Now in his 19th season as head coach at the University of North Carolina, Mike Fox has guided his alma mater to the most successful period in school history and firmly established the Tar Heels as one of the nation’s preeminent college baseball programs. Capped by six trips to the College World Series since 2006, Carolina has posted a 797-346-1 record in Fox’s 18 seasons in Chapel Hill.
Fox, who ranks among the game’s all-time leaders in career winning percentage and career wins, has been recognized by several outlets as one of the nation’s top coaches in recent years. Baseball America honored Fox as its national coach of the year in 2008, and Fox’s peers - the American Baseball Coaches Association - selected him as the Atlantic Region Coach of the Year three times.
Fox’s leadership and vision were instrumental in the construction of the $25.6-million Boshamer Stadium, which opened in 2009 to rave reviews as one of the finest collegiate baseball facilities in the nation. The stadium has been consistently upgraded over the last several years with concourse improvements, the installation of a new video scorebard and a stadium enhancement to add dining space as well as a locker room for former players.
One of only six men to play in and then coach his alma mater to the College World Series, Fox has led Carolina to 15 trips to postseason play in his 18 years at the helm.
Fox has coached his teams to NCAA tourney play in 29 of his 33 seasons as a head coach, including a combined 14 trips to the NCAA Division I and Division III World Series. Fox, who has led Carolina to 15 College World Series victories since 2006, has either played or coached in all 17 CWS wins by the Tar Heels.
But just as important as the on-field success Fox has found at UNC is the type of program that he has built. On Feb. 28, 2007, while the Tar Heels were ranked No. 1 by Baseball America, they also claimed the top spot when USA Today re-ranked its preseason top 25 based on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR). Fox’s players are regulars on the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Academic Honor Roll and he has coached seven ESPN The Magazine Academic all-district selections in the last 10 years, including Adam Warren, who was an Academic All-America pick in 2009, and Benton Moss, who became UNC baseball's first first-team Academic All-America selection in 2015.
Fox became the 24th head coach in Carolina history on May 7, 1998, when Athletic Director Dick Baddour selected the former UNC player and North Carolina Wesleyan College head coach to lead the Tar Heels into the 21st century. Fox is just the third head coach in Chapel Hill since 1947.
Fox has set a high standard of success in his first 18 years on the job, averaging nearly 45 wins per season and guiding the Tar Heels to 50 or more victories five times, including a school-record 59 in 2013. Fox recorded his 1,300th career victory late in the 2015 season and enters 2017 three wins shy of 800 at Carolina.
Overall, a total of 83 Tar Heels to play for Fox over the past 18 years have been drafted by Major League Baseball organizations, including 11 first-round or supplemental selections. Thirty of Fox’s former Tar Heels were on professional rosters in 2016, including four players whose teams advanced to the MLB playoffs. Notable Carolina products include Cleveland Indians reliever and 2016 ALCS MVP Andrew Miller, 2014 AL Gold Glove winner Kyle Seager of the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets right-hander Matt Harvey, who started the 2013 MLB All-Star Game.
Fox has coached 30 first-team All-ACC selections, including Reilly Hovis in 2014 and Kent Emanuel, Colin Moran and Cody Stubbs in 2013. Tar Heels have earned 26 different All-America honors under Fox, including Michael Russell in 2014 and Emanuel, Moran and Cody Stubbs in 2013.
Moran became the fourth Tar Heel under Fox’s tutelage to be named ACC Freshman of the Year as he joined Adam Greenberg (2000), Daniel Bard (2004) and Dustin Ackley (2007). Moran also joined Ackley as Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year in 2011 before earning ACC Player of the Year honors as a junior.
The Tar Heels earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history in 2013. With dramatic wins over Florida Atlantic in the regional round and over South Carolina in the supers, Carolina advanced to its sixth CWS in eight years and posted a third-place finish with wins over LSU and NC State. The trip to Omaha capped an incredible season that saw UNC sit atop the national polls for much of the year as Carolina won a school-record 59 games.
The 2011 season saw the Tar Heels become the 13th school in NCAA history to appear in five College World Series in a six-year span. That squad racked up 51 wins on the backs of first round draft pick Levi Michael and ACC Freshman of the Year Moran.
Carolina became the first school in ACC history to make four straight trips to the College World Series in 2009. The Tar Heels featured Dustin Ackley, who would finish as UNC’s career leader in average, hits, runs and total bases. Ackley was the Tar Heels’ top individual performer in 2009, as he posted an ACC-best .417 average and 22 home runs, while also adding 111 hits, 75 runs and 73 RBI. He was named Rivals.com National Player of the Year and became the first three-time All-America in school history.
Paced by the first All-America quartet in school history (Alex White, Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley and Tim Fedroff), the Tar Heels went 54-14 and reached the College World Series for the third straight season in 2008, placing third. Despite not playing on campus with Boshamer Stadium under construction, Carolina hosted both NCAA regionals and super regionals in Cary and went 5-0 en route to yet another trip to Omaha. Following a series win at then-No. 1 Miami, the Tar Heels earned the first consensus No. 1 ranking in school history on May 19. Chad Flack completed his career as Carolina’s career leader in hits, games, at-bats and total bases in 2008.
After breaking through with a CWS runner-up finish in 2006, the Tar Heels matched that feat in 2007 despite losing a pair of first-round selections on the mound in Miller and Bard. Carolina won a school record and NCAA-best 57 games and brought home its second straight ACC Coastal Division title and first ACC tournament title since 1990 in the process. In Omaha, Carolina dropped its second game before winning three straight to reach the finals for the second straight season.
In 2006, the Tar Heels captured the ACC’s Coastal Division title and reached the College World Series for the first time since 1989. Carolina won a then-school record 54 games, including a record 38 at home, and hosted its first NCAA Regional at Boshamer Stadium since 1983. The Tar Heels won their second regional under Fox and then captured the Tuscaloosa Super Regional in dramatic fashion to punch their fifth ticket to Omaha. There, Carolina won its first four games before falling to Oregon State in the championship series, two games to one.
Miller won Baseball America National Player of the Year honors and the Roger Clemens Award as the nation’s top pitcher, and he joined Horton as an All-America selection. Senior Jonathan Hovis led the nation in ERA at 1.17, while Flack set Carolina’s single-season hit record with 112.
From 2002-05, the Tar Heels won 40-plus games in each season and reached the NCAA tournament every year. The 2003 squad was at its best in the postseason, sweeping through the NCAA Starkville Regional with a 3-0 record, including a pair of wins over host Mississippi State. The regional victory was the first for Carolina since the 1989 team reached the College World Series.
Carolina also earned top-10 national rankings in 2005 and in 2004 with a team that was led by All-Americans Marshall Hubbard and Chris Iannetta. Hubbard drove in a school-record 83 runs, while Iannetta, who made his major league debut with the Colorado Rockies in 2006, was one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, presented annually to nation’s top collegiate catcher. In a record-setting 2000 season, Carolina posted a 46-17 mark and earned the No. 2 seed at the NCAA Regional at Upper Montclair, N.J.
In his first year on the job, Fox led Carolina to a school-best 16 straight wins to open the 1999 season and, in the midst of going 22-2 to start the year, the Tar Heels peaked at No. 3 the Baseball America rankings. Carolina went on to earn the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Palo Alto Regional.
Fox came to Carolina after 15 seasons as the head coach at N.C. Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, where he led the Battling Bishops to 14 NCAA tournament appearances, eight Division III College World Series appearances and the 1989 NCAA Division III national championship. His teams posted 15 consecutive top-20 finishes in the national polls and won 11 Dixie Conference championships.
Fox’s career record of 539-141-4 at N.C. Wesleyan ranked second in career winning percentage (.791) among all active Division III head coaches at the time of his return to Carolina.
Fox was a three-year letterwinner at Carolina as a second baseman from 1976-78, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 1978 College World Series. As a senior, he hit .277, tied for the team lead with six home runs and was named to the College World Series all-tournament team. Fox also played on the Tar Heel junior varsity basketball team under Eddie Fogler in the 1975 and ‘76 seasons.
The native of Asheville, N.C., is a 1978 graduate of Carolina with a degree in physical education. He earned his Master of Arts in teaching at UNC in 1979. Fox served as a graduate assistant at Carolina during the 1979 season and was the head coach at Millbrook High School in Raleigh in 1980 and ‘81 before taking over as N.C. Wesleyan’s head coach in September of 1982. He also had served as the Battling Bishops’ athletic director since 1985.
Fox was named the American Baseball Coaches Association Division III National Coach of the Year in 1989 after leading the Battling Bishops to the national title. He has been named the NCAA South Region Coach of the Year and the Dixie Conference Coach of the Year seven times each. He coached 29 All-Americans at N.C. Wesleyan and 92 percent of his players graduated.
The 1974 graduate of East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, N.C., played independent professional baseball for a year after graduating from Carolina before returning to his alma mater as a graduate assistant in 1979.
Fox and his wife, Cheryl, have a son, Matthew, and a daughter, Morgan.