Roland Fanning has been living the dream for the past two years as a volunteer assistant for the Oklahoma State University baseball program.
The Coalgate High School graduate has been an OSU supporter for as long as he can remember. But when the University of Arkansas at Little Rock offered him a job as a full-time assistant and recruiting coordinator, it was an offer he simply couldn’t refuse.
The Sun Belt Conference school made the announcement via their website on Friday, and the news spread like a Coal County wildfire.
“It all kind of happened so fast. It’s a good move for me,” Fanning said. “I’ve told people here I don’t want to leave Oklahoma State. It’s my version of the Yankees. But in the role I’m in, to ever get back here or at a school like this as a full-time guy, I have to take a mid-major job like this for a little bit.”
As a volunteer assistant at OSU, Fanning wasn’t allowed to leave campus and visit with other coaches and potential recruits like he did during his five seasons at Southeastern as a full-time assistant baseball coach and marketing director for the Durant school. He missed that interaction.
“Now I get to get back on the road and recruit and see coaches, which is something I haven’t been able to do the last couple of years,” he said. “Other than that, I did everything that all the other coaches did. I just didn’t get paid through the school.”
Fanning said there’s no doubt he’ll miss Stillwater.
“Leaving is bittersweet, but it’s awesome to have a full-time job at a great university like the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. It’s still hard to leave Oklahoma State,” he said. “There are people in that community that my wife and I have gotten to know and love over the past two years that we will miss dearly.”
During his whirlwind two seasons at Oklahoma State, he married Beverly Hemphill and the couple had their first child, Emery Jo, last month. The move will allow Beverly to be a full-time mom.
“It’s still close enough to home. It’s three hours from Poteau and just under five from Coalgate. It’s not bad,” he said.
Fanning arrived at the Stillwater campus in August of 2012, and the OSU baseball team has flourished since then. The Cowboys posted a 41-19 record during Fanning’s first year and advanced to the finals of the NCAA Louisville Regional. The 41 wins in 2013 were the program’s most since 2008, while its second-place finish in the Big 12 was its best in five seasons.
Fanning and the Cowboys were even stronger in 2014, going 48-18, winning the program’s first-ever Big 12 regular-season title and advancing all the way to the NCAA Stillwater Super Regional. The 48 wins were the most by an OSU team since 1994.
Working with OSU head coach Josh Holliday and the rest of the Cowboy coaching staff has been a valuable learning experience for Fanning.
“I can't even begin to explain the impact coach Holliday has had on me over the last two years. To watch him come to work every day and pour every bit of energy he has into a program that he loves is something I’ve never seen someone do before,” Fanning said. “You see it in the way the team plays for him every time they put on that uniform. Not only is he a phenomenal coach, but he is even a better person.”
UALR head coach Chris Curry is excited to have Fanning on board with his program.
“Roland Fanning is a proven winner, and we are fortunate to have him on our staff,” Curry said. “He’s been a part of turnaround programs (at OSU and Southeastern). Roland brings a wealth of experience in recruiting, coaching the short game, base running as well as outfield play.
“Most importantly, Roland’s character and integrity are above board and he comes highly recommended from one of the top coaches in the country in Holliday,” Curry continued. “We’re excited about Roland leading our recruiting efforts, and with his people skills, contacts and knowledge of the type of player we want here at UALR, I’m very excited about the leadership he will provide.”
Holliday said OSU will miss Fanning but wishes him well in this new chapter of his coaching career.
“I’m excited for Roland and his family. We will miss he and his wife and their new baby. He was an important part of our program and brought our staff many unique talents,” Holliday said. “It’s a good thing to see a young coach get an opportunity to take what he has learned and go plug into a new staff and help coach Curry build the UALR program. He will do a great job.”
After a stellar high school career at Coalgate, Fanning played collegiately at Carl Albert State College and Northern Oklahoma-Enid before finishing his career as a two-year starter and team captain at Southeastern. He graduated from Southeastern with a degree in recreation in December 2005.
“UALR has hired a very energetic, go-getter guy that’s got good contacts,” said Gerald Turner, Scout for the Atlanta Braves. “On the pro scale, we do a 20-to-80 scale going worst to best. UALR got an 80 employee. You’re not going to out-work him. He won’t take no for an answer.”
Fans at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium are sure to miss Fanning standing along the first-base line and the enthusiasm he showed when an OSU player reached base.
“I would like to thank the Stillwater community for being so great to my little family the past two years. The people of Oklahoma State and the community of Stillwater are what make this place so special.”