Bob Bennett concluded one the most illustrious careers in college baseball this season. Bennett wrapped up his career with a 1,302-759-4 record all-time, which ranks him seventh all-time in NCAA Division I history. This season he joined Larry Hays of Texas Tech as becoming the seventh coach in NCAA history to reach 1,300 wins. With a 32-27 record in his final season, Bennett closed out his career with 26 consecutive winning seasons. In his 34 years Bennett had just two losing seasons. In 2002, Bennett’s squad captured its 12th Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic title as well as reeling off 15 straight home wins, which was the most since 1988 when FS won 27 in a row.
In the 2001 season he guided Fresno State to its 25th consecutive winning season earning a third WAC Coach of the Year award, while making his 21st NCAA regional appearance.
Prior to the season finale, Bennett became the first coach in Fresno State history -- and first person affiliated with the baseball program -- to have his number retired. His No. 26 will live forever on the left-field wall of Pete Beiden Field, the facility he helped build.
During the 2000 season he became only the 10th coach in NCAA baseball history to reach the 1,200-win plateau. Bennett's success and longevity were virtually unparalleled in the collegiate coaching ranks. Since 1979, his teams averaged more than 40 wins a season and he guided the Bulldogs to 20 NCAA Tournament appearances during that span.
He holds a career coaching mark of 1,302-759-4 in his 34 seasons with 32 winning campaigns – including 26 consecutive. Bennett's numbers and results are impressive across the board, 1,302 victories, 17 conference championships, 21 NCAA Tournament berths, 32 All-Americans, nine first-round draft picks and two College World Series appearances.
Dedicated, hard working and loyal, Bennett took a program that was enjoying a successful run under former head coach Pete Beiden and took it to another level. He helped Fresno State build Beiden Field into a first-class facility and was largely responsible for the Bulldogs becoming a model in the area of facilities, ticket sales, fan support and community pride.
Bennett and the Bulldogs were a marriage of growth and prosperity. Under his leadership, Fresno State was consistently a national leader in attendance and fan support — not to mention posting 26 consecutive winning seasons and regional berths in 12 of the past 15 seasons. More than 100 of his players have gone on to careers in professional baseball.
Bennett and Fresno State baseball have become synonymous. His relationship with the program predates his permanent appointment as head coach in 1970. He was a standout catcher for the Bulldogs from 1952-55. After serving as head coach at Fresno’s Bullard High School for 11 seasons, Bennett took over the reins at his alma mater after Pete Beiden’s 21-year run as head coach came to an end in 1969.
Since his first stint as head coach in 1967— Bennett was interim coach for one season before taking over permanently in 1970 — the Bulldogs enjoyed constant success, winning or sharing 17 league or division titles, advancing to the NCAA Regionals 21 times and making trips to the College World Series in 1988 and ‘91. His teams were consistently ranked in Top 25, including the 1988 team, which vaulted to No. 1 in both major polls during Fresno State's school-record 32-game winning streak.
The Bulldogs averaged nearly 40 wins per season over the span of his 34-year coaching career. Bennett has earned conference Coach of the Year honors 14 times in addition to being named 1988 NCAA Coach of the Year by The Sporting News. He also earned the prestigious Lefty Gomez Award in January 2000, which is presented to the coach who has distinguished himself among his peers locally, nationally and internationally.
It also was largely because of the success the Bulldogs have enjoyed under Bennett that record-breaking crowds regularly invade Beiden Field, where the Bulldogs rank among the national leaders in season ticket sales and total paid attendance annually.
Large and enthusiastic crowds are nothing new to Bulldog athletics, but community support of the baseball program is something that has flourished since Bennett helped spearhead the campaign to raise $2.2 million to refurbish Beiden Field in 1983. From 1990-00, Fresno State has sold an average of 2,806 season tickets per year.
In fact, Fresno State led the nation in attendance in 1988 and ’89.
Considered one of the nation’s top pitching coaches, Bennett was known for his fundamentally-sound ballclubs. Bennett saw more than 100 of his players taken in the regular phase of the annual June amateur draft, including eight first-round picks. Of the 35 players that have played in the Major Leagues, 19 were pitchers.
Bennett’s success at Fresno State began in the 1950’s when he was a catcher for the legendary Pete Beiden. The four-year letterman and two-time team captain was twice named California Collegiate Athletic Association all-conference (1954 and ’55). He played on teams that won CCAA titles in 1954 and ’55. Bennett set a school record for fielding percentage by a catcher in 1953 when he went errorless in 224 total chances. With Bennett behind the plate, the Bulldogs compiled a four-year record of 117-52 (.692).
Bennett, a 1951 graduate of Fresno’s Roosevelt High School, graduated from Fresno State in 1956 with a degree in physical education. Two years later he earned his master’s degree in P.E. from Fresno State. He moved directly into coaching following his graduation from Fresno State in ’56, taking over as head baseball coach at Kingburg (Calif.) High School. In two seasons, his teams compiled a 41-19 record. In 1958, he moved on to Fresno’s Bullard High School, where the Knights posted over 200 victories in his 11 seasons.
His coaching career at Bullard was interrupted in 1967 when he was asked to take over the coaching duties at Fresno State while head coach Pete Beiden went on sabbatical. That season, the Bulldogs finished 38-10, won a CCAA title and earned a berth in the NCAA playoffs. Bennett returned to Bullard following the 1967 campaign but was called back to Fresno State on a permanent basis in 1970 following Beiden’s retirement. Since then, the Bulldogs have added conference championships in 1971, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1998.
Considered a leader on the collegiate baseball front, Bennett is a former president of the American Baseball Coaches Association. He serves on the Hall of Fame and All-America committees within the ABCA and is a member of the ABCA Board.
The 69-year-old Bennett has also been heavily involved in baseball at the international level, serving as head coach of the U.S. National Team in 1983 and ’86 and as a member of the national team’s coaching staff in 1977 and ’79. Bennett is a member of the Fresno State Hall of Fame, the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Roosevelt High School Hall of Fame as a charter member.
Bennett and his wife, Jane, have three children – Karen, Todd, a former Bulldog, and Brad, a Fresno State standout who later played professionally - and eight grandchildren.
Bennett’s Career Record
Year W-L-T Pct. Conference Honors
1967 38-10 .792 Champions CCAA Coach of the Year
1970 35-20 .636 5th
1971 35-24 .593 Co-Champions PCAA Coach of the Year
1972 31-26 .541 7th
1973 31-24 .564 3rd
1974 38-20 .655 3rd
1975 26-33 .441 6th
1976 28-29 .491 5th
1977 39-21 .650 Champions NCBA Coach of the Year
1978 38-20 .655 3rd
1979 37-27 .578 Champions
1980 43-12 .782 Champions NCBA Coach of the Year
1981 43-22 .662 Champions NCBA Coach of the Year
1982 45-13 .776 Champions NCBA Coach of the Year
1983 45-19 .703 Champions NCBA Coach of the Year
1984 54-12-2 .809 Champions NCBA Coach of the Year
1985 43-22 .662 Champions PCAA Coach of the Year
1986 29-27-1 .518 3rd
1987 34-26 .567 5th
1988 56-12 .824 Champions PCAA and NCAA Coach of the Year
1989 44-19 .698 Co-Champions
1990 38-24 .613 T-2nd
1991 42-23 .646 Co-Champions BWC and Regional Coach of the Year
1992 37-20 .649 3rd
1993 41-22 .651 Champions WAC Coach of the Year
1994 36-27 .571 West Champions
1995 41-22 .651 Champions WAC Coach of the Year
1996 36-24 .600 2nd
1997 40-28 .589 2nd
1998 33-28-1 .541 West Champions
1999 33-30 .524 7th
2000 40-21 .656 3rd
2001 41-25 .621 2nd WAC Coach of the Year
2002 32-27 .542 3rd
College World Series Appearances:
(2) 1988, 1991
NCAA Regional Titles:
(2) 1988, 1991
NCAA Regional Appearances:
(21) 1967, 1977, 1979-85, 1988-97, 2000, 2001
(17) 1967, 1971, 1977, 1979-85, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993-95, 1998
NCAA Coach of the Year Awards:
Conference Coach of the Year Awards:
(14) 1967, 1971, 1977, 1980-85, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995, 2001
Highest Fresno State Ranking Under Bennett:
1st (Collegiate Baseball/ESPN), 1st (Baseball America), 1988
Highest Final Ranking Under Bennett:
2nd (Collegiate Baseball/ESPN), 1988
Bennett All Americans:
(32) Larry Gonsalves, P, 1967; Dick Ruthven, P, 1972; Ron Johnson, 1B, 1978; Pete Dalena, DH, 1981; Randy Graham, P, 1982; Terry Pendleton, OF, 1982; Eric Fox, OF, 1983; John Hoover, P, 1984; Scott Buss, OF, 1984; Mark Gardner, P, 1985; Rich Crane, P, 1988; Tom Goodwin, OF, 1988; Steve Hosey, OF, 1988; Steve Pearse, 2B, 1988; John Salles, P, 1988; Lance Shebelut, 1B, 1988; Rich Crane, P, 1989; Tom Goodwin, OF, 1989; Eddie Zosky, SS, 1989; Bobby Jones, P, 1991; Jason Wood, SS, 1991; Brant Brown, 1B, 1992; Todd Johnson, C, 1993; Tommy Minor, P, 1994; Jeff Weaver, P, 1996; Jeff Weaver, P, 1997; Giuseppe Chiaramonte, C, 1997; Jeff Weaver, P, 1998; Anthony Acevedo, OF, 1999; Hans Smith, RP, 2000; Josh Labandeira, SS, 2001; Ben Fritz, UT, 2002
Bennett First-Round Draft Picks:
(9) Dick Ruthven, P, 1972; John Hoover, P, 1984; Steve Hosey, OF, 1989; Eddie Zosky, SS, 1989; Bobby Jones, P, 1991; Steve Soderstrom, P, 1993; Jeff Weaver, P, 1998; Ben Fritz, RHP, 2002