said time was a major factor, but he wanted to make sure he made an effort in bringing Maloney back and spent sleepless nights trying to get the opening wrapped up as soon as possible for the players.
In the end, the wait was all worth it for him to nab the best possible coach.
"I'm ecstatic for the kids on our team," Scholl said. "This is all about the student athletes and I think they got the best coach in America."
Scholl was able to acquire a coach who not only had Big Ten experience; he hired a coach who has already proven he can succeed in Muncie.
"I think anytime we can bring somebody in who is a proven head coach, I think that's a good thing," he said. "I don't know how you can look at that record of success and not expect it to continue when he comes here."
The next step for Maloney is to get in contact with his new players and start another part of his dream - getting support for a new baseball venue.
It's something he said he thinks Scholl and President Jo Ann Gora have already showed support in by putting so much faith in him.
"[I believe] that we're going to transform that baseball field and I think that's part of a dream," Maloney said.
As the dream continues for Maloney, he plans on following one motto: "With the help of many we can do great things." But he has already shown he has friends around in the relationships he's built over the course of the years.
Those relationships are exactly why he came back in the first place, Scholl said.
"They had a phenomenal experience in Muncie," Scholl said. "They love this place. I don't think another MAC school would have gotten him. I really don't. I think we're the only MAC school he would have looked at coming to."