Legendary Southern Illinois baseball coach Itchy Jones will be one of six inductees to enter the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame, the league announced on Tuesday.
The league will conduct its annual Hall of Fame ceremony as part the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Men's Basketball Championship next March 5-8. The March 6 festivities will begin with an 8 a.m. breakfast, followed by the induction ceremony at 8:30 a.m.
Jones coached 39 years at the collegiate level at MacMurray (1966-68), Southern Illinois (1970-90) and Illinois (1991-2005), and he is one of college baseball's top-20 all-time winningest coaches, currently at 18th all-time with a 1,242-752-6 record.
An American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee, Jones created a baseball dynasty in 21 years as head coach at his alma mater, Southern Illinois, leading SIU into the national spotlight, guiding the Salukis to a 738-345-5 record, including 10 NCAA Tournament appearances and three trips to the NCAA College World Series.
In 1971, his second year at SIU, Jones led Salukis to within one game of the national championship, finishing second at the CWS. In 1974 and 1977, Jones guided SIU to the CWS once again, as the Salukis placed third both times.
In his 16 MVC seasons, he led the Salukis to the league's best-regular-season record seven times and also won five MVC Tournament titles. In 1990, Jones' 21st and final season at SIU, he led the Salu-kis to a 49-14 record, advanced to the NCAA Regionals as a No. 2 seed; and SIU came within one game of clinching another CWS berth.
Jones was Named the NCAA Division I Diamond Baseball Coach of the Year in 1990 and also earned two other national coach of the year honors -- Adirondack National Coach of the Year in 1971 and The Sporting News Coach of the Year in 1978.
During his tenure, Jones coached 18 major league players, including former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Dave Stieb and outfielder Steve Finley.
On the playing field, Jones was the Salukis' baseball MVP in 1957 and earned All-Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors three times as a second baseman. Following a professional playing career in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system, Jones began his coaching career as head basketball coach at Jacksonville High School in 1961.
Following his 21-year stint at SIU, Jones continued his coaching career at Illinois. In 2000, he led the Fighting Illini to a Big Ten Tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals. While Jones' finest season at Illinois was in 1998, when he led the Fighting Illini to a 42-21 record and their first regular season Big Ten Championship in 35 years.
He is a member of the Southern Illinois University, Illinois High School Association Baseball, Illinois High School Association Basketball, Jacksonville High School, Herrin High School and MacMurray College Athletic Hall of Fames.
The $4 million stadium renovation of Abe Martin Field honored Jones as it re-opened for the 2014 season as Abe Martin Field at Richard "Itchy" Jones Stadium. SIU, which also hosts the MVC Baseball Championship in May, will retire Jones' baseball number (1) this coming spring.
The new MVC Hall of Fame class also includes Mike Prior (Illinois State/Baseball, Football), Bill Mueller (Missouri State/Baseball), Kylie Hutson (Indiana State/Track & Field), Phog Allen (Kansas/Basketball Coach) and basketball star Larry Humes (Evansville).