The UNC baseball team had just beaten VMI 9-2 to run its record to 12-7 when COVID-19 shuttered spring sports in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Tar Heels’ next 31 regular season games were canceled. So was the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and the College World Series.
As a result, UNC baseball coach Mike Fox, like so many of us, found himself sheltering in place at home with his wife of 36 years, Cheryl, for the better part of the next five months. He spent quality time with his children Matthew and Morgan, as well as a new grandson.
And the 64-year-old Asheville native made a big decision. Fox decided to retire after 22 years as the head coach at his beloved alma mater.
“Life slowed down for Cheryl and me, and we discovered the enjoyment of a simpler life,” Fox said in a statement announcing his decision earlier this month. “Thankfully, I am healthy, and I feel this is the right time to step away from the rigors of coaching.
“I will miss the players, coaches, co-workers and our great fans, but it is time for me to be a full-time husband, father and grandfather, and do other things with my life.”
Fox, who was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 and is the August Member of the Month, took the Tar Heels to seven College World Series. The first two appearances in 2006 and ’07 resulted in runner-up finishes. UNC also reached the CWS in 2008, ’09, ’11, ’13 and ’18.
Fox retired as the winningest baseball coach in UNC history with a 948-406-1 record and a career mark of 1,487-547-5 that also includes 15 seasons at North Carolina Wesleyan. He was named the National Coach of the Year in 2008 by Baseball America and was the ACC Coach of the Year in 2018.
Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, who played for UNC from 2007-09, told the Daily Tar Heel that playing for Fox was one of the best decisions of his life.
“He is one of the all-time greatest coaches, but he is a better man,” Seager said in a statement. “The lessons that I learned from him are much bigger than baseball. He has made such an impact on my life, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity that he gave me.”
For Fox, coaching the Tar Heels was the opportunity of a lifetime. The East Mecklenburg graduate was walk-on when he came to Chapel Hill in 1974 but he earned his way onto the varsity, playing second base from 1976-78. He hit .277 as a senior and was named to the CWS All-Tournament Team.
Fox also played on the Tar Heels’ jayvee basketball team in 1975 and ’76.
“Serving as the head baseball coach at my alma mater for the past 22 seasons has been one of the great blessings of my professional life,” Fox wrote in an open letter to the UNC community. “I have been in love with the University of North Carolina since I was a young boy. To see my dream of becoming a Tar Heel student, player and coach is hard for me to even comprehend.”
Fox started his head coaching career at North Carolina Wesleyan in 1983 and spent the next 15 seasons there. Under his guidance, the Battling Bishops won the 1989 NCAA Division III College World Series and played in seven others. He compiled a record of 539-141-4 at N.C. Wesleyan.
Tag(s): Member of the Month