Ryan Brownlee was hired in Fall 2012 to take over as the head baseball coach for Western Illinois University. He joined Western after spending nine seasons at Iowa as an assistant and as the Hawkeyes’ recruiting coordinator. Brownlee is the Leathernecks' sixth head coach since 1955.
During his first three years as a Leatherneck, Brownlee has led Western to some memorable wins - including his first victory as a collegiate head coach against then top-ranked Arkansas in 2013. The 2014 team shook off a slow start to have a winning record over the last 36 games of the season and advance to the Summit League Championship. Last year the team scored a walk-off victory at home over No. 24 Iowa. His 57 victories in three years are the second-highest total in program history in head coaches after three years.
Off the diamond, the baseball team continues to excel in the classroom and provide service hours in the community. Brownlee began the annual Leadoff Dinner when he started at Western to benefit the program, and the event has blossomed into one of the most looked to events of the academic year.
Last season, Tyler Owings became the Leathernecks' all-time saves leader and earned Second Team All-Summit League honors.
The 2014 squad finished with 21 wins, the most since the 2011 season, and that appearance in The Summit League Championship game marked the first time since 2006. A program record six Leathernecks were named All-League following the season and four players were selected to the All-Tournament team following The Summit League Championship. Tyler Willman, Tanner Glore and Neil DeCook were all tabbed First Team All-League, while Zack Burling, Jameson Henning and JJ Reimer earned Second Team All-League honors. Tom Constand, Henning, Reimer and Glore were all selected to the All-Tournament team for the Purple & Gold.
Following the season a pair of Leathernecks were selected in the 12th round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Jameson Henning became the highest position player taken in school history after he was drafted by the San Franciso Giants in the 12th round (358th pick). Just 14 selections later Tyler Willman was selected by the Oakland Athletics (372nd pick), making him the highest selection for a right-handed pitcher since 1970.
The two selections for Leatherneck baseball in the draft marks the first time since 1994 that two WIU baseball players were selected in the same draft and the first time in program history that two Leathernecks were taken in the first 12 rounds.
Tanner Glore was one of nine league players named Academic All-League after the season, while Tyler Farrell, Travis Stafford and Glore all were named 2014 Winter/Spring Distinguished Scholars. Seven other Leathernecks were named to the Academic Honor Roll following the season.
In his first season at the helm, Brownlee led the Leathernecks to 19 wins, the most for a first year head coach in program history. Western improved in nearly every major statistical category in 2013 and also advanced to the Summit League Tournament for the first time since 2011. The Purple & Gold defeated South Dakota State in the opening round of the tournament for the team’s first tournament win since 2008.
Four Leathernecks received All-Conference honors in Brownlee’s first season at the helm. Jameson Henning was named First Team All-Conference, the first Leatherneck baseball player to receive the honor since 2008, while Steve Kedroski, Neil DeCook and Aaron Michel were named Second Team All-League. Michel was also named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, making him the second player in program history to receive Freshmen All-American honors (Ryan Schmidgall - 2003).
Under the guidance of Brownlee in 2013, Dan Dispensa ended the season with six triples which is good for the third most all-time in a single season. Dispensa also finished his career with 224 hits which is the second most in program history. Brian Loconsole notched nine saves in Brownlee’s first season, which is the most saves for both a single season and (then) career in Leatherneck baseball history.
The first career win for Brownlee came on February 17, 2013 at #1 Arkansas. The Leathernecks took down the top-ranked Razorbacks 7-5 in front of nearly 6,000 fans in Fayetteville, Ark. The win marked the first in program history over a top-ranked program.
Over the past 15 seasons, Brownlee has had 35 players he coached or recruited get selected in the Major League Baseball draft, and two more sign free agent contracts - including 16 over the past six years. In 2013, Loconsole was selected in the 20th round (607th overall) by the Los Angeles Angels, making him at the time the highest Leatherneck selected in the MLB Draft since 1992.
While at Iowa, Brownlee oversaw the program's recruiting efforts. Perfect Game projected three of Iowa's last five recruiting classes as among the 'Top 50' nationally, including the 48th-best in 2011 and 45th-best in 2012. Along with the success on the diamond, Brownlee had seen an average of nine Hawkeyes per year earn Academic All-Big Ten honors during his tenure. A team-record 12 earned the distinction following the 2011 season.
Brownlee was recently recognized for his work helping student-athletes succeed in the classroom when he was invited to speak at the American Baseball Coaches Association national convention on the '10 Rules of Recovery' and time management planner programs he developed and implemented with the Iowa program.
Prior to Iowa, Brownlee worked at James Madison from 2000-03. In his second year, JMU advanced to the tournament championship game, then the following season Brownlee was a part of the 2002 team that won 43 games, the Colonial Athletic Association title and advance to the NCAA Regionals. During those four years, JMU ranked among the national leaders in various offensive categories, including: batting average, scoring, fielding percentage, doubles, triples, and stolen bases.
Brownlee played baseball collegiately at Evansville for his father, coach Jim Brownlee. He was a four-year starter, twice earned All-Conference honors and was an ABCA All-Region selection. Following his senior year, Brownlee received the University's William V. Slyker award as the Most Outstanding Male Athlete. After graduation he worked as an assistant coach for his dad at Evansville.
His summer coaching experiences include two summers in the Cape Cod League and two summers (2000-01) coaching the Quincy Gems of the Central Illinois Collegiate League. He earned his bachelor's degree from Evansville (Psychology) and a master's degree at James Madison (Athletic Administration).
Brownlee and his wife Aimee have two children, Jackson and Norah.