Cruz inherited a team this past August that had finished last in the Pac-10 in 2010 with a 7-20 record and had won just 39 of 102 league games in the past 4 years while placing no higher than fifth in the Pac-10 standings.
His 2011 Trojans, currently 10-11 in the Pac-10 with 6 league games remaining, are within range of winning the program’s most conference games since 2005. USC is just 2 games out of fourth place in a league that features a trio of Top 25 teams and 6 likely NCAA playoff squads. The Trojans have won series against 4 Pac-10 foes-No. 6 Arizona State (for the first time since 2004), No. 11 Stanford, Oregon and Washington-and have gone 2-2 against nationally-ranked UCLA (after winning just 3 of the previous 14 crosstown meetings).
“I believe Frank is the right fit to lead our baseball program,” said Haden. “He has the character and integrity that we seek, he knows USC and the landscape of college baseball and he has shown that he can put together winning teams. I have seen marked progress with our team throughout this season and I like how competitive it has been.
“USC is the most successful college baseball program in the country and we need to get back to that championship level. Having been a part of our success in the past, Frank has a vision on how to return USC to national prominence and to do so by winning in the right way. He knows he has his work cut out for him next year because we lose the nucleus of this team, but I have been impressed with his ability as a coach, teacher, leader and recruiter.”
Said Cruz: “I am honored to be offered this opportunity, and I am humbled to be following in the footsteps of USC coaching legends Rod Dedeaux and Mike Gillespie.
“I want to thank Pat Haden and the USC administration for having the trust in me to lead the USC baseball program. And I especially want to thank our current players and staff for helping make this happen with their commitment to getting USC baseball back among the elite programs in the country. Going forward, we will build on the competitive atmosphere that we put in place this season.”
USC has won twice as many College World Series titles (12) as anybody and has played in the CWS 17 times.
Before this season, the 51-year-old Cruz spent the previous 2 seasons (2009-10) as a volunteer assistant with the Trojans.
He is in his second tour of duty at USC, as he spent 4 seasons (1993-96) as a fulltime assistant at Troy under then-head coach Mike Gillespie. During that stint, the Trojans compiled a 169-86-1 record and made 4 straight NCAA Tournament appearances. In 1995, USC made its first College World Series appearance in 17 years, reaching the championship game and finishing with a 49-21 record.
Cruz was the head coach at Loyola Marymount for 12 years (1997-2008). He finished eighth in West Coast Conference history for overall victories (329) and sixth in conference wins (170). He was the WCC Coach of the Year 3 times (1998-2000-2004). The Lions won 3 straight WCC titles from 1998 to 2000 (the first time in school history) and made 3 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament. His team also won 2 other WCC Coast Division titles (2004-05) that enabled the Lions to play in the conference championship series. The Collegiate Baseball publication named Cruz the “Recruiter of the Year” in 1997.
Cruz was an assistant coach for the 2000 U.S. National Team as the squad compiled a 27-3-1 record, finishing up on a 21-game unbeaten streak. Team USA beat Cuba twice to win the 2000 IBAF Tournament in the Netherlands. He also was the head coach for Team USA in 2004, capturing the program’s first gold medal at the FISU World University Championships in Taiwan by winning 12 of its final 14 games. He was named 2004 International Baseball Federation International Coach of the Year and USA Baseball National Development Coach of the Year.
Before USC, Cruz was the head coach at University High in Los Angeles, posting a 152-68 career record. He led University to the 1988 L.A. City baseball title, 4 Western League crowns (1988-90-91-92) and 6 trips to the L.A. City baseball playoffs. He was named the area Coach of the Year 3 times.
He attended Santa Monica College and transferred to Pepperdine, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1983 and a master’s degree in education in 1989. He is a graduate of St. Monica High in Santa Monica.