Iowa tabs Rick Heller as new baseball coach

IOWA CITY -- Rick Heller officially became his home state's prodigal son on Friday morning.

Heller, who has 22 years of head coaching experience in the state of Iowa, was announced as Iowa's 20th head baseball coach. He replaces Jack Dahm, whose contract was not renewed after the season.

“I’m extremely excited to have Rick Heller as part of the Hawkeye family,” Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said in a statement. “Rick has built three programs as a head coach and has led each one to a championship.  He has a plan that transfers well to Iowa.  Rick knows the state of Iowa, and Iowa knows Rick.  His roots run deep, and he has earned the trust and respect of the baseball community in the state, as well as across the country.

“Coaching is a critical part of our ability to win championships.  Rick is the right individual to lead our program.  The Big Ten has becoming increasingly more competitive in the sport of baseball in recent years. I am committed, and the athletics department is committed, to providing the tools and resources necessary to create a championship program. ”

“I am extremely proud and honored to be named the head baseball coach at the University of Iowa,” said Heller. “This is a great day for me and my family.  The opportunity to come back to the state and the challenge of turning the Iowa baseball program into a championship-caliber team is something I’ve dreamed about.

“I would like to thank Gary Barta and everyone on the search committee for choosing me to lead this program.”

Heller, and Eldon native, led Upper Iowa for 12 years and Northern Iowa for 10 before the program was abruptly shut down after the 2009 season. He was hired three months later by Indiana State, and led the Sycamores to four straight winning seasons. In 2012, Heller led Indiana State to a 41-19 overall record, its first outright Missouri Valley Conference title and an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. He was named MVC coach of the year following the season.

In 26 years, Heller has compiled a 692-563-4 overall record. He won 270 games, earned an MVC title and an NCAA tournament berth. He was named to the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008.

The Hawkeyes finished 22-27 last year, the school's third-consecutive losing season. Dahm compiled a 235-302 record over his 10 years and posted two winning seasons in his tenure — 31-23 (2007) and 30-28 (2010).

At Upper Iowa recorded a 291-194-3 overall record and was named the Iowa Conference Coach of the Year four times. He engineered a remarkable turnaround for a program. He was 10 games under .500 for his first six seasons.

Heller takes over a program that featured the Big Ten's lowest-paid public coach and the league's weakest public-school facilities. According to documents sent to the NCAA and provided by Iowa officials, Jack Dahm received $152,907 in compensation for fiscal year 2012, the lowest among his Big Ten brethren.

Iowa's Duane Banks Field opened in 1974, and the playing surface was replaced in 2010. Lights were added in 2002, but most improvements have been cosmetic. Since 2002, seven Big Ten baseball programs have either new or refurbished stadiums costing at least $4 million. Ohio State's $4.7 million stadium was built in 1996 (and renovated in 2011), and Illinois' 1988 stadium twice has seen major upgrades.

Iowa baseball also does not have a baseball-dedicated indoor structure, but the school plans to open a $15 million indoor multipurpose facility with FieldTurf in 2015. The building, which will include areas for softball and marching band, will open near the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex.

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