TAMPA — Illinois State’s Mark Kingston, considered one of the foremost up-and-coming college baseball coaches in America, was hired Wednesday to resurrect the University of South Florida’s dormant program.
Kingston, who received a six-year contract worth $140,000 annually, was a hot commodity. He was scheduled to interview for Tulane’s head-coaching opening, but he took himself out of the running and accepted USF’s position.
If history is any indication, Kingston, 44, has the necessary ingredients for USF’s program. Formerly an assistant at Tulane and Miami while also twice being named Missouri Valley Conference coach of the year in five seasons at Illinois State, Kingston is known for identifying and developing talent.
He helped recruit a core of talent that lifted Tulane to six postseason appearances and a trip to the 2005 College World Series. He was part of Miami’s 2001 national-championship team’s staff. At Illinois State, Kingston’s Redbirds were 170-101, earning an NCAA regional bid in his first season and the program’s first postseason victory since 1976.
Kingston replaces Lelo Prado, who stepped down after his eighth season to join the administrative staff of USF athletic director Mark Harlan. Prado was unable to produce a postseason team at USF, which hasn’t reached an NCAA regional since 2002.
“I am thankful to Mark Harlan for the tremendous opportunity to be the head baseball coach at a terrific university like USF and in a great baseball community like Tampa,’’ Kingston said in a statement released by USF. “I can’t wait to get started. We have unbelievable facilities, great support and the building blocks in place to be a championship program at USF.
“I know from my experience at Miami how great baseball is in Florida, and I’m excited to return.’’
Harlan said the USF opening garnered significant interest. University of Tampa coach Joe Urso, who led the Spartans to the NCAA Division II College World Series, and Florida State associate head coach Mike Bell, once the Hillsborough County coach of the year at Brandon High, were among the most recognizable names to interview.
In the end, though, Harlan said Kingston’s recruiting background and track record as a Division I head coach were significant assets.
“There was a tremendous amount of interest in our baseball head coaching position from across the country, and Mark clearly rose to the top,’’ Harlan said in a statement. “He is one of the best young coaches in collegiate baseball today and has a tremendous background of competing and winning at the highest level. He is a very compelling leader for our baseball program.’’