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Horton answers Duck call for coach.

Byline: Ron Bellamy The Register-Guard

In a move that figures to grab the attention of the college baseball world - and provide instant credibility for the University of Oregon's reborn baseball program - the Ducks have reached an agreement to hire one of the nation's most prominent coaches, Cal State-Fullerton's George Horton, as their head coach.

In 11 seasons as the Titans' head coach, Horton has led his team to a national championship - in 2004 - among six trips to the College World Series, and been named a national coach of the year in both 2003, by Baseball America, and in 2004, by Collegiate Baseball and by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

The Ducks have scheduled a news conference for this morning in Eugene to introduce Horton as their coach. Horton, who made a visit to Eugene earlier this week, did not return a phone call seeking comment Friday. He was reportedly meeting with his players at Fullerton on Friday; his hiring by Oregon was confirmed by a source close to the discussions - as well as by Web sites and coaching colleagues - as a done deal.

He's been sought by other major programs in the past, including LSU, Oklahoma and Texas A&M, and appeared beyond reach for Oregon when the Ducks - still without players and a facility - began their search last month.

"George's legacy is outstanding, and it would be another great addition to the league," UCLA coach John Savage told, one of several Web sites reporting Friday that Horton had accepted the Oregon job. "Horton is a high-quality coach and a great hire. With the size of the city and rabid fan base, Oregon could definitely become the SEC school of the West."

Horton, 53, has won almost 70 percent of his games at Fullerton (490-212-1) where he succeeded his mentor, Augie Garrido, who took over the program at Texas - the team the Titans would defeat to win the 2004 championship. He's one of fewer than a dozen men to have appeared in the College World Series as a player and a coach.

Over the years, his teams have been ranked No. 1 in the nation in parts of 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Not only have Horton's teams won prominently, but he's also produced numerous players who have been selected in the Major League Baseball draft - as many as 14 in one year - and reached the major leagues.

That track record, and Horton's success in player-rich Southern California, figure to give Oregon a toehold in recruiting in California in addition to the Northwest.

Oregon, which announced on July 13 that it will reinstate baseball after cutting the sport for budgetary reasons in 1981, had previously wooed Tim Corbin of Vanderbilt, the Southeastern Conference coach of the year, and Dave Serrano of UC Irvine, the 2007 Baseball America coach of the year.

Horton and Serrano are close friends - Serrano played for Horton at Cerritos Community College in Norwalk, Calif., and began his coaching career there, and later became Horton's top assistant at Fullerton. In the recent College World Series, Serrano's Anteaters eliminated Horton's Titans, 5-4 in 13 innings, in a battle of Orange County rivals that lasted 5 hours and 40 minutes, the longest CWS game ever.

"I'm so happy for George Horton and his family that they're able to move on to this new adventure and go to a very special place,' Serrano told Baseball America on Friday. `George can go in there and put his fingerprints on everything there now. It is still shocking to me that he won't be wearing the pinstripes at Cal State-Fullerton, but I couldn't be more excited for him.'

Serrano said he and Horton have already talked about Irvine starting its season at Oregon in 2009 for the opening game of Oregon's first season since 1981.

Horton, who began his collegiate playing career at Cerritos, played two seasons for Garrido at Fullerton, and was a member of the first Fullerton team to reach the CWS, hitting .308 as a junior first baseman on that team in 1975, and .290 as a senior. He graduated from Fullerton, and subsequently earned a master's degree from Cal Lutheran.

Horton began his coaching career as an assistant at Cerritos in 1976-77, and he moved on to Los Angeles Valley College before moving back to Cerritos as an assistant in 1980 and becoming head coach in 1985.

He later moved on to Fullerton as an assistant for Garrido, becoming the Fullerton head coach in September 1996.

The five-time Big West Conference coach of the year has, in his 17 seasons at Fullerton, helped produced at least 20 major-leaguers, including current major-leaguers Chad Cordero (Montreal), Aaron Rowand (Philadelphia), Mark Kotsay (Oakland) and Mike Lamb (Houston), among others.

In the early 1980s, he coached in a summer league in Alaska, where he worked with players including Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.

He's known to be detail-oriented, walking around with a notebook full of memos and reminders.

He's also been innovative enough that in 2004, when his team started out just 15-16, he brought in a sports psychologist, Ken Ravizza, to work with his players; the Titans went on to finish an all-time best 19-2 in the Big West and won the national title.

Horton and his wife, Francie, have four daughters and two granddaughters.
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Title Annotation:Sports; Cal State-Fullerton's coach has reached a deal to lead Oregon's revived program
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 1, 2007
Previous Article:Todd proves too tough.
Next Article:Perry's injury forces OSU into adjustments.

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