Story courtesy of WMU Sports Information
KALAMAZOO, Mich.- The Western Michigan Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced Tuesday, June 22, the hiring of Billy Gernon as the eighth head coach of the Bronco baseball program. Gernon was previously the head coach at IPFW for nine seasons before spending the last two as an assistant at Michigan State. Gernon is the all-time winningest coach in IPFW history.
"We are very pleased to welcome Billy Gernon as our head baseball coach at Western Michigan University," commented WMU athletic director Kathy Beauregard. "Billy is a proven leader and we are confident he will reestablish our storied program as a top caliber team in the Mid-American Conference and Midwest. Billy led the IPFW program during its transition to Division I status and left there as the all-time winningest coach in school history and has had two very successful years as an assistant at Michigan State. With the improvements that are being completed at our stadium and our new head coach Billy Gernon, I foresee a lot of exciting Bronco baseball in the coming years. We look forward to winning, championship baseball, along with success academically and a priority on student-athlete leadership and community partnerships."
"I am honored and humbled to be named the next head baseball coach at Western Michigan University," Gernon said. "It is my pledge that our coaching staff and players will bring an unprecedented level of energy and work ethic to the Bronco baseball program. Western Michigan University has tremendous potential and our entire program will begin pursuing conference championships immediately. President Dunn, Kathy Beauregard and her staff, have a genuine passion towards Western Michigan and its baseball program and I am very excited about this tremendous opportunity. I look forward to serving this great institution."
Gernon has worked the last two seasons as an assistant on Jake Boss' staff at Michigan State after Boss took over the Spartan program in July 2008. Among his many duties, Gernon was responsible for recruiting on the national level, and was the hitting instructor and base running coach. He also worked with the outfielders and handled several of the administrative duties including travel and compliance. The Spartans were ranked as high as No. 29 in the country this past season and Gernon's aggressive style helped Michigan State steal 86 bases, which ranked second all-time in school history. In Gernon's first year at MSU, the Spartans qualified for the Big Ten Tournament after a five-year hiatus. That 2009 squad stole 71 bases, which is sixth on the MSU single-season list.
Head coach at IPFW for nine seasons (1999-2008), Gernon had the challenge of coaching IPFW in its transition from an NCAA Division II team to an NCAA Division I independent to its entry into the Summit League in 2008. He averaged just under 20 wins per season as the head coach, including three straight 20-win campaigns from 2004-06. In 2005, IPFW ranked 28th in the nation in batting (.315) and ninth in stolen bases (113).
Highly regarded for the academic success of his program, his teams maintained over a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average in his nine years and in the 2007 fall semester, the team posted a 3.25 GPA, which was the highest among all male programs and highest in program history. In 2007, shortstop Chris Venvertloh was named the Student of the Year from the Communication and Athletic Department for graduating with a 4.0 GPA, while Zach Wilson, who now works in the front office as Manager of Scouting for the Colorado Rockies, received the prestigious Doc Skelton Award for his academic excellence and community service. Under Gernon, the Mastodon program was also recognized for its involvement in the Fort Wayne community, as the team helped Habitat for Humanity and the United Way Big Brothers Program.
Gernon has had five of his own players offered professional contracts while working with over 20 in his coaching career. He tutored the highest draft pick in IPFW history, shortstop Ryan Steinbach, who was selected in the 20th round of the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft by the Baltimore Orioles.
Before being named the head coach at IPFW, Gernon was the pitching coach for the Mastodons for two years (1996-97).
Gernon's first coaching position arrived at Indiana, where he was a student assistant coach in 1995-96 for former IU coach Bob Morgan. Gernon also played for Morgan for one season in 1990 and served as the team's closer. As a coach, Gernon and the Hoosiers claimed the 1996 Big Ten Tournament title and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers had five players offered professional contracts.
Gernon began his playing career at Indiana University Southeast, where he played three years (1986-88) and earned team MVP honors as a sophomore.
Gernon's respect in the coaching community is evident by his speaking and camp experiences. He was the featured speaker at the IHSAA state clinic in 2004 and 2007 and was also invited to be an instructor at the Indiana, Michigan and Notre Dame elite baseball camps.
Gernon earned a bachelor's degree in general studies from Indiana in 1990 and a bachelor's in education from IPFW in 1998. He is married to the former Annie Recker; they have a son, Jacob and a daughter, Abby.
What they're saying about Billy Gernon:
"As a WMU alumnus I'm excited to have Billy running our baseball program. Billy is a tireless worker, a man of integrity, a motivator, and is very passionate in making a difference in the lives of his players. I'm confident Billy will carry on the great tradition of our baseball program."
-- Rich Maloney, WMU alumnus and University of Michigan head baseball coach
"Billy Gernon is an outstanding hire for Western Michigan and will do a great job leading the Bronco baseball program. His enthusiasm is contagious and his attention to detail was extremely valuable to our program. He brings a wealth of knowledge, an aggressive style of play, and an attitude of doing things the right way that will no doubt carry over to the baseball diamond. I couldn't be happier for and more proud of Coach Gernon and his family."
-- Jake Boss Jr., Michigan State University head baseball coach
"I had the chance to get to know Billy during my time at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish and IPFW played on several occasions and Billy's teams were always well prepared, disciplined, fundamental, and very competitive. He did great things with very limited resources while at IPFW largely in part to his high level of energy and tireless work ethic. I am excited for him to get this well deserved opportunity and have no doubt that Billy will lead Western Michigan into a conference championship caliber ball club."
-- Paul Mainieri, Louisiana State University head baseball coach, 2009 CWS champion
"Coach Gernon's passion for and knowledge of the game is second to none. He consistently brings character, discipline, enthusiasm and a thirst for winning each time he steps on the field. The care and concern for his players both on and off the field will benefit both the student-athletes and the baseball program of Western Michigan for many years to come."
-- Zach Wilson, Manager of Scouting - Colorado Rockies, former IPFW student-athlete
"Billy Gernon is an honorable person first and foremost and an outstanding baseball coach who will lead the Broncos to success on and off the field and through community engagement. Billy's core values come shining through and his commitment to developing young men through education and sport is evident in everything he does on a daily basis. We are grateful for his contributions to our baseball program at Michigan State University and there is no question that from the day he arrives, there will be a positive impact at Western Michigan. It has been said that "good things happen to good people" and this is a special opportunity for Coach Gernon and his family - one that they will make the most of and the Bronco family will be forever changed. This is a proud moment and we wish Billy, his family, staff and team the very best in the years ahead."
-- Shelley Appelbaum, Sr. Associate Athletic Director Michigan State University