Former Spartan All-American Joe Urso is in his 20th season as head baseball coach of the University of Tampa, compiling a 831-242-1 record. He has directed the winningest program among all NCAA ranks in the 2000s, with his teams capturing five national championships since 2006.
In his time as Spartan head coach, Urso has led Tampa to 13 Sunshine State Conference titles and 11 NCAA South Regional championships. He also has coached the program to five national championships, coming in 2006, 2007, 2013, 2015 and 2019.
UT’s all-time winningest baseball coach, Urso has led the Spartans to 40+ victories in 15 of his 19 seasons at the helm. He is also the lone UT coach to guide his team to 50-plus victories in a season, as he did in 2006, 2007 and 2014.
Urso has guided the Spartans to the top prize on five occasions, capturing the 2006, 2007, 2013, 2015 and 2019 NCAA Division II national championships and he also led UT to a second place finish in the 2003 National Championship Series. Under Urso, Tampa won a school record 54 games in 2006 and again in 2014.
The program has been recognized on the national level as 65 Spartans have been selected in the Major League Baseball Draft since 2006, including a school-record nine in the 2010 MLB Draft. With nine selections, the Spartans ranked sixth among all colleges in players chosen in 2010.
Guiding the program to its eighth national title in 2019, Urso's squad was a perfect 9-0 in postseason play, including extra-inning victories in both the South Regional and Super Regional clinching games over Nova Southeastern and Delta State. The 2019 season also marked the sixth time in his tenure that he was honored as the ABCA National Coach of the Year. His team then used a combination of excellent hitting and shutdown pitching in the NCAA Championship Series in Cary, outscoring its opponents 26-5 in the four games. The magical run concluded with a 3-1 win over top-seed Colorado Mesa to capture Urso's fifth championship at the helm of the Spartans. The 2019 season also included a milestone 800th career win for Urso, becoming the fastest coach in NCAA history to the mark.
His national championship run in 2015 came from the rare underdog tag, as his Spartans entered the postseason as the No. 3 seed in the NCAA South Region. His team would go a perfect 8-0 in tournament action, with a 3-1 victory over Catawba College in the national championship. In 2015, Urso's Spartans also became the fourth NCAA team to defeat a Major League Baseball opponent as UT defeated the Philadelphia Phillies by a 6-2 score in an exhibition game at Brighthouse Field.
Tampa set the NCAA Division II record for regular season winning percentage in 2014, going 47-2 with a .959 regular season mark. Additionally, Tampa's .931 winning percentage in 2014 also set an NCAA II record. The Spartans won the SSC and NCAA South Regional titles in 2014, while advancing all the way to the national semifinals. Urso also led UT to 16 straight weeks at the No. 1 spot, marking a new school record for consecutive weeks at the top of the rankings.
In 2016, Urso reached a milestone victory as the Spartans defeated the Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish for the 700th of his career. His milestone victory was on April 30, as UT beat PBA 3-0. Urso also reached another milestone in 2014, becoming the fastest coach in NCAA II history to 600 career wins. His milestone victory came on April 4 in a 7-6 victory over Palm Beach Atlantic University.
The 2013 season resulted in the program's sixth national championship as Urso's squad claimed the Sunshine State Conference and NCAA South Regional championship in addition to the big prize. The team had five players selected in the MLB Draft as Mike Adams was recognized as the SSC and South Region Pitcher of the Year. Urso also captured his third National Coach of the Year award and was named SSC Coach of the Year for the eighth time in his Spartan coaching career.
In 2012, Urso became the fastest coach in NCAA Division II history to reach 500 career victories as he needed just 12 seasons to eclipse the milestone. He also ranks as the all-time winningest coach in program history.
Among those drafted during the Urso era are Sergio Perez and Eric Beattie, who were both second-round selections. Perez was selected by the Houston Astros in 2006 and rose to the Class AAA level with the Astros. Beattie, a former Cape Cod League Pitcher of the Year and Hall of Famer, was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 2004 MLB Draft. In his time at Tampa, 57 Spartans have been chosen in the MLB Draft as two have advanced to the Major Leagues (Charlie Manning and Mike Rabelo).
Urso returned to Tampa following a three-year stint as coach and manager in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization. Most recently, Urso was manager of the Angels' minor league affiliate in Butte, Mont. Prior to that, he was manager of the Angels' Instructional League team and assistant coach with the Lake Elsinore (Calif.) Storm and Boise (Idaho) Hawks since 1997.
The 1992 UT business management graduate was the 49th-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Angels in the 1992 MLB Draft. Urso played four years in the Angels system.
As a Spartan, Urso ranks as one of the University's most popular players. Urso was a four-year starter at second base and was twice named second-team All-American, first-team all-South and first-team all-Sunshine State Conference in 1991 and '92. He was a career .332 hitter, who held the NCAA career record for runs (258). He owned the school mark for runs in a season (76) and still holds school records in walks for a season (54) and career (176). He ranks fourth on the all-time school list for games played (223), is second in career doubles (63) and sixth in stolen bases (70).
Highlighting his achievements as a senior, Urso hit .377 and was a perfect 11 for 11 in stolen base attempts in 15 games against NCAA Division I competition, including Florida, Clemson, Michigan, Alabama and Miami.
Among the top players to lead UT to the NCAA II National Championship Series in 1990, he was voted MVP of the Spartans' national championship in '92. In 1997, Urso was named to the NCAA II NCS all-time team as the best second baseman. In two tournaments, he played in eight games, hitting .469 with one home run and 10 RBI. He was named to the Sunshine State Conference Silver Anniversary team.
A Tampa native, Urso was a member of Plant High School's 1988 state championship team, where he was a two-time first team all-area, all-county and all-conference honoree and second-team all-state.
Within the Angels organization, Urso's number was retired in Lake Elsinore in 1997; he was team MVP and league all-star for the California League champions in '96; recognized by an award in his name which is presented to the Lake Elsinore fans' favorite player since '95; received three fans' favorite player awards (1994-96) and was the Palm Springs Angels fans' favorite player award winner in 1993. His community outreach efforts earned him the moniker "Mayor" of Lake Elsinore by the Angels' staff.
Urso is a 2006 inductee to the University of Tampa Athletics Hall of Fame, as his No. 7 has also been retired by the University. In 2018, Urso was inducted to the Sports Club of Tampa Bay, joining local legends in the city's longest-standing and historic sports club. He is married to Julie and they have two sons, J.D., and Preston.
Joe Urso Milestone Wins
1 - at Lynn (10-5), 1/26/2001
100 - Abilene Christian (3-0), 3/7/2003
200 - Florida Gulf Coast (9-7), 4/9/2005
300 - at Florida Tech (5-0), 4/21/2007
400 - Stillman (21-8), 5/15/2009
500 - Florida Tech (6-3), 3/17/2012
600 - Palm Beach Atlantic (7-6), 4/4/2014
700 - Palm Beach Atlantic (3-0), 4/30/2016
800 - at Albany State (5-2), 3/9/2019
Joe Urso’s Collegiate Coaching Career
|2002||Tampa||36-20||NCAA South Regional|
|2004||Tampa||41-16||NCAA South Region|
|2005||Tampa||40-18||NCAA South Region|
|2006||Tampa||54-6||NCAA National Champions|
|2007||Tampa||53-10||NCAA National Champions|
|2009||Tampa||40-17||NCAA South Region|
|2011||Tampa||36-17||NCAA South Region|
|2012||Tampa||38-10||NCAA South Region|
|2013||Tampa||47-12||NCAA National Champions|
|2014||Tampa||54-4||NCAA National Semifinalist|
|2015||Tampa||43-13||NCAA National Champions|
|2016||Tampa||41-10||NCAA South Regional|
|2017||Tampa||39-14||NCAA South Regional|
|2018||Tampa||42-11||NCAA South Regional|
|2019||Tampa||45-14||NCAA National Champions|
|Totals||19 seasons||831-242-1 (.774)||
Five NCAA Championships