Oklahoma University of Athletics
Widely considered one of the nation’s top pitching coaches, Skip Johnson has led Oklahoma’s baseball program since June 2017. Since taking the reins after serving a year as the Oklahoma’s pitching coach Sooners, he led the Sooners to a 157-104 record in five seasons.
Johnson’s influence on the program began immediately and grew each year. OU pitching teams posted a progressively lower ERA in each of his first four seasons at Norman. Team Oklahoma’s 2019 ERA of 3.92 was only the seventh team under 4.00 since 1980 and the first since 2015. In its first two seasons, Sooners pitchers posted two of the five best batting totals in program history. A total of 17 pitchers have heard their name in the Major League Baseball draft since 2017 and a total of 23 Sooners have been drafted by MLB teams since 2018.
Johnson earned his 100th career victory at OU with a 10-4 win over Kansas on April 9, 2021. First baseman Tyler Hardman earned second-team All-America honors in three outlets (ABCA , NCBWA and Perfect Game) and was selected in the fifth round of the 2021 MLB Draft. Pitchers Wyatt Olds (seventh round) and Jason Ruffcorn (eighth round) were also selected in the MLB draft. Hardman won the Big 12 batting title with a .397 average — the highest by a Sooners since 2001 — and the pitching staff ranked 16th nationally with an average of 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. .
In the shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19, the Sooners compiled a 14-4 record and climbed to No. 9 in national polls. In the process, OU achieved historic performances. Dane Acker pitched Oklahoma’s first individual no-hitter since 1989 against No. 11 LSU in the Shriners College Classic, and the pitching team combined for a record 12 21 strikeouts in one game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Cade Cavalli became OU’s 10th first-round selection in June’s Major League Baseball regular draft when he was selected 22nd overall. A program record four Sooners were drafted in the first four rounds, including the three pitchers in the weekend rotation (Cavalli, Levi Prater and Acker).
Johnson coached OU to the program’s 38th NCAA regional appearance in 2018. The Sooners posted a 38-25 record — the most win total since 2013 — and reached the Tallahassee Regional final. In the process, Oklahoma pitchers set a school record with 608 strikeouts. Outfielder Steele Walker was named a second-team All-American by Baseball America and the NCBWA, and pitcher Levi Prater was selected as a freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball. Outfielder Kyler Murray, who won the 2018 Heisman Trophy with the OU football team, was the ninth overall selection in the 2018 MLB Draft. Nine players were drafted, including five in the first 10 rounds (Walker in the second round, pitcher Jake Irvin in the fourth round, pitcher Austin Hansen in the eighth round, and outfielder Cade Harris in the 10th round).
The Oklahoma pitchers gave up the fewest home runs in the Big 12 conference in 2017 and combined 531 strikeouts to rank fourth in the league and fourth in OU single-season history. The Sooners’ 9.26 strikeouts in nine innings ranked second in the conference. As a team, OU pitchers struck out 10 or more batters 24 times.
Earlier pitchers combined for 17 six-inning or longer starts in 2017, including the first two games of the Louisville Regional. Three Oklahoma pitchers were selected in the 2017 MLB Draft. Earlier closer, JB Olson was drafted in the 10th round to extend a seven-year streak with an Oklahoma player chosen in the first 10 rounds. OU saw starter Devon Perez and reliever Vincenzo Aiello selected on day three of the draft.
Before coming to Oklahoma, Johnson spent a 25-year coaching career at Texas State, including the last 10 years as an assistant and associate head coach at the University of Texas.
Johnson was hired as pitching coach at Texas for the 2007 season under Augie Garrido, who resigned as college baseball’s top-earning coach in May 2016 to take on new duties in the athletics department. UT. In 10 seasons, Johnson helped the Longhorns to seven NCAA regional appearances, four Super Regionals and three College World Series appearances.
During his tenure in Austin, 32 Texan pitchers were selected in the MLB draft, including 14 in the first 10 rounds and three first-round picks. Johnson also oversaw the development of six Longhorn pitchers who reached the major leagues. The Texas pitching team has produced an ERA under 3.00 five times and has gone over 7.5 per nine innings in five of its last eight seasons. As Texas reached its second CWS with Johnson on staff in 2011, its pitchers led the Big 12 in ERA (2.35), batting average against (.198) and strikeouts per nine innings (8.28).
Prior to his time in Austin, Johnson was a head coach for 13 years at Navarro College of the NJCAA’s Texas Eastern Athletic Conference. From 1994 to 2006, he guided the Bulldogs to 13 NJCAA regional championships, nine TEAC championships and four regional titles while compiling 450 wins.
Johnson has mentored a number of players outside of those he coached at OU, UT and Navarro, working regularly with three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas Oakland Athletics’ Homer Bailey and Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles, among others.
A standout baseball player at Denton High School, Johnson began his college playing career at Ranger (Texas) College. After a two-year career there, Johnson began playing baseball at the University of North Texas in 1988 before the school dropped its baseball program. He finished his college playing career at UT-Pan American, writing for the Broncs in 1989 and earning his bachelor’s degree in 1990. Johnson earned a master’s degree in education from UT-Tyler in 1993.
Originally from Denton, Texas, Johnson and his wife, Cathy, have two sons, Tyler and Garrett.