Mercer named next IU baseball coach

Never mind that Jeff Mercer has merely two years of head coaching experience, or that he’s less than a decade removed from playing college baseball himself.

Indiana athletic director Fred Glass believes the former Wright State coach is a rising star in his profession. So on Monday, Glass made the 32-year-old native Hoosier the 25th baseball coach in IU program history.

“I think I just hired the college baseball version of Brad Stevens,” Glass told The Herald-Times. “This guy is special.”

Mercer’s addition ends a week-long coaching search for Indiana, which moved quickly after former coach Chris Lemonis left for Mississippi State on June 24. Mercer, a native of Bargersville, gives the Hoosiers a well-regarded and up-and-coming coach positioned to build off the recent run of success under Lemonis and his predecessor, Tracy Smith.

Mercer has deep recruiting ties to the grassroots levels within the state, a coaching pedigree and an analytical approach that Glass feels will make the new coach a winner for years to come.

“I think he can be and will be the coach for the next 10-to-20 years because I think he’s going to be successful,” Glass said.

Mercer is coming off his second season guiding his alma mater, earning Horizon League Coach of the Year honors after leading the Raiders to a 39-17 overall record and an NCAA Tournament appearance at the Stanford Regional.

Mercer made quick, impactful work during his two-year run at Wright State, winning 77 games across both campaigns. Earlier this spring, he also signed the school’s first ever top-100 recruiting class.

IU and Mercer have agreed on a five-year contract that will pay him a base salary of $225,000. He’ll be formally introduced at a press conference later this summer.

“I have loved baseball and the state of Indiana my whole life, and it is an honor to be the head baseball coach of the state’s flagship institution,” Mercer said in a statement. “With the talent that the Midwest is producing, top-notch facilities, the commitment of the school and our ability to recruit and develop players at the highest level, the sky is the limit for IU baseball. I cannot wait to get to work.”

Last week, when Glass sought input on candidates, Mercer’s name rose to the top. He was one of three finalists to interview for the position on Friday.

“I reached out to a group of about five or six guys that are nationally connected, nationally knowledgable baseball guys and asked them for recommendations,” Glass said. “He was just on everybody’s list.”

The Mercer era at Wright State opened with a bang, as the rookie head coach guided the Raiders to a series victory at No. 10 Clemson to start the 2017 season. It was a momentous feat for Mercer and the Raiders, one that led to Wright State cracking the Baseball America top 25 for the first time in program history.

Wright State finished the 2017 season with a 38-21 overall record and a 21-9 mark in the Horizon League. The Raiders followed up with a 39-17 record this spring, while going 22-6 in the conference.

At this year’s Stanford Regional, fourth-seed Wright State dropped its opener to host Stanford before bowing out of the tournament with a loss to two-seed Baylor.

After helping Wright State to the NCAA Tournament during his senior year as a player, Mercer started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ohio Northern University, where he was in charge of infielders and hitters, while also serving as the recruiting coordinator.

Mercer spent the 2011 season as a volunteer assistant at Michigan before taking a similar role at Western Kentucky. He returned to Wright State as an assistant and recruiting coordinator in 2014.

Mercer followed his father’s footsteps into the coaching ranks. Jeff Mercer Sr. served as an IU baseball assistant coach from 1988 to 1989, and later helped found the Indiana Bulls grassroots baseball organization.

His knowledge of the Hoosier state’s high school and grassroots levels was another point in Mercer’s favor.

“He’s a baseball guy’s baseball guy,” Glass said. “He’s been there since he was knee-high to a grasshopper, running around Indiana. He knows all the guys throughout the state and knows all the coaches and high school coaches. Whatever is the baseball corollary to a gym rat, that’s what he is. But he’s so much more than that because he’s so advanced with his analytics.

“I get mesmerized talking to him about his approach to the game. He just driven to be a leader of young men. He’s this amazing package that touches on all three things we super care about — academics, athletics and personal development. He’s got more energy than any 10 guys I’ve ever known. I think he’s going to be successful.”

15 comments

    1. I agree, looks like a very good hire, especially if he can keep program continuity and stay for about 5 years. IU could become a destination assignment rather than a stepping stone. At the very least a coveted position for promising coaches seeking to make take their next step into the elite ranks. So far with the last two coaches that is exactly what has happened.

  1. It’s a career promotion for Mercer, so that’s good. Obviously knows how to recruit, so that is excellent. A young man at 32, so its not likely that he’ll be in a hurry to move on any time soon. He’s from the Indiana and has been working in the Midwest, so he’s right at home. Sounds like a good hire, but only time will tell.

  2. Question, any word on Kyle Bunn the I U pitching coach staying with the team and the new coach??

    1. Is Kyle part of the family empire that built the Bunn Coffee Maker Co…? “Coach Bunn picking up the dugout phone…It appears something is brewing in the bullpen.”

  3. I agree with comments. I am really impressed with how Glass handled the search. Now let’s hope Coach Mercer stays for about 25 years. Please keep Bunn as pitching coach. He is integral part of IUs success. Overall, feel great about IU athletics right now. Go Hoosiers

  4. I remember a Bobby Mercer that used to play for the Cubs….I think Bobby played center field.

  5. Like the hire. Dumb statement referring to version of Brad Stevens. I thought Stevens was a basketball coach.

  6. Tried to comment on a soccer thread, but they’re all closed….

    I think I just became a World Cup fan….Watching FS1 “FIFA World Cup Tonight” and the lone female part of the round table of soccer analysts? Va-va-voom! I’m watching much more soccer this summer. Wow…The match between Russia and Spain was quite exciting too. Maybe I’ll understand soccer a little more by the end of summer…but va-va-voom!

  7. Dayton, the land of coaches.
    I think the Brad Stevens mention reveals how much mental horsepower AD Glass believes his new coach possesses for baseball. Nothing wrong with that.

  8. I know what he meant. I have made a similar parallel be tween IU ladies basketball and IU men’s baseball regarding a current status of each program for last season and their futures.

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