LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart announced that the new $9.5 million softball facility has been named John Cropp Stadium during a dedication ceremony Saturday morning. Cropp has spent more than half a century in athletics, including the last 20-plus years as an administrator at Kentucky, and he has worked directly with the Wildcat softball program since its inception in 1997.
"There are people who transcend institutions and generations while making an impact on the lives of many," Barnhart said. "John has been that person in college athletics and at the University of Kentucky. His wisdom and love for athletes, coaches and staff have been a blessing to all of us and we are honored and proud to have worked with him. This is a fitting tribute for all he has done for our softball program, our athletic department and our University."
Saturday marked the official grand opening of the new stadium, which features 1,500 seats, a spacious press box, two luxury suites and a first-class indoor hitting/fielding facility complete with a locker room, team lounge and offices.
During his 22 years with UK Athletics, Cropp has been instrumental in a number of different programs, most notably with football and softball. Cropp is the lone original member of the UK softball program, having served as an administrator with the sport since the first pitch was thrown in February of 1997.
During his tenure, Cropp has witnessed the newborn program emerge into a nationally prominent squad.
Cropp’s leadership has helped Kentucky advance to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments beginning in 2009, becoming one of 27 schools in the nation to claim that honor. UK enjoyed its best season in the history of the program during its 2011 run to an NCAA Super Regional. The team claimed a school record 40 victories, while also playing host to the Super Regional where more than 3,500 fans cheered on the Cats within one victory of a berth in the Women’s College World Series.
UK is set to host the 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament May 8-11, which will mark the first time the program has played host to the nationally recognized four-day tournament for the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Cropp assumed his current position as associate director of athletics/administration in April 1995 after having served previously as assistant AD for special projects (1993-95), athletics recruiting coordinator (1992-93) and assistant football coach (1991).
For the first 22 years of Cropp’s athletics career he was involved in coaching football. His first head coaching position came at Tennessee High School in Bristol, Tenn. Cropp’s squads complied an impressive 48-15-3 record with two Class AAA state titles (1971-72) and the 1972 mythical national championship.
Cropp returned to his alma mater, Vanderbilt, in 1973 as an assistant coach under Steven Sloan. He followed Sloan as an assistant to Texas Tech (1975-77), Ole Miss (1978-82) and Duke (1983). In 1984, Cropp returned to Vanderbilt under head coach George MacIntyre. He entered private business for two years (1986-88) before returning to Vanderbilt for a third time. Cropp served as assistant athletics director for compliance at Vanderbilt for three years before coming to Kentucky.
Cropp earned three varsity letters at Vanderbilt as a guard/linebacker. He received the Wade-Looney Memorial Award as a senior and graduated in 1961. He earned his masters of arts in teaching in 1962.
Cropp and his wife, Mary Ann, have two grown children, Karen and David, and three grandchildren, Kate, Baxter and Griffin.