Mike Fox, legendary UNC baseball coach retiring after 22 years with program


OMAHA, NE – JUNE 21: Head coach Mike Fox #30 of the North Carolina Tar Heels smiles at some fans during their 7-4 win over the Rice Owls in Game 13 of the NCAA College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium on June 21, 2007 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Mike Fox, the winningest active coach in Division I baseball and the first to lead an Atlantic Coast Conference team to four consecutive College World Series, is retiring after 22 seasons at the helm at the University of North Carolina and 37 years as a collegiate head coach.

UNC Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham named Scott Forbes as the Tar Heels’ next head coach. Forbes, who will be the 25th head coach in Carolina Baseball history, just completed his 19th season on the UNC coaching staff. He becomes just the fifth head coach of the Tar Heel baseball program since 1931.

“From playing in the College World Series as a Tar Heel senior, to winning a Division III national championship at N.C. Wesleyan, to leading Carolina to Omaha seven times as the Tar Heels’ head coach, Mike’s impact on college baseball has been legendary,” says Cunningham. “He has connected generations of players and fans to Carolina baseball, and his commitment to his students in and out of the dugout is highlighted by the scores of players who have returned to Chapel Hill after professional careers to earn their degrees.

“The sign of a great leader also is building an outstanding staff,” says Cunningham. “Scott Forbes is a talented recruiter, a strong communicator and has been instrumental in developing multiple facets of the program during his 20 years at Carolina. As head coach, he will continue to build on all that our baseball team has accomplished.”

Fox, a 1978 UNC graduate, concluded his 37-year head coaching career with a 1,487-547-5 record, a winning percentage of .731. He is seventh all-time in wins and 15th in winning percentage. He was No. 1 in wins and win percentage among active coaches in 2020.

“Serving as the head baseball coach at my alma mater for the past 22 seasons has been one of the greatest blessings of my professional life,” says Fox. “I have been in love with the University of North Carolina since I was a young boy. To see my dream of becoming a Tar Heel student, player and coach is hard for me to even comprehend.

“I came to Chapel Hill in the fall of 1974 as a true walk-on, eventually made the JV baseball and basketball teams, played in the College World Series and returned as head coach for 22 unforgettable seasons. The experiences I have been so fortunate to live out and the relationships I have made as a player and coach have gone way beyond anything I could ever have imagined. Those experiences have exceeded even my dreams to this very day.”

Fox became the head coach at his alma mater prior to the 1999 season. His Tar Heel teams went 948-406-1, won ACC championships in 2007, 2013 and 2018, and advanced to the College World Series in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2018. The 2006 and 2007 teams reached the championship round in Omaha.

He is the winningest coach in Carolina Baseball history and led UNC to seven of its 11 CWS appearances. The Asheville, N.C., native played in or was head coach in all 18 of UNC’s College World Series victories all-time.

“Over the past five months I have come to realize more than ever the importance of family,” says Fox. “For the first time in almost 40 years the time without coaching allowed me to truly experience family once again. Cheryl and I gained another grandbaby, and because our daughter and son-in-law live very close, we are able to experience the joy of children daily. I have also been able to spend more time with my son and his wife. It has been a blessing.

“Life slowed down for Cheryl and me, and we discovered the enjoyment of a simpler life. Thankfully I am healthy, and I feel this is the right time to step away from the rigors of coaching. I will miss the players, coaches, co-workers and our great fans, but it is time for me to be a full-time husband, father and grandfather, and do other things with my life.

“I am so very excited for Scott and his family,” adds Fox. “He is more than ready to be a head coach and will do an excellent job. I am very grateful to Bubba (Cunningham) for rewarding Scott’s loyalty, believing in his leadership abilities and keeping the consistency within the program.”

Baseball America’s 2008 National Coach of the Year, Fox was ACC Coach of the Year in 2018 and his peers selected him Atlantic Region Coach of the Year three times. The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inducted him as a member in 2017.

Carolina averaged almost 45 wins per season (prior to the Covid-19 shortened season of 2020) and posted five 50-win seasons under Fox, setting a school-record 59 wins in 2013.

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