UCF dismisses baseball coach Greg Lovelady after 7 seasons

UCF baseball will have a new head coach for its first season in the Big 12 Conference after the school fired Greg Lovelady on Saturday following seven years with just one postseason appearance.

The move came one day after the Knights were eliminated from the American Athletic Conference tournament and finished the year with a 33-26 record, going 12-12 in the AAC.

“We appreciate all of Greg’s hard work, effort and commitment over his seven seasons,” UCF athletics director Terry Mohajir said in a media release. “There’s no doubt he’s a high-character individual. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

UCF was set to miss the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight season after reaching a regional in 2017 during Lovelady’s first year in Orlando. That year was also the only season the program won at least 40 games under Lovelady.

He finished 225-149 at UCF and 83-68 in the AAC.

The firing was first reported by Brandon Helwig of UCFSports.com shortly after Mohajir met with the baseball team to inform them of the decision.

Lovelady reportedly had two more years remaining on his contract that would have paid him $250,000 annually. UCF is expected to owe him half of the remaining total.

This year was a rollercoaster for the Knights. The team started the regular season 15-5 but then lost 10 of their next 12 games. After opening AAC play 1-5, UCF went 11-7 the rest of the way in conference action.

The season did not go without controversy.  In April, Lovelady denied allegations of cheating made by a former player against the team.

The former player accused the Knights of using illegal bats but Lovelady said UCF found no evidence following an internal investigation and discussion with the AAC.

Ultimately it was what happened on the field that cost Lovelady his job. The Knights led the league in home runs with 109 but posted an 5.80 ERA on the mound as poor pitching hurt UCF.

“I’m excited for the future because we believe in the trajectory of our baseball program,” Mohajir said. “Over the last few years we’ve put significant resources into baseball at UCF — and we will continue to build the program in the transition.”

Lovelady was hired from Wright State where he spent three years (2014-16) as head coach, leading the Raiders to consecutive NCAA regionals in the last two.

Wright State won the Horizon League regular season or tournament championship (or both) in each of Lovelady’s three seasons at the helm. He was named the 2014 and ’16 Horizon League Coach of the Year.

Before being named head coach, Lovelady was on the Wright State staff for nine seasons, the final seven as associate head coach. He served as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator, helping Wright State to NCAA tournament appearances in 2006, ’09 and 2011.

As a catcher at the University of Miami, Lovelady helped the Hurricanes win NCAA baseball championships in 1999 and 2001.

When he returned to Florida as UCF’s coach, Lovelady started with major success. In his first campaign with the Knights in 2017, he earned AAC Coach of the Year honors as the Knights reached an NCAA regional for the first time in five years.

UCF, however, never reached the postseason again with Lovelady at the helm.

“I’m confident we can win Big 12 Conference baseball titles and compete on a national level,” Mohajir said.

Email Jason Beede at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @therealBeede.