Brownlee to Retire at the End of the 2009 Season
May 28, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State head baseball coach Jim Brownlee informed director of athletics Dr. Sheahon Zenger Wednesday that he will retire at the completion of the 2009 season.
"People have always asked me how long I'm going to coach, and I've always said that I will know when that time comes," said Brownlee. "Obviously, we haven't accomplished what I wanted to in the six years that I've been here, but I am really looking forward to next season with the new stadium. (By announcing my retirement), Sheahon now has time to get things in place for the 2010 season, so I think the timing is right for Illinois State Athletics and Redbird baseball."
Zenger values Brownlee's loyalty to Illinois State University.
"Coach Brownlee has been a loyal member of the Redbird family for more than four decades as a player, an alumnus and as a coach," said Zenger. "Few people care more about the success of Illinois State Athletics than Jim Brownlee.
"His lifetime record as a baseball coach puts him among the nation's elite, and I think that it is only fitting that he will spend his last year as a coach at his alma mater in a new stadium. I thank him for his time, service and passion for Illinois State, and I look forward to spending his final year as a coach with him."
The 2009 campaign will mark the 30th season for Brownlee as a head college coach, having spent the last six years at his alma mater, Illinois State, and 23 years at Evansville. During that time, Brownlee has amassed 833 victories, which ranks him in the top-40 for wins among all active NCAA Division I coaches. He has won seven conference coach of the year awards, produced more than 40 players who have gone on to play professionally and mentored 10 academic All-Americans.
Brownlee will lead Redbird baseball into a new era, by coaching ISU in its first season in a new baseball facility, which is scheduled to open prior to the start of the 2009 season. In his six seasons at ISU, the Redbirds have posted a 132-185 (.416) mark and have not qualified for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament during his tenure.
Prior to returning to ISU, Brownlee spent 23 seasons at the helm of the Evansville baseball program. Although the Aces went 7-37-1 in his first season in 1980, the next season, Evansville won 26 games, more wins than the Aces had in their previous three seasons combined. From 1983 to 1985, Brownlee was a three-time Heartland Conference Coach of the Year and led the Aces to league titles all three seasons.
In 1988, Brownlee had one of the best seasons of his career as a head coach. He was named the Mid-East Coach of the Year by his peers and the Diamond Sports Company District Coach of the Year, after he led the Aces to a 44-20 record and an NCAA Tournament win over No. 1-ranked Arizona State. That year, Brownlee saw Evansville pitcher Andy Benes named the NCAA Player of the Year and selected No. 1 in Major League Baseball's Amateur Draft by the San Diego Padres.
Brownlee then brought Evansville to national prominence in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League). In 1991, Evansville won the MCC regular season with a mark of 40-18-1 and in 1993, he led the Aces to a 43-18 record, the second-most victories in Evansville history. Brownlee also coached Aaron Gries, the Academic All-America Player of the Year at shortstop in 1993.
In 1995, Evansville joined The Valley, and Brownlee continued to succeed, as he posted winning records in five of his eight seasons with the Aces while competing in the MVC. The 2000 season saw Brownlee lead the Aces to a 41-22 record, which earned him Valley Coach of the Year honors, while he also led his team to an NCAA Tournament appearance. In his 14 seasons in The Valley spent between Illinois State and Evansville, Brownlee has produced 15 first-team all-conference players and 22 Valley Scholar-Athlete First-Team members.
After his playing career ended and having served a stint in the military, Brownlee became an assistant baseball coach at Illinois State from 1975-76 and served as head coach for the Galesburg team in the Central Illinois Collegiate League (CICL), before he took the job at Evansville in 1980. He is a member of the Illinois State Athletics Hall of Fame, being inducted as a member of the 1969 team, and was also inducted into the Evansville Athletics Hall of Fame in February 2005, after he earned more wins than any other coach in Evansville history.