JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Getting the head coaching job at Jacksonville University was a dream come true for Chris Hayes. He played baseball there and was an assistant, plus he's from right here in Jacksonville.
In the two years since taking over the Dolphins program they’ve garnered some national attention.
The school was ranked as high as No. 24 in the country this season and won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2011. In the eyes of Hayes this is just the beginning.
“It’s nice to have that reward of getting some national recognition and getting an NCAA at-large bid,” said Hayes. “But we’re here to win. We want to win the last game of our season. Not very many people get to do that. Until we get to that point we haven’t reached all of our goals.”
On Monday the Dolphins announced a five-year deal for Hayes.
"JU baseball doesn't just have a good team, we have a great program, and Chris is the guy to lead us into the future,” said Dolphins athletic director Alex Ricker-Gilbert.
Along with reaching the NCAA regionals, JU won 40 games for the first time since 2006, and for only the 10th time in the history of the program.
Coaching for his alma mater does come with a set of unique challenges. The Dolphins have less than 12 scholarships available for the entire team.
“We’re managing a salary cap,” said Hayes. “Anytime you have success especially on the national level. You’ll be recognized a little bit more. Bottom line we have to find the right guys for this program. We have to find the guys that want to be Dolphins. JU is a special place if you realize this is where you want to be.”
Tune into News4Jax throughout the weekend for more on coach Haye's conversation with the News4Jax sports team.
I remember when I was coaching Men’s golf at JU. Coach Hayes would come borrow the fringe mower so he could walk mow the infield of the baseball field. Attention to detail means a lot and care and dedication pays off. Great to see JU moving in the right direction in all sports.— Jamey Salmon (@JameysalmonJU) June 28, 2018