Rob Smith leaves the Ohio dugout

Ohio University baseball coach Rob Smith announced his retirement from coaching on Thursday, in a surprising move considering the 2021 season is scheduled to begin in few weeks.

Ohio announced that current associate head coach Craig Moore will take over interim head coaching duties for the 2021 season. This year will be Moore’s ninth on staff at OU as he’s served during Smith’s entire tenure at Ohio.

In a statement posted on social media, Smith offered no specific reason for his departure other than “so I can focus on family and other related things.”

Ohio baseball coach Rob Smith (right) announced his retirement, effective immediately on Thursday, Jan., 21, 2021. Photo courtesy of Ohio Athletics

Smith thanked his players, staff, coaches and administrators at Ohio, and gave vague references to his future plans.

“I look forward to continued relationships with all of my coaching colleagues and former players,” Smith posted on Twitter. “I feel fortunate to be in good health and I look forward to supporting the Bobcat Baseball Program and the Athletic Department in other ways moving forward.”

Smith came to Ohio in 2013 in his first stint as a Division I head coach after serving for 12 years as an assistant at Purdue (1999-2006) and Creighton (2007-12). His tenure was marked by steep ups and downs with the Bobcats.

Smith finished with a 159-235 overall record at Ohio, and a 75-107 mark in the Mid-American Conference. The Bobcats had just two winning seasons at OU – 2015 and 2017 – but both of those seasons ended with surprising championship runs in the MAC Tournament and a pair of NCAA Tournament berths.

Ohio was 0-4 in four NCAA games under Smith.

The lows were more prevalent and just as pronounced. His teams posted two of the worst records in program history in 2013-14 (14-39 and 11-40), his teams won more than 23 games just twice. Ohio finished last in the East Division in those first two seasons, and then eighth in a non-division setup in 2018 and sixth in 2019.

Smith’s last season was cut short a year ago due to the pandemic. Ohio was 3-12 when the season was cancelled, and had dropped 11 straight games.

Smith coached three MAC Player of the Year winners, one MAC Pitcher of the Year and one MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Rudy Rott (2018-19) was the first player to win the MAC Player of the Year award twice in league history, while Mitch Longo won the award in 2015. Logan Cozart was MAC Pitcher of the Year, while he and Rott were All-Americans. Tyler Finkler became the first Bobcat to garner MAC Defensive Player of the Year recognition under Smith’s guidance.

Four Bobcats – Rott, Longo, Cozart and Brett Barber – were all drafted in the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Rott was the highest selected Bobcat under Smith after being selected with the 270th pick in the ninth round by the Philadelphia Phillies. 

“Rob Smith provided outstanding leadership for the Ohio baseball program throughout his tenure,” Ohio athletic director Julie Cromer said in a statement. “He raised the bar for Ohio baseball and led us through many great moments, including two MAC titles. He will be remembered not only for his work on the field, but also for his positive influence on the lives of our student-athletes. We are incredibly grateful for his contributions to Ohio University and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Smith replaced former OU coach Joe Carbone, who posted a record of 689-611-2 over 24 seasons (1989-2012) at his alma mater.

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