As UCF continues to successfully grow and prosper among the elite in Division I baseball, associate head coach and former Knight Craig Cozart has been there virtually every step of the way. In his 12th year in 2007-08 as a member of the UCF coaching staff, Cozart has been at the controls of one of the nation's top staffs since taking over as the pitching coach.
With a great eye for talent and an outstanding ability to develop pitchers, 24 hurlers under Cozart's watch have been drafted into professional baseball in just 10 seasons at UCF. Even more impressive, only three of the 24 players drafted under Cozart's tutelage were drafted coming out of high school.
Two of Cozart's latest high draft picks were undrafted out of high school. Tim Bascom was taken by the San Diego Padres in the sixth round in 2006 after being named a First Team All-Conference USA hurler. He posted a 2.47 ERA and striking out 90 in 80.0 innings while guiding UCF through its first-ever season in C-USA. Meanwhile, Mike Billek was the sixth top-three round selection to be coached by Cozart. Billek was selected in the third round of the 2005 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs.
The 2007 rotation was anchored by Jaager Good, who went from not making any starts in his first two years, to blossoming as the Friday night pitcher. Good finished with a 3.89 ERA and went on to earn a spot on the C-USA Championship All-Tournament Team. In the pen, Justin Weiss, who made only four appearances the year before, recorded nine saves and a 1.38 ERA, both of which rank second on the UCF single-season charts. Cozart's coaching techniques enabled those two hurlers to go from riding the pine most of the season, to quickly becoming very important pieces of the pitching staff.
Cozart's 2006 staff featured two solid arms in Tim Bascom and Mitch Houck. Bascom, who tied for 28th in the nation with 10 victories a year earlier, was 31st in strikeouts per nine innings, 47th in ERA and named a third team preseason All-American. Houck finished his freshman campaign ranked 41st in the country in Ks per nine innings.
In 2004, Cozart coached two All-Americans for the second time in four years as Matt Fox and Kyle Bono formed one of the nation's elite pitching tandems. Fox finished the year 14-2 with a 1.85 ERA en route to consensus All-America honors, while Bono was 8-2 with a 1.94 ERA en route to second-team All-America status.
The two were part of a pitching staff that finished 10th nationally in ERA with a 3.42 mark. The 2004 UCF staff also shattered the school record for shutouts with 13 as the Knights' possessed one of the nation's top staffs.
In all, UCF's pitchers were 47-18 with a 3.42 ERA in 542 innings of work. Under Cozart, the Knights issued just 228 walks in 542 innings while accumulating 483 strikeouts and holding the opposition to a .246 batting average.
Three pitchers from the 2004 staff were drafted including Fox in the first round by the Minnesota Twins and Bono by the world champion Boston Red Sox in the eighth round. Bono earned the largest signing bonus in draft history for an eighth-rounder. In addition, junior left-hander Jaime Douglas was a 26th-round selection of the Anaheim Angels.
The rise of Bono under Cozart is a reflection of his outstanding coaching efforts. Bono was an undrafted high school prospect who was not even a front line starter in high school before quickly ascending into UCF's all-time leader in career ERA after two successful years under Cozart.
Freshman Taylor Meier also was named a Freshman All-American in 2004. A 21st-round selection in the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft, Meier was part of Cozart's first recruiting class at UCF. The lanky right-hander finished the 2004 season 6-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 74 innings. Meier totaled 56 strikeouts and limited opponents to a .223 batting average.
In 2003, Cozart continued the tradition of sending his pitchers to the professional ranks as senior walk-on David Torres was drafted by the New York Mets, while Mark Michael landed a free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 2003 team totaled an impressive 445 strikeouts while only issuing 195 walks. Cozart also molded a young pitching staff with a freshman at closer. Cozart guided freshman closer Kyle Bono to a 4-2 record with a 0.83 ERA and two saves in 23 appearances.
In 2002, the UCF pitching staff was once again one of the nation's best, finishing 20th in the nation in team ERA with a 3.82 ERA. Even more impressive, only two times in 63 games did UCF allow more than 10 runs in a game.
Von David Stertzbach finished the year 7-0 with a 1.81 ERA, ninth in the nation. Bo Hall, one of four pitchers to be drafted after the 2002 season, ended the year with a perfect 10-0 mark.
In 2001, Cozart's pitching staff was again one of the nation's finest. The team ranked 16th in the nation with a 3.62 ERA. Justin Pope and Jason Arnold, two All-American pitchers may have put together the best 1-2 pitching punch in the history of college baseball. Pope went on to be drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round, while Arnold was a second round pick of the New York Yankees. Both pitchers combined for a 29-4 record, a 1.82 ERA and 308 strikeouts in 242 innings pitched. Both were ranked in the Top 10 in ERA, wins and Top 15 in strikeouts per nine innings. Both Arnold and Pope each won New York-Penn League pitcher-of-the-week awards, while Arnold threw the first no-hitter in the history of the Staten Island Yankees and was recognized by Baseball America as the top professional debut from the class of 2001 college draftees.
From 1997 to 2001, Cozart saw his pitching staff improve from a 33rd ranking in ERA with a 4.60 to a 10th place ranking in 1998 (3.94) to a best under his coaching of 3.62 during the 2001 season, which ranked 16th in ERA.
The 1995 second team All-Atlantic Sun honoree and three-time all-academic team member led the Golden Knights in wins for two consecutive seasons in 1995 and 1996 with 10 and seven. Cozart finished his career second all-time in UCF wins (24), fourth in appearances (65), fourth in starts (40) and fourth in strikeouts (204). After Pope and Arnold's 2001 season, Cozart fell to fourth in wins, sixth in strikeouts and fifth in starts.
In 1995, Cozart was selected to participate in the NCAA Youth Education through Sports (YES) baseball clinic at Creighton during the College World Series with head coach Jay Bergman.
During one stretch of his junior season, he won eight consecutive starts spanning more than a month and a half. In his last start in the streak, he beat 12th-ranked Miami in Coral Gables allowing only two earned runs in 7.2 innings.
Drafted in the 45th round by the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and again in the 28th round by the San Francisco Giants in 1996, Cozart decided to forego the professional ranks to further his education and begin his coaching career.
Cozart, 31, earned his bachelor of arts degree in education in December of 1996.
Cozart is married to the former Michelle Cutright, a UCF volleyball standout during the 1990s. They are the proud parents of three boys, seven-year old Caleb, five-year old Jacob and one-year old Samuel.
The Cozart File
Born: March 12, 1974
High School: The Masters Academy, 1992
College Education: University of Central Florida, 1996 BA in
College Baseball: University of Central Florida, Pitcher, 1993-96
Student Assistant Coach, University of Central Florida, 1997
Assistant Coach, University of Central Florida, 1998-Present
Children: Caleb, Jacob
UCF Pitchers Drafted During Cozart's Tenure
1st Round, Matt Fox
Minnesota Twins (2004)
1st Round, Justin Pope
St. Louis Cardinals (2001)
2nd Round, Jason Arnold
New York Yankees (2001)
3rd Round, Mike Billek
Chicago Cubs (2005)
3rd Round, Mike Maroth
Boston Red Sox (1998)
3rd Round, Kevin Gordon
Colorado Rockies (1998)
6th Round, Tim Bascom
San Diego Padres (2006)
8th Round, Kyle Bono
Boston Red Sox (2004)
9th Round, Todd Bellhorn
New York Mets (1998)
9th Round, Von David Stertzbach
Anaheim Angels (2003)
14th Round, Jason Graham
Detroit Tigers (2002)
17th Round, Darren Newlin
Toronto Blue Jays (2005)
18th Round, Casey Kennedy
Los Angeles Dodgers (2000)
19th Round, Bo Hall
Milwaukee Brewers (2002)
19th Round, Travis Held
St. Louis Cardinals (1998)
22nd Round, Zach Sutton
Baltimore Orioles (2002)
26th Round, Jaime Douglas
Anaheim Angels (2004)
27th Round, Brad Busbin
Philadelphia Phillies (2002)
29th Round, Lester Victoria
Minnesota Twins (1998)