CHICKASHA – Just five years after he graduated from USAO, Sam Hayden is back as the assistant baseball coach and is eager to help the program continue to make a strong presence in one of the toughest conferences in the league.
“My goal at USAO is to help continue the winning tradition that we have and to help make the University of Science and Arts a premiere program in the Sooner Athletic Conference,” Hayden said.
Hayden is loyal to the institution. Not only did he earn his bachelor’s degree from USAO, but also USAO provided him with his first coaching opportunity — something he immediately fell in love with. Hayden was a student assistant for the Drover baseball team in 2007 while he was finishing up his degree.
Hayden and Head Coach Mike Ross go back a decade. Before Hayden was a student assistant at USAO, he played for Ross from 2002-2004 when both men were at Vernon College.
“Sam is a great person. I got the opportunity to coach him when he was a player,” Ross said. “He’s a loyal person and a good baseball guy. He understands what I want out of a team so he’ll be a great coach.”
Not only is Hayden stepping in with a coach he’s familiar with, but he’s stepping into a familiar conference as well. He caught for Wayland Baptist for two years in the mid-2000s before his student assistant position at USAO. Additionally, Hayden said, ever since leaving the SAC, he has coached teams that regularly compete against SAC schools.
“I know the conference extremely well,” he said. “I think Coach Ross and I can do really good things at USAO.”
Hayden joins the Drovers from Sul Ross State University, where he served as the assistant baseball coach for two years. Prior to that position, he was the baseball assistant at the University of the Southwest.
“I’m most looking forward to getting back to the SAC — back into the atmosphere of competing in one of the best conferences,” Hayden said.
The position opened up when former assistant coach Matt Hibbitts decided he needed to focus on earning his master’s degree. He has accepted a position as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, University of New Mexico. He will continue his education there.
“Hibbitts was great for the program in three years he was here,” Ross said. “We wish him all the best.”
Hayden earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from USAO in 2007 and his master’s degree in health, physical education and recreation from Emporia State University in 2010.
“We are excited to have Sam back. He’s been in the game and understands it,” Ross said. “I’m really happy to have him back.”
Hayden is married to Jennifer Hayden, USAO’s head women’s basketball coach. Together, they have a daughter, Carlie.