Rick Heller Named Iowa's Baseball Coach

July 12, 2013

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta has named Rick Heller as the 20th head coach in UI baseball history. Heller takes over the Iowa program after serving as the head coach at Indiana State the last four seasons.

Heller and Barta will hold a press conference on Monday, July 15, at 4 p.m. (CT) in the Feller Club Room in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Heller, a native of Eldon, Iowa, has been head coach at three institutions — Indiana State (2009-13), Northern Iowa (1999-2009), and Upper Iowa (1987-99) — leading all three schools to NCAA postseason play. He led Indiana State to its first outright Missouri Valley Conference title in 2012. He led Northern Iowa to the 2001 MVC title and into the NCAA Tournament, the first regional appearance for the Panthers since becoming a Division I program in 1981. In 26 seasons as a head coach, Heller holds a career mark of 692-563-4.

“I’m extremely excited to have Rick Heller as part of the Hawkeye family,” said Barta. “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.

“I am extremely proud and honored to be named the head baseball coach at the University of Iowa. 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.”
Rick Heller, Iowa’s head baseball coach

“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 led the Sycamores to their first outright Missouri Valley Conference championship in school history and back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995 during the record-setting 2012 season. Indiana State finished 41-19, including a 14-7 record in conference play to claim the regular season crown and earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. The 41 wins were the most for the program since 1991.

Heller was named the 2012 Dan Callahan MVC Coach of the Year, while junior Jeremy Lucas earned the Joe Carter MVC Player of the Year award — the first student-athlete in ISU history to earn the league’s MVP — and junior Dakota Bacus was selected as the MVC Newcomer of the Year. Eight members of the team were named All-MVC. Following the season, two Sycamores were drafted in the top-12 rounds and a total of three signed contracts to begin their professional careers.

Heller led Indiana State to its fifth-consecutive winning season in 2013, and to a semifinal appearance in the MVC Tournament. The Sycamores, who finished 26-25 overall, had four players earn All-MVC honors, including Sean Manaea, the 34th overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. The draft selection was the second-highest in ISU baseball program history. Manaea became the 16th Sycamore to either be drafted or sign a professional free agent contract since Heller became head coach in 2009.

Heller led Indiana State to a 35-19 record in his first season in Terre Haute, Ind. — the most wins for any first-year coach in ISU baseball history — and a third place MVC finish. The Sycamores were one of two MVC teams to receive votes in the national polls during the season. In 2011, Indiana State went 29-28 and advanced to the semifinals of the MVC Tournament — its deepest run since 2002.

During his tenure at Northern Iowa, Heller’s teams won 270 games, including the 2001 Missouri Valley Conference championship and NCAA Regional Berth. While building the Panthers into an annual contender, Heller coached three MVC Most Valuable Players, one MVC Pitcher of the Year and helped put 22 players in professional baseball.

While at UNI, Heller’s teams broke a total of 57 team or individual records, including setting team records for hits, runs batted in, doubles and extra base hits during the 2001 season. Heller led the Panthers to four MVC tournaments, winning the championship in 2001. All-American Ryan Brunner claimed the league MVP award and All-American Nic Ungs was named Pitcher of the Year.

The Panthers recorded back-to-back 30-plus win seasons in 2001 and 2002 for the first time in school history and set the school single-season record with 35 wins in 2001. Heller also coached two Academic All-Americans in Brunner and Travis Welsch. Before taking over the Northern Iowa program prior to the 2000 season, Heller spent 12 years as a head coach at Upper Iowa University, a Division III institution. While at Upper Iowa, Heller recorded a 291-194-3 overall record and was named the Iowa Conference Coach of the Year four times.

Heller won his first conference championship in 1993 — the first for Upper Iowa in 20 years — while advancing to the NCAA Division III Regionals. His team won the Iowa Conference title and advanced to NCAA Regionals again in 1995, finishing 19th in the national rankings as Heller won his third Coach of the Year honor.

He repeated Coach of the Year honors again in 1996 when the Peacocks won the Iowa Conference and Central Regional to advance to the NCAA Division III College World Series. His team finished the year ranked sixth nationally and he was named NCAA Division III Central Region Coach of the Year. That 39-12 team also set a school record for wins.

In 1997, his team was ranked seventh nationally in the pre-season poll and won the Iowa Conference Tournament. In 1998, his team was ranked as high as 10th nationally while finishing with a 38-8 record to set a school record for winning percentage (.826). His final UIU team finished 30-15-1 and finished third in the Iowa Conference while setting five school records.

As a player at Upper Iowa from 1982-86, he was a four-year starter at shortstop and he also lettered in football and basketball. He is a member of the Upper Iowa Athletic Hall of Fame.

Heller is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and serves on the ABCA All-American Committee. He is also a member of the Indiana and Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Associations. In 2008, he was inducted into the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Heller has three daughters — Tara, Alyssa, and Vivienne. His wife’s name is Rachelle.