HARRISONBURG, Va. – James Madison Hall of Fame baseball coach Brad Babcock, who amassed a program-record 558 wins in 19 seasons and guided the Dukes to the 1983 College World Series, passed away on Tuesday at age 81.
Babcock led JMU baseball beginning in its second season in 1971 through 1989, a run that included JMU’s transition from NCAA Division II to Division I in 1977 and five NCAA Championship appearances, highlighted by the 1983 CWS run. Babcock was inducted into the JMU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998 after a 558-249-4 career record, and the 1983 squad became the second team inducted in department history in 2016. Six of his former players are also JMU Hall of Fame members and 30 went on to play professionally.
“Brad Babcock is a true JMU legend, both in his role as baseball head coach and as a long-time administrator,” Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said. “He built JMU baseball to one of the pre-eminent programs in the CAA and the region with a blueprint for success that remains today. The 1983 College World Series, in particular, was a transformational achievement in the history of JMU Athletics. He is sadly one of several Dukes ‘icons’ we have lost in the last year, joining Dr. Tom Martin and Challace McMillin. Our thoughts and prayers are with Brad’s family and friends.”
Babcock joined JMU Athletics in the fall of 1970 and also was an assistant football coach, junior varsity basketball coach, intramural director and physical education instructor early in his JMU tenure. After his retirement as baseball head coach, he worked as an administrator for JMU Athletics until 2003 and afterwards continued as an adjunct professor in the kinesiology department for the university another seven years.
As baseball coach, Babcock took the Dukes from a fledgling second-year program in 1971 to being one of the more highly-respected programs in the East. His second JMU team was his only non-winning squad, 12 of his teams won 30 or more games and three won 40 or more games. Of his last 14 teams, 12 won 30 or more games. He owned a career winning record head-to-head against every Division I program in Virginia.
The Dukes made NCAA appearances under Babcock in 1976 (Division II), 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1988. In one of JMU baseball’s most successful stretches from 1980 to 1984, the Dukes went 188-72-2 with three NCAA appearances and the program’s first two 40-win seasons in 1981 and 1982.
The 1983 squad went 37-13 and was an at-large selection to the NCAA Championship and won the NCAA Eastern Regional in Chapel Hill en route to the College World Series in Omaha. The Dukes competed in a field of eight with the likes of future MLB players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Pete Incaviglia and Barry Larkin, among others. JMU fell to eventual national champion Texas in the opener followed by a close 3-1 loss to Stanford.
Babcock’s many players over the years included his son, Whit, in his final season in 1989. Whit is a 1992 JMU graduate and is a college athletics administrator in his father’s footsteps, serving as current director of athletics at Virginia Tech.