|Bill Popp (left), director of athletics and head baseball coach since 2005, has agreed to a promotion to focus solely on his role of athletic director, thus relinquishing his duties as head baseball coach. Associate head baseball coach John Ihlenburg will take over the baseball program. The changes are effective on July 1.|
Bill Popp, Reinhardt’s director of athletics and head baseball coach since 2005, has agreed to a promotion to focus solely on his role of athletic director, thus relinquishing his duties as head baseball coach. John Ihlenburg, Reinhardt’s associate head baseball coach, will be elevated to head baseball coach. The changes are effective on July 1.
“We are very fortunate to have Coach Popp with us and as he moves from coaching to full-time administration of our athletics programs, I am sure that we will experience even greater athletic success,” Reinhardt president Dr. J. Thomas Isherwood said. “Bill Popp is a person of character and with his guidance the athletic program will continue to nurture the student-athlete and demand excellence in academics, in athletic competition, and most importantly, in life.
“Coach Ihlenburg is moving to the head baseball coach position. In Coach Ihlenburg the athletes and their families will find a positive leader with great experience. He knows us well, having served as associate head coach, and brings to his new responsibilities a highly competitive spirit with a deep appreciation of Reinhardt values.”
Popp came to Reinhardt in December 2004 to start the Eagles’ baseball program and was named the University’s director of athletics prior to the 2005-06 academic year. While at the helm of the athletic department, Reinhardt has been named a Champions of Character Institution four times by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Since his arrival, Popp has overseen the University’s expansion in the number of sports programs, with football set to begin competing in 2013, and improvements to athletic facilities and operations.
Prior to Reinhardt, Popp was the head coach at NCAA Division III Oglethorpe University for 12 years, where he guided the Stormy Petrels to three Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Eastern Division championships and was chosen as the 2002 SCAC Coach of the Year.
Popp played at Kennesaw State University as a left-handed pitcher from 1989-91. When Kennesaw State won the Georgia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in 1990 and finished with a 37-21 overall record, Popp led the GIAC in saves. He received his B.S. degree in sports management from KSU in 1993 after assisting the baseball program.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for me to become a full-time athletic director and have the chance to continue to build and improve our athletic programs,” Popp said. “I have always known there would be a time that I would want to become an administrator, and when that chance became reality I knew it was the right time to transition.
“The addition of football offers more unique challenges, especially as we get into hiring coaches, building fields and buildings, and start recruiting in the fall. I will enjoy being available to assist in any way possible.”
“The transition in baseball is much easier since John is in place,” Popp continued. “He and I have worked together for many years and have very similar beliefs and ideas. He will keep the program moving forward in a very positive manner and will continue to produce not only competitive teams, but competitive student-athletes.”
Ihlenburg has been at Reinhardt since the start of the baseball program in 2004. He served as the Eagles’ head junior varsity coach for four seasons and was promoted to a full-time varsity assistant coach, taking on the role of recruiting coordinator, and athletic grounds specialist in December 2006. Prior to the 2009 campaign, his title was changed to associate head coach/athletic facilities coordinator.
After serving as an assistant coach at NCAA Division I Fairfield University, Ihlenburg was an assistant under Popp at Oglethorpe. He was also a successful coach with Popp in the renowned East Cobb Baseball program for 13 years, producing several college and professional players. Ihlenburg also spent time as a scout in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
As a player, Ihlenburg competed professionally for two-plus seasons in the Kansas Royals organization. He was an NCAA Division I All-American and a two-time Academic All-American at the University of Connecticut, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1973. Ihlenburg helped lead the Huskies to the 1972 College World Series and also played for three summers in the highly regarded Cape Code Baseball League. He was a freshman quarterback at NCAA Division I Wake Forest University before transferring to Connecticut. Outside of baseball, Ihlenburg was a commander in the United States Navy for 22 years, where he served as a naval aviator and held top security clearance. After his stint in the Navy, he spent 17 years with Delta Air Lines, finishing as a captain, before coming to Reinhardt.
“I am honored and feel privileged to be able to take over as head coach at Reinhardt University,” Ihlenburg said. “I am very pleased that Dr. Isherwood, (Reinhardt vice president for student affairs and dean of students) Dr. (Roger) Lee, Bill Popp and everyone else associated with this decision had the confidence in me to get this job done. I am excited about the challenge that is ahead of me and look forward to all that is part of this position. This is an opportunity that I have wanted since the end of my playing days.
“We have a great core group of players here, as well as those we have recruited for next year. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I feel all of these athletes are capable and willing to do what it takes for our program to succeed.”
Reinhardt sponsors 15 intercollegiate sports programs, eight for women and seven for men, plus a coed cheerleading squad, which all offer athletic aid to qualified student-athletes. Most of the programs compete as members of the NAIA and Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC). For more information, please visit the official website of Reinhardt athletics at www.ReinhardtEagles.com.
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