The University of Iowa has not won a Big Ten baseball championship since 1990 but new coach Rick Heller says the future for the program is bright. Heller was introduced on Monday as the Hawkeyes new coach.
The native of Eldon spent the past four years as the head coach at Indiana State. “It’s a big day. It’s a big day for my family, it’s a big day for myself. It’s great to be a Hawkeye, it’s great to be home. I can’t tell you how excited I am to get started,” Heller said.
Heller said Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta offered him a partnershuip with the administration to build the program.
“And that’s all I wanted to hear, because if that happens, if that happens, there’s no question we can get this thing going,” according to Heller. “We are the University of Iowa, one of the best universities in America. And if we can’t get it done in baseball, there is something wrong. And with a partnership that we’re going to have with Gary, myself and the administration, we’ll go to work right now. The future starts today and the future is bright.”
Heller says he will go to work immediately and says his goal is to keep the best players in the state. He says recruiting is not always the most talented player, it’s finding the right player, and he says he has had a knack for finding that player. Heller says they want players who want to improve and get better and they will have to be a great student, a great citizen and will be held accountable in the program.
Heller says he enjoys coaching and developing talent. “One of the things that makes me feel good and the best compliment you could ever give me — and a lot of scouts have said this about myself and our program: ‘if you go to school with Rick you are going to get better.’ And that makes me feel good,” Heller said.
He says all facets of the program have to mesh together to develop the players. Heller coached at UNI from 1999 until the program was discontinued in 2009. He says as the lone remaining division one program in the state Iowa has a lot of potential.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am what we can be doing in four years, five years, it could be amazing, because we are, we are the only one left division one wise,” Heller says. “The baseball people in this state want to be proud of something. They want something they can wrap their arms around and they want something they can be proud of.”
Barta says the administration is making a bigger commitment top the sport of baseball and will begin the process of upgrading facilities.
He says that includes everything from salaries to the facilities over the next few years. Barta says they have some ideas and will soon start raising money to get it done.
Heller began his college copaching career with a successful run at Upper Iowa. He takes over a program that qualified for the Big Ten tournament three times during former coach Jack Dahm’s 10 years at the helm.