It’s hard for Matt Swope to remember a time when his life wasn’t absorbed by Maryland in some facet.
He recalls weaving around security guards to rush the football field in Byrd Stadium as a child after a big win. He grabbed a wristband from Scott Milanovich that day, which he still has in his collection of Terps memorabilia in his house.
Swope’s father, also a Maryland alum, often brought his son to his Sigma Chi fraternity house where Swope played basketball. He took Route 1 to get to DeMatha Catholic High School daily, which gave him a frequent glimpse of the college he’d eventually play baseball for.
And after a four-year career as a player and 11-year tenure as assistant coach, Swope will lead the program he contributed to for over two decades.
Swope became the ninth head coach in Maryland baseball history this week, replacing Rob Vaughn after the latter departed for Alabama. Under Vaughn, Swope witnessed some of the most successful years in Terps history. Now, it’s his turn to ensure it continues.
“It’s a dream job,” Swope said. “It’s been the goal since day one. My heart, my soul is here.”
The call from Damon Evans came early Monday morning.
Swope didn’t sleep much the night before — the air conditioning in his house was broken. Still, he quickly got to campus when the athletic director asked. Swope interviewed for the newly-vacant position, and just hours later he was officially offered the job.
Evans had been preparing for this possibility since last year. Baylor, among other schools, had strong interest in Vaughn after the 2022 season, signaling to Evans he needed to start a succession plan. Alabama’s interest in Vaughn ramped up during the final weeks of Maryland’s season, Evans said.
TideIllustrated reported that Crimson Tide athletic director Greg Byrne visited College Park to watch the Terps play May 12, eight days after Alabama fired Brad Bohannon. Byrne called Evans sometime in the following weeks.
“When you have someone like Rob Vaughn … you have to be prepared to know that people are going to try to come poach your coaches,” Evans said. “You gotta have a plan.”
Swope was always Evans’ top choice to replace Vaughn, the athletic director said. Swope just concluded his 11th season on staff. He began as director of operations in 2013 and became hitting coach in 2018.
He led multiple record-setting offensive seasons over the last three years. Maryland broke its single-season home run record in 2022 with 137 long balls. The Terps hit 131 this season, the third-most homers in Division I.
Swope was instrumental in the developments and breakouts of the players who anchored those records.
He coached consecutive Big Ten Player of the Year winners in Chris Alleyne and Matt Shaw. Nick Lorusso led college baseball with 105 RBIs this season, the first Division I player in 20 years to eclipse 100. Luke Shliger paced the country with 93 runs scored, also a Terps single-season record.
“Swope has been a part of the greatest era in the history of Maryland baseball,” Evans said. “It was kind of easy in making this decision to bring him on board as the next head coach.”
But much of that production from previous seasons won’t return. Swope’s first offseason as head coach has already been mired by a slew of departures. A number of players have entered the transfer portal in addition to several veteran stars likely headed for the MLB draft.
The coach inherits a sizable rebuild project, but the Terps have shown an ability to attack the portal to acquire impact hitters. Elijah Lambros and Eddie Hacopian were prizes from last year’s portal expedition. A similar haul will be required again this offseason.
Swope’s always primarily worked with hitters, but pitching has plagued Maryland and kept it from advancing further than a regional over the last three years. The lack of depth this postseason meant Vaughn had to turn to inexperienced pitchers in big moments, which led to a 1-2 showing in the Winston-Salem Regional.
Swope declined to answer if pitching coach Mike Morrison will return next season. Morrison was hired by Vaughn two seasons ago and has led underperforming staffs in his tenure. This season, Maryland’s pitchers allowed the second most runs among Power Five teams.
“We’ll go to work next year,” Swope said. “I’ll be busting my behind in the next two weeks trying to fill out the roster the best I can. We’ve done a good job in the portal so far with some additions and obviously you’re looking for those young guys that are coming in to make an impact.”
The work to replenish the roster began even before Wednesday’s introductory press conference, where Swope wore sunglasses to block people from seeing tears fall. His wife and three children stared back at him from the front row, as did more than a dozen of his extended family members.
They’ve been alongside him throughout every step of his journey, a climb that culminated in Swope finally landing his dream job. Still, having reached the peak of the profession, Swope knows the chase doesn’t end there.
“Over the last decade we’ve established a winning culture and an expectation to win with Maryland baseball,” he said. “That will continue.”