AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn baseball and head coach Butch Thompson announced former Tennessee Tech and Rice head coach Matt Bragga as the program’s director of player development.
“Auburn baseball family, join me in welcoming Matt, Elisa, Luke and Emmy Bragga to the Plains,” Thompson said. “Matt has experience and has coached at every level of college baseball.
“I first met Matt as a competitor in 1997 and eventually we won a national championship together at Birmingham-Southern in 2001.” Thompson added. “Matt is going to make an immediate impact on our program because of his confidence and his energy. He is not only going to develop our players and our coaches, but he’ll also have a positive impact on everyone he meets at Auburn.”
Bragga comes to the Plains with 25 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level, including 22 years of experience as a head coach, 18 of which came at the Division I level.
“I’m beyond thrilled to be joining the Auburn baseball staff,” Bragga said. “I’ve known Coach Thompson for more than 20 years, and he is a dear friend and someone I totally believe in. He truly is one of the best coaches in America.
“Butch helped me get my first full-time role in college baseball, coaching with him at Birmingham-Southern for Brian Shoop,” Bragga added. “I’m excited to get to work with him and the staff to get Auburn baseball back to Omaha after the run they made there in 2019.”
In his role as director of player development, Bragga will oversee several areas including academics, analytics, scheduling and scouting reports, among other responsibilities.
In 22 seasons as a head coach, Bragga amassed 645 career wins, including 497 wins at the Division I level. He broke into coaching as the head coach at Bevill State Community College from 1997-2000 before serving as an assistant coach at Birmingham-Southern from 2001-2003. Bragga then took his first Division I head coaching job at Tennessee Tech in 2004 and held the position for 15 seasons before most recently serving as the head coach at Rice from 2019-21.
A four-time Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year, Bragga compiled a 446-392-2 record at the helm of Tennessee Tech and took the Golden Eagles to three NCAA Tournaments, including the program’s first regional championship and super regional appearance in 2018. He mentored 15 All-Americans in his 15 seasons in Cookeville, including three-time OVC Player of the Year and 2016 National Freshman of the Year Kevin Strohschein as well as the second-highest draft pick in program history in Ethan Roberts.
In his 18 seasons as the head coach at Tennessee Tech and Rice, 31 of Bragga’s players were selected in the MLB Draft, including 10 players who were taken in the top 10 rounds.
A native of Jefferson, Ohio, Bragga played at the University of Kentucky from 1991-94 and graduated with a degree in communications before spending two seasons in professional baseball. He is married to the former Elisa Currins, and the couple are the proud parents of Luke and Emerson (Emmy).
Brian Shoop, former Birmingham-Southern (1990-2006) and UAB (2007-20) head coach
“I’m thrilled for Auburn because they’re getting a great coach and a great family. It’s really a good addition to the Auburn baseball family.
“To me, the thing that sets Matt apart is he’s incredibly positive. Positivity just oozes out of him. He’s upbeat. He’s optimistic. He just brings an energy to the equation and is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. He brings a really high level of character. He’s a great person, and he’s who I would think most parents would want as a role model for their sons. He’s very knowledgeable and very gifted.”
Keith Madison, former Kentucky head coach (1979-2003) and ABCA Hall of Famer
“His competitive nature is what was so valuable. He loved to compete. As a coach, you just can’t get enough of those guys. He had that competitive nature and just wants to win.
“He just really believes in what he’s doing. He was a great teammate when he played for me, and he’s going to be a great addition to the staff for Butch. He’s going to be a team player from the get-go.”
Ethan Roberts, former Tennessee Tech pitcher (2016-18) and current Cubs prospect
“Yeah, he wants to win games and he wants to put up good numbers, but he also wants to develop great people. He did a good job of creating a balance of developing baseball players and giving guys a chance to play at the next level, and also just developing good people and teaching good ethics, everything.
“He’s the best coach I’ve ever played for, to this day. He was big for me. He helped make me into who I am today. I’m beyond grateful for Coach Bragga.”
Kevin Strohschein, former Tennessee Tech outfielder (2016-19) and current Nationals prospect
“What I loved about playing for Coach Bragga was he always stressed developing as a man and a future husband and father. I think that’s something a lot of great leaders have always stressed. It’s not just about baseball. Sometimes it’s a little deeper than that.
“He’s very energetic and passionate. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first practice of the year or if it’s a Sunday practice in the middle of the fall or if it’s a super regional, he was the same. He was always upbeat, always stressing how important the moment was.”