EUGENE, Ore. -- When Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny announced the reinstatement of the University of Oregon’s baseball program in July, the reaction among Duck supporters and baseball fans in the community was one of resounding excitement and anticipation. That sentiment will undoubtedly ratchet up a few more notches with the announcement of former College World Series championship skipper and two-time National Coach of the Year George Horton as Oregon’s new head coach.
Horton, who has spent the past 11 seasons at the helm of national power Cal State Fullerton and led the Titans to the 2004 National Championship, will serve as the Ducks’ 12th baseball coach in school history and it’s first since the program was discontinued following the 1981 season.
“This is a tremendous day for the University of Oregon,” Kilkenny said. “Baseball coaches of George Horton’s distinction and ability don’t come along very often, and his decision to come to Eugene speaks volumes about our commitment for Oregon baseball to become successful on a national level.”
Horton will be signed to a five-year agreement that runs through June 30, 2012, with the length of the pact subject to approval from the Oregon University System’s chancellor. The contract calls for a base university salary of $150,000 as well as an additional guaranteed income of $250,000 derived in part from radio and television contracts with the Oregon Sports Network and shoe and apparel agreements with Nike.
During his tenure with the Titans, Horton compiled an overall record of 490-212-1 (.698) and oversaw six appearances in the College World Series, including back-to-back berths in 2006 and 2007 as well as 2003 and ‘04. He was named National Coach of the Year by Baseball America in 2003, and garnered the ABCA and Collegiate Baseball National awards following his squad’s title run in 2004.
Horton was also a five-time Big West Conference Coach of the Year, most recently earning the hardware in 2006 on the heels of his third 50-win season at the Division I level.
“To see what he has built and accomplished at Cal State Fullerton is incredible,” Kilkenny said. “Coach Horton has put together an elite program and has posted an outstanding record on the field of play as well as develops student-athletes as both players and individuals.”
The 54-year-old Cal State Fullerton graduate spent six years as an assistant coach at his alma mater under legendary college baseball coach Augie Garrido before succeeding him in 1997. Horton was the current Texas skipper’s associate head coach, helping CSF to the 1995 National Championship. Prior to joining Garrido’s staff, Horton spent six years as the head coach at Cerritos College, compiling a junior college record of 226-53 (.810) from 1985-90.
Horton’s teams have reached a No. 1 ranking in national polls in part(s) of the 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 seasons. His .698 winning percentage ranks in the top 10 among active Division I coaches (minimum five years). Of the 29 teams Horton has faced five or more times - many of which are nationally prominent - only two (Stanford and Wichita State) have managed winning records against him.
Horton, who is one of nine men to have appeared in Omaha as a player (1975) and a Head Coach, has seen 75 players selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Draft, including 11 in 2003 and 14 in 2005. Four of the last six draft classes have contained at least nine of Horton’s players and he has coached 11 players taken in the top five rounds. In addition, 20 former Titans have ascended to the Major Leagues during Horton’s 17 years at Cal State Fullerton.
Southpaw Ricky Romero (Toronto, 2005) became the third first-round pick taken under Horton’s reign, joining Chad Cordero (Montreal, 2003) and Adam Johnson (Minnesota, 2000) on the list of players taken in the opening round of the Major League Amateur Draft. Other standouts taken in the draft include Aaron Rowand, who was a “sandwich” pick going between the first and second rounds in 1998; Shane Costa, a second-rounder in 2003; and battery mates Kurt Suzuki and Jason Windsor, who were taken in the second and third rounds, respectively, on the first day of the 2004 draft.
No team in baseball had a better pitching staff than the Titans in 2006, as they led the nation with a 2.73 ERA en route to a 50-15 ledger.
In 2007, Horton’s Cal State Fullerton team recovered from an up-and-down regular season to sweep through the NCAA regional and super regional rounds and land a spot in the CWS. The Titans drew eventual champion Oregon State and runner-up UC Irvine in Omaha, falling by one run in each contest, including a 13-inning crusher to the Anteaters.
Horton’s coaching career began as an assistant at Cerritos in 1976-77 and he went to Los Angeles Valley College the following three seasons, where he coached with former Long Beach State Coach Dave Snow. In 1980, he moved back to Cerritos as an assistant to Gordie Douglas before taking the head job in 1985. In addition, he coached during the summer for the Fairbanks (AK) Goldpanners (1981 and 1983) and the Hutchinson (KS) Broncs (1982). Among those who played for him on those summer teams were Shane Mack, Oddibe McDowell, Joe Magrane, Dan Plesac, Phil Stevenson, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
In 1994, Horton was inducted into the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He also was inducted into the Downey High School Hall of Fame in May of 2003 and was honored in 2005 with the Orange County Manager of the Year Award, given by the Orange Coast Chapter of the Society for Advancement of Management.
Horton earned his bachelor’s degree from Cal State Fullerton in 1978 and a master’s from Cal Lutheran in 1980.
Born on Oct. 5, 1953, he and his wife, Francie, have four daughters: Michele, Heather, Loyal and Rebecca, and two granddaughters: Angelica and Alyssa.
In addition, Horton announced that joining his staff in Eugene would be Cal State Fullerton assistant coach Jason Gill.
Gill will earn an annual guaranteed salary of $120,000 plus a one-time expense stipend of $25,000.
Gill, 37, worked as an assistant/recruiting coordinator under Horton for the past three years, serving as as first base and infield coach, as well as the team’s primary hitting instructor. The former all-Big West Conference infielder earned a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Fullerton in kinesiology in 1996 after helping lead the team to a College World Series berth in 1994.
He previously coached at UC Irvine (2002-04), Loyola Marymount (1999-2001) and Nevada (1997-98). While with the Anteaters, he coordinated the school’s recruiting efforts that featured a class lauded as the eighth-best in the country by Baseball America in its first season after the school resurrected the program from extinction.
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