As Matt Swope made his way on the grass of Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, dark blue sunglasses blocked his eyes to complement a gray blazer and blue dress pants.
The sunglasses he wore weren’t to block the beaming Maryland sun on this 80-degree June day, however.
“I’m just going to try to get through this without crying. That’s why I wore the glasses,” Swope said.
On this day, Swope took everything in. After more than two decades of being associated with the Terrapins baseball program, Maryland introduced him as the ninth head coach of his alma mater.
The New Carrollton native had a long list of people to thank for helping him get to this point: members of Maryland’s athletic department, current and former players, family, and his wife and children seated in the front row.
The Terrapins named Swope, a 2003 Maryland graduate, as coach following Rob Vaughn’s departure to the University of Alabama. Swope said the process came fast. He spent 11 years on Maryland’s staff as an assistant and the last two seasons as associate head coach alongside Vaughn. Swope said he considers this a “dream job.”
“It’s been the goal since day one; my heart and soul is here,” Swope said.
“For those that know me, it would’ve taken a lot for me to leave,” he continued. “I’ve been a Terp all my life. This is something that, if Rob stayed here, I probably would’ve spent all my life with him. Just being a head coach was a goal, but this place meant more to me. This has been ingrained in everything that I am. My dad was in Sigma Chi here. He used to take me to the frat house and run around and play basketball. My whole childhood and everything growing up revolved around College Park. … It’s everything that I am. It really defined my childhood and who I am as a person.”
Swope, 35, was appreciative for the lessons Vaughn taught him. Vaughn won 183 games, fifth most in school history.
“He’s a tremendous leader, a great man and a friend that will be missed dearly,” Swope said of Vaughn. “I’ve been with him this entire time, all through the transitions and different coaches, and we’ve grown a lot together. I love him dearly and will miss him and wish his family the best in Tuscaloosa.”
Maryland is coming off back-to-back regular-season Big Ten Championships and won its first Big Ten tournament this year.
“Our mission and vision does not change,” Swope said. “We will develop leaders and men of character, we will play hard, we will compete in the classroom and graduate our players. We will develop professional baseball players to live out their dreams, we will win championships, and we will do it better than it’s ever been done before.”
Swope said he will focus on building tradition within the program as head coach.
“There was turnover, some successful years, but we were missing that tradition,” Swope said. “There was nothing for former players or people to come back to or to hold on to. When I came back just to get involved with the players, that was the sole focus. To build tradition. Build something that people could be proud of and be thankful for.”
In Swope, Maryland is turning to a graduate and established name who becomes the first to lead his alma mater since Tom Bradley, who graduated in 1972 and guided the Terrapins from 1991 to 2000. Bradley recruited Swope to College Park. Swope ranks second in school history in hits (253) and runs scored (181), fifth in walks (106) and ninth in RBIs (135).
That playing experience has been an advantage for Swope in relating to players and on the recruiting trail.
“You’ll never have that full adrenaline as a player, but it’s the next-best thing to coach,” Swope said. “The best thing is you form a relationship in the recruiting process with a young man and you see him develop and grow over the years and you see that come to fruition on the field. It’s almost like having 35 kids. That’s what’s really special.”