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. . . and a Wave Goodby : Lopez, Who Guided Baseball Program to National Prominence, Leaves for Florida

June 23, 1994|SEAN WATERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Pepperdine Wave coaches are starting to come and go as often as the changing of the tide.

The school's respected baseball coach, Andy Lopez, announced his resignation Monday to accept the coaching job at Florida.

Lopez, the Wave coach for six seasons, guided Pepperdine to the 1992 national championship and made three other NCAA playoff appearances. His record at Pepperdine was 241-107.

Lopez, who attended San Pedro High and UCLA, had wanted to stay in Southern California because his parents and his wife's parents live in the South Bay. He also coached at Cal State Dominguez Hills for six seasons before replacing Dave Gorrie as Wave coach in 1988.

"I will always be thankful for the great experience I had during my six years at Pepperdine," Lopez said. "I'm leaving a great university and moving away from my friends and family. (However,) the total package that Florida offered to me was tough to turn down."

Lopez replaces Joe Arnold, who retired June 1 after 11 seasons at Florida. The Gators were 40-23 last season.

Lopez, 40, would not comment about his reported five-year contract, with a base salary of $140,000. He can also earn additional money from radio and television shows.

"I think this is a terrific opportunity for Andy Lopez and his family, and we're certainly going to miss him," said Tim Wilhelm, Pepperdine assistant athletic director. "At the same time, this is very complimentary to the program. It means that we hire very capable coaches who become in demand by other programs. It is unusual for a school like Florida to be making an offer to a Pepperdine baseball coach."

Lopez is the second coach to leave Pepperdine in two months. Tom Asbury resigned April 12 as men's basketball coach to take over the Kansas State program. Tony Fuller was named to succeed Asbury last month.

"This is a very good university for coaches to do good things and be rewarded for their success," Wilhelm said. "Pepperdine baseball took another step two years ago when the team won the national championship. I think coaches realize they can achieve that goal here."

Wilhelm said the process of finding a successor for Lopez has already begun but added "there is no time frame."

"What once was perceived as a good job, I think has become an outstanding job. We expect to hear from a lot of people."

Lopez became a hot commodity after Pepperdine won the 1992 national title. He was offered the Washington State job after Bobo Brayton announced his retirement and was a candidate for the Arizona State job. Longtime Sun Devil Coach Jim Brock died June 12 of cancer.

Lopez said he was contacted last week about the Florida opening and considered all offers before making his decision.

"I'm relieved the (interviewing) process is over because it was tough recruiting (at Pepperdine) the last two years," Lopez said. "I got tired of answering questions about whether I would be there in the future."

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