Troy University baseball head coach Bobby Pierce announced at a press conference Wednesday that he will retire following the 2015 season; his 13th season as the coach of the Trojans. Pierce, who is 15 wins shy of surpassing Chase Riddle for the most in school history, informed his team at a meeting Tuesday night.
“Troy University, the Troy community and the entire Trojan nation have been nothing short of phenomenal to me, my family and our program over the years,” Pierce said. “I have put everything I have into playing and coaching for 51 years of my life. When you invest that much for that long, your tank runs a little low.”
Mark Smartt, who has served as an assistant for Pierce’s entire tenure, has already been dubbed as the program’s next head coach.
“It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest, I hate to see (Pierce) go. To know that I’ll be listed among the same names as Chase Riddle and Bobby Pierce is a little hard to fathom,” Smartt said. “I’m so proud that the leadership at Troy has the confidence and faith that I can take on this challenge and I’ll do everything I can to continue the work that has been done before me.”
Smartt has accumulated 894 wins in 27 years as an NCAA player and coach. He was a member of Troy’s 1986 and 1987 NCAA Division II National Championship teams and was a two-time All-Gulf South Conference player. Smartt finished with the third-highest career batting average in school history (.379) and currently ranks fourth in the category.
The 2005 Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Riddle in 1988. In 1990, Smartt became an assistant at the University of West Alabama and five years later was named head coach. During his time with the Tigers, UWA broke or tied 38 school records, produced two All-Americans, seven all-region selections and 10 All-GSC players. The 1992 UWA squad advanced to the NCAA Division II World Series.
“Bobby Pierce has accomplished so much during his career as a player and coach. As we’ve gone through these conversations, the one thing that has come out of that is how selfless he is. Nothing is about Bobby Pierce, everything is about the student-athletes,” Troy Director of Athletics John Hartwell said. “There is one person that makes sense for this job and next June we will be extremely excited to name Mark Smartt as our next baseball coach.”
Pierce took over a mediocre Troy program in 2003 and quickly turned the Trojans into regular Atlantic Sun Conference and Sun Belt Conference contenders – winning four conference titles in 12 seasons. The team has averaged 35 wins per season since his arrival and has made four NCAA Regional appearances.
Pierce has coached 15 All-Americans and had 28 players sign professional contracts. He also coached six consecutive national award winners, 42 all-conference selections, four Pitchers of the Year (2005, 2006, 2011, 2013), two Players of the Year (2005, 2011), one Newcomer of the Year (2007) and two Freshman of the Year (2009 & 2014).
He is a two-time Sun Belt Coach of the Year (2006 & 2011), the 2005 Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year and an Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee.
Following his graduation from the University of Alabama in 1982 at age 23, Pierce became the youngest head coach in Florida junior college history when he took over the program at Chipola College. In his first season, the school finished 41-15 and won the Florida state junior college championship helping him earn Panhandle Conference and Florida Junior College Coach of the Year honors. After the 1989 season, Pierce returned to his alma mater as Alabama’s top assistant.
In 1996, Pierce was named the first baseball coach in history at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. In seven seasons at the helm at UAH, Pierce led the program to 276 wins and five NCAA Division II Regional Tournament berths and a No. 1 ranking in 2001.
Troy Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., who hired Pierce in 2003, says the contributions Pierce has made to Troy Athletics are innumerable.
“You never like to lose great talent, but there is no one as qualified, in my estimation, to follow coach Bobby Pierce than Mark Smartt,” Hawkins said. “It’s to have people that really understand and love this university in leadership roles. I’m sure that the great tradition of this program will continue.”