Legendary UA Baseball Coach Norm DeBriyn Steps
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After 33 years serving as head coach of the University of Arkansas baseball program Norm DeBriyn stepped down from his coaching responsibilities Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles announced Tuesday.
“Norm is the consummate coach, friend and associate,” Broyles said. “Every athletic director would like to have a coach that possesses these qualities. He has led the Razorback program with an emphasis on academics and integrity. His coaching record speaks for itself. But, perhaps his greatest contribution has been the lasting relationships with his players and coaches that have bonded them not only to their coach, but to the University of Arkansas.”
In a career that spanned four decades, DeBriyn took over as head coach of Razorback baseball in 1970 at the age of 28. DeBriyn guided the Razorbacks to two Southwest Conference titles, one Southeastern Conference title, one SEC Western Division title, 15 NCAA Tournament appearances and four NCAA College World Series appearances.
The Razorbacks had their best national finish is school history under DeBriyn in 1979 as they finished runner-up in the College World Series.
DeBriyn ranks 14th all-time in career wins among NCAA Division I head coaches with a record of 1,161-648-6 and a career winning percentage of .641.
DeBriyn’s 33-year tenure at the University of Arkansas ranks second among current UA athletics employees, trailing only Broyles who is in his 45th year with Razorback athletics.
A native of Ashland, Wis., DeBriyn led the 2002 Razorbacks to a 35-28 record and the team’s first-ever NCAA Super Regional.
In 33 years with Razorback baseball, DeBriyn coached 19 All-America selections, six Freshman All-Americans, 58 All-Conference selections and 48 All-Conference Tournament selections.
DeBriyn was named SEC Coach of the Year in 1999 and earned SWC Coach of the Year in 1978, 1982, 1983, 1987, 1989 and 1990. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and the Razorback Hall of Honor in 1991.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a B.S. in history in 1963, DeBriyn and his wife, Caroline, have been married 31 years. They have two sons, Todd and Marty, and one daughter, Carrie Jo.
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT NORM DeBRIYN
Former Auburn Head Coach Hal Baird:
“It was always a privilege for our teams to compete against the great Arkansas teams under Coach DeBriyn. His championships in the Southwest Conference and Southeastern Conference, as well as his overall record, speaks for itself, but what set Norm apart was the class and dignity in which he and his Arkansas teams represented the University of Arkansas and the state of Arkansas. It is a model that all young coaches would do well to follow.”
Oklahoma Head Coach Larry Cochell: “I’ve known Norm since 1970 when I was coaching at Creighton and he brought his Arkansas club up to play us in Rosenblatt Stadium that year and we’ve been close friends ever since. He’s one of those rare coaches that has been great for college baseball and I think the kids that have played for him have learned the game of baseball, as well as the game of life. I know I will miss competing against him and I’m sure many other coaches will, too.”
Former Razorback Bill Bakewell (1977, ’78, ’79):
“The best thing I can say about Norm is what a great person he is. The University of Arkansas could not have a better representative than Norm DeBriyn. He is a special person who has always made time for others, even when he didn’t have time for himself.
“He cares so much for his players and he is as proud of those who have gone on to build careers in private business as he is of those who have played in professional baseball.”
LSU Athletic Director and Former Baseball Coach Skip Bertman:
“He’s a Hall of Famer. Norm and so many coaches of his generation have set the stage for college baseball and made it what it is today. In addition to being a great coach, he’s a genuinely fine human being and one of the great guys of all time.”
SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer:
“Norm has really been one of the true building blocks of baseball not just at Arkansas but also in our conference. He brought Arkansas in with class and was competitive from the beginning. He probably has the best understanding of the big picture of intercollegiate athletics than almost any coach I’ve been around. He has a good, positive feeling about people and his program. He has been a great credit to the University of Arkansas, the SEC and college baseball. He will be sorely missed.”
Former Razorback (1983) and Former St. Louis Cardinal Catcher Tom Pagnozzi:
“First of all, when a guy has been there 33 years, that shows remarkable stability. The second thing is he has great character of a very, very high quality. He is honest. That is what you need in that type of position. What is impressive to me is that he maintained that year after year. There hasn’t been that much change in him over the years other than he has mellowed a little bit. Okay, maybe he has mellowed a lot. “Norm’s legacy in the state of Arkansas and college baseball is that he took what basically was a club sport playing at the fairgrounds to a nationally competitive program playing at Baum Stadium. There are a number of people responsible for Baum Stadium and the program’s success, but he was the driving force behind all of it. He has won year after year while producing quality players. “Personally, he took a chance on me. I was a drafted player that was making a position change. For him to roll the dice on a recruiting trip, when he looked right at me and said if you don’t make it as a catcher you may not play, was honest and straight to the point. I would’ve never gotten to the point I’ve gotten without the time he spent with me and all the extra things we did in practice. I attribute so much of my success to him.”
Mississippi State Head Coach Ron Polk:
“The Southeastern Conference and college baseball are losing another coaching great with Norm’s retirement. We’ve been close friends for many, many years, dating back to Arkansas’ years in the Southwest Conference, and I’m going to miss him. He’s a class coach and a class individual, and his teams have always been well-trained and competed on a high level.
“I congratulate Norm on a tremendous coaching career and extend wishes for the very best to him and to his family.”
University of Arkansas System President Dr. B. Alan Sugg:
“Coach Norm DeBriyn’s retirement will be a great loss for the University of Arkansas. In every way he represents the best of what a coach should be. He is tremendously respected by his players and by the fans. He is a class act.”
South Carolina Head Coach Ray Tanner: “I’ve cherished every opportunity I’ve had to visit with Coach DeBriyn. He’s been a true friend and he has shared many of his experiences in college baseball with me … and I truly appreciate that. He will be missed as a great man and as a great college baseball coach.”
Nebraska Head Coach and Former UA Player/Graduate Assistant Coach Dave Van Horn:
“Norm has been a positive influence in my life. I have been extremely privileged to play and coach with him. There is not a person I respect more than Norm DeBriyn. He has been my mentor and friend, and in many ways he has been a second father to me.
“When he started, at the college level there were just a few high-profile teams getting the majority of the top players. He started in the old days when they practiced at the Fairgrounds and other teams would laugh at our field. He just kept working and built the program.
“I have mixed emotions about Norm retiring. I’m happy for him, but I’m sad that he will no longer be the coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.”
University of Arkansas Chancellor Dr. John A. White:
“I think he has done a tremendous job at the UA. He is going to be missed. I’m delighted that he will continue to be a part of our program. As great as a baseball coach as he has been, he’s been even a greater ambassador for the University of Arkansas and our state.”
Former Razorback (1997, ’98, ’99) and Current Chicago White Sox Pitcher Dan Wright:
“Obviously he has been a mainstay at the University of Arkansas. I run into people all the time that say ‘I played against Arkansas, is Norm DeBriyn still the coach there?’ The longevity of his career is the thing that sticks out. The thing that I appreciate most is his honesty. He has always been a straight shooter. I didn’t put up great numbers in college, but he always was honest with me and let me know where I stood.”
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