Coach Johnny Reagan, one of the most honored and loved figures in Murray State athletics history, died Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, at the age of 92. He was born May 21, 1926.
Funeral services for Coach Reagan include visitation on Thursday, Dec. 20th (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) at J.H. Churchill Funeral Home, 201 South Third Street, in Murray, Kentucky. Friday's services (Dec. 21) move to the First Christian Church, 111 N 5th St., in Murray. Visitation at the church will be from 10 a.m. to noon with the funeral service beginning at 1 p.m.
Inducted into the Murray State Hall of Fame in 1971 after a stellar career for MSU basketball and baseball, Reagan's work after he graduated from MSU in 1948 was also the stuff that defines hall of fame careers.
Reagan, a 1948 Murray State graduate, returned to his alma mater in 1958 as head baseball coach, assistant basketball coach and business instructor. However, it was his playing days that first brought him great adulation from his home state Missouri and his hometown Bismarck. His high school exploits paved the way for Reagan to come to Murray State. Because of his association with MSU, countless lives of his student-athletes and colleagues is forever influenced in a positive manner by his wisdom, coaching techniques, sportsmanship and a general emphasis on being respectful of others.
As a student-athlete at Murray State, Reagan was a two-sport star in baseball and basketball. He became the only basketball player to lead his team in every statistical category in 1946, a feat that has never been equaled. Following his junior season in 1946, he received all-Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors in basketball. He was also team captain during the 1946 and 47 seasons as he started every game of his Murray State career. He left his mark on the baseball field as a player as well, when he recorded a one-hitter against Western Kentucky in 1946. Reagan played shortstop for Murray State as a freshman and sophomore but switched to pitching as a junior and senior. He went on to play two years of professional baseball.
During his 36 seasons guiding Murray State Baseball (the longest head coach tenure in MSU history), Reagan led the Thoroughbreds to a 776-508-11 record and 11 Ohio Valley Conference championships. He was a 10-time OVC Coach of the Year. One of Reagan's best seasons came in 1975, when MSU was 40-9 and climbed as high as 12th in the NCAA baseball poll. That 1975 team had several MLB draft picks on the roster and it became the OVC's first NCAA postseason playoff participant. In 1979, the Thoroughbreds came one win of advancing to the College World Series. Reagan's teams set school records including, the longest winning streak of 21 games and lowest earned run-average for a pitching staff.
One of the rock-solid leaders at Murray State University, Reagan served as director of athletics from 1978-1987. Coach Reagan was also a major influencer on the game of baseball at the NCAA level and served as chair of the NCAA Baseball Committee from 1978-1986. His baseball playbook featured specific ideals of expected conduct of his players and his ability to break the game down to the finest detail was ground-breaking in college baseball.
He was inducted into the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame in 1988 and is one of only 12 from Murray State to be so honored. Reagan was inducted into the Murray State Hall of Fame in 1971 as part of a two-person class with another MSU legend, Coach Roy Stewart, whose name is on the Racers' football stadium. Even while, Johnny Reagan was coaching, the university thought so much of him, they named the baseball field after him. Coach Reagan is also a member of the Missouri Basketball Hall of Fame. His Murray State basketball No. 20 was retired in 2003 and hangs in the rafters at the CFSB Center and Reagan's No. 36 baseball number was retired after he coached his final game in 1993 and he is still the only person to have his number retired in MSU Baseball.
The Johnny Reagan Way, was about more than winning baseball games. He treated his current players and former ones, like family and there hasn't been a coach at Murray State who was better at maintaining contact with players beyond their playing days. It was common for Reagan to send tiny baseball gloves to former players at the birth of a child. Coach Reagan took tremendous pride in the success his former players. The stories of Coach Reagan pouring his life into the people he coached and worked with are too numerous to count.
Coach Reagan's "better half" was his wife Carolyn and she was the love of his life. The story is told when Reagan was a student-athlete at Murray State and part of that commitment with being on scholarship was each student-athlete had to have a part-time job on campus. Johnny's job was operating the manual scoreboard at Cutchin Field on football Saturdays. One day he was up on the scoreboard platform and saw Carolyn for the first time. He often said he knew he loved her from first glance.
Coach Reagan was, simply put, a gentleman, and everyone who knew him was better for it.