UNI softball head coach Ryan Jacobs captured his 300th career coaching victory in the 2017 season while leading the Panthers to a share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title.
Jacobs and his assistant coaches Julie Starbuck and Matt Egger were named the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Coaching Staff of the Year. It marks the third time that Jacobs and his staff have earned the league's top coaching honor (2009, 2012, 2017).
Jacobs inked a two-year contract extension following the 2017 season that will run his deal through May 31, 2020.
Jacobs has guided UNI to a 300-228 in 10 seasons as the helm of the program. He took over a program that had averaged 19 wins and only 7.4 victory in MVC play from 2003-2007. Since taking over, UNI has averaged 30.0 wins overall per season and 14.5 MVC wins per season.
UNI has also been just as successful in the classroom. The Panthers were honored as one of five UNI programs by the NCAA in 2017 for their latest multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores. UNI softball had a perfect 1,000 APR multi-year score. It is the first time that the UNI softball team has earned the top-10 percent NCAA APR recognition. Jacobs and his staff have a 987 yearly APR average through the 2015-16 report.
Under Jacobs' direction, UNI has finished with an above .500 record in MVC play in nine straight seasons. Prior to Jacobs taking over in 2008, UNI's last winning season in MVC play came in the 2000 season when Meredith Bakley led the Panthers to an 11-7 mark in league play.
His teams have set or tied 11 single-season school records while 40 players have received All-Missouri Valley Conference honors to go along with three MVC Newcomer of the Year honorees, two MVC Pitchers of the Year and an MVC Defensive Player of the Year.
The 2017 Panther softball squad captured a share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title by winning its final six league games and finishing at 20-6. Included in that six-game winning streak was a three-game series sweep of Illinois State on the Redbirds's home field. It marked the first three-game series sweep for UNI over Illinois State in program history.
UNI earned the No. 1 seed for the 2017 MVC Tournament and reached the title game with a 6-4 comeback win over Wichita State. UNI's Macey Wolfe provided the power as she drove in six runs - including a three-run walk off home run in the bottom of the seventh to send the Panthers to the championship game.
The Panthers posted 33 wins in the 2017 season to tie for the eighth most in program history. It was the 15th 30-win season and the fifth time that the Panthers have reached 30 wins under Jacobs.
The 2016 UNI softball team won 38 games to tie for the second-most wins in a single-season in the program’s history. The Panthers also set seven offensive records in 2016 in batting average (.300), slugging percentage (.475), on-base percentage (.406), home runs (58), walks (223), runs scored (312), and doubles (81). The Panthers also qualified for the 2016 MVC Tournament for the eighth consecutive season with a league mark of 16-10.
During the 2016 season, the Panthers were ranked in the top 100 out of 290 teams in on-base percentage (28th), home runs per game (34th), team win-loss percentage (37th), team ERA (44th), slugging percentage (49th), scoring per game (53rd), doubles per game (60th), and batting average (67th).
Under the direction of Jacobs, three players were ranked in the top 100 in the country for individual categories. Caitlin Wnek was ranked in sac flies (4th), toughest to strike out (5th), and doubles per game (40th). Wnek set a new single season record for sac flies with six for the season and a new career record for doubles per game with 56. Chelsea Ross ranked in strikeouts (33rd), strikeouts per seven (46th), on-base percentage (72nd), and ERA for pitching (74th). Kennedy Bailey was ranked for walks (19th) and set a new single season record with 44 walks.
Jacobs had two MVC All-Conference First Team Players, Caitlin Wnek and Chelsea Ross. Jacobs coached Anna Varriano, a two-time All-MVC Defensive Team selection.
In 2015, Jacobs and the Panthers made their seventh straight appearance in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament after finishing at 22-28 with a 15-10 conference record. On their way to finishing third in the conference, UNI grabbed no-hit victories over Southern Illinois at Robinson-Dresser Field and on the road at Loyola.
In 2014, UNI finished the year with a 28-20 record while four players earned All-MVC honors. On February 8, the Panthers defeated 10-ranked Texas 6-3 at the Louisiana-Lafayette Tournament. The UNI offense finished the season ranked in the top-25 nationally in two categories. The Panthers finished eighth in doubles per game with 1.60 per contest and 25th in home runs per game (1.08).
Jacobs helped coach former standout pitcher Jamie Fisher (2011-2014) into UNI's career record books. Fisher owns six career records including most wins (79), most career strikeouts (767), most complete games (97), most games started (126), most appearances (140) and lowest opponent batting average (.214). Fisher was named the 2012 MVC Pitcher of the Year while earning first-team all-MVC honors three times during her career at UNI.
The 2013 squad won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in school history. They also captured the first-ever NCAA Tournament win in UNI's program history with a 2-1 win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
In 2012, Jacobs led the Panthers to their third consecutive winning season along with the program's first outright MVC regular season championship after finishing with a 38-16 overall record and 21-5 in conference play. Coach Jacobs once again proved his ability to put an outstanding offense on the field as the team finished third in the conference in batting average and in the top tier of almost every major offensive category. The team outscored opponents by 133 runs on the season. Coach Jacobs and his staff proved they are a rising program in the Midwest as they went on a 15 game win-streak extending from March 14th until April 11th.
It didn't take long for Jacobs to make his imprint on the UNI softball program as he guided the Panthers to one of their best seasons in school history in just his second year coaching during the 2009 campaign as the Panthers finished with a 34-22 overall record and 15-11 in Missouri Valley Conference play. Coach Jacobs and his staff were named the MVC Coaching Staff of the Year in 2009, which marked only the second time a UNI coaching staff has earned that honor in school history.
In 2012, Jacobs and his staff orchestrated a six-win improvement from last season, a five-game improvement in Missouri Valley play, and coached the Panthers to the most conference wins (21) in school history. This first place regular-season championship was also the top Valley finish for the Panthers in program history.
Jacobs also led the Panthers back to the MVC Softball Tournament for the second year in a row in 2012. Jacobs guided the Panthers to a 15-0 start in MVC play, the first time in school history the Panthers got off to that start in league action.
Jacobs, known for his offensive mindset turned the Panthers into an offensive juggernaut in 2009 as the Panther set a new school record with 52 home runs in 2009, eclipsing the previous record of 42 homers set by the 2003 Panther softball team. The Panthers led the Valley in nearly every offensive category in 2009, which included batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, RBI, triples and home runs.
During his first year as head coach, Jacobs led the Panthers to a blistering 7-1 record to start the season before cooling off and finishing with a 20-28 overall record and a 5-16 conference mark. Jacobs also helped the Panthers improve their overall winning percentage from .373 (19-32 overall) in 2007 to .416 (20-28 overall) in 2008 and improve one spot in the Valley standings.
The Panthers set a school record for team fielding percentage during Jacobs' first year after compiling a .971 fielding percentage, topping the previous school record of .961 set in 2001. Jacobs' squad only committed 41 errors, shattering the previous mark of 52 errors committed in a season back in 1998.
Jacobs served as the head softball coach at Cedar Falls High School from 2004 to 2007, guiding the Tigers to a 108-62-2 cumulative record. In 2007, the Tigers' squad finished with a 32-10 mark -- the second-best in school history -- and was ranked as high as fifth in Iowa's Class 4A. In Jacobs' tenure at CFHS, he guided six first-team All-Mississippi Valley Conference players, including one conference player of the year, five first-team all-district players and four all-state players.
After a season of playing professional baseball for the Richmond Roosters of the Frontier League and assistant baseball coaching stints at Cornell College and Cedar Rapids Xavier High School, Jacobs returned to Cedar Falls and UNI in 2001.
Jacobs is no stranger to Panther athletics.
The Cedar Rapids native played two seasons for UNI's baseball team, from 1997 to 1998, helping the Panthers to a then-school record 32 wins and second-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference.
He served as an assistant coach on the Panther baseball staff, specializing in coaching the catchers and hitters. He also coordinated Panther camps and clinics and served as the team's first base coach. UNI recorded an average of 29 wins per season while Jacobs was on staff, including a school-record 35 victories and an NCAA tournament appearance in 2001.
Jacobs' coaching philosophy revolves around pushing players to their maximum potential and being able to outwork the opposing team. Jacobs looks to focus on playing the game "the right way" and hustling to outplay opponents.
Jacobs was a standout prep baseball player at Cedar Rapids Regis High School, being named both Mississippi Valley Conference Player of the Year and the Iowa Legion Player of the Year in 1994.
Jacobs and his wife, Kelley, reside in Cedar Falls with their two daughters, Haley and Emma.
The Jacobs File
Xavier High School (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Assistant Baseball Coach
Cornell College (Mt. Vernon, Iowa) Assistant Baseball Coach
University of Northern Iowa Assistant Baseball Coach
Cedar Falls (Iowa) High School/Head Softball Coach
University of Northern Iowa Head Softball Coach