SAINT LEO, Fla. – James Bryce, credited with the remarkable turnaround of Saint Leo University Tennis, has announced his resignation as he has taken a position with Mississippi State University in the Southeastern Conference. Bryce will jump into Division I as the Bulldogs' assistant women's coach.
"I want to thank Saint Leo University and the athletic department for everything the last four years," Bryce said in the emotional announcement. "It has been a pleasure to work in this community and I wish the best of luck to everyone in the future. I particularly would like to thank (Saint Leo Director of Athletics) Mr. Reidy for his guidance and tireless work ethic to make this program one of the best in the country."
Only the second coach in program history, Bryce stepped into one of the toughest situations a new head coach can encounter. Both Saint Leo men's and women's teams consistently resided in the bottom-half of the conference and each team needed to be overhauled from the ground up. Bryce faced the challenge head-on, and by his second year he had the men's program in the NCAA postseason for the first time. The women's team joined their counterparts the following season as Bryce changed the expectation level of the program to one of national recognition and prominence.
By the end of the 2013 season both squads had set new program marks for wins, were ranked in the Top 10 in Division II and had defeated programs commonly thought to be unbeatable by a tennis team from Saint Leo. All the accolades were capped when the Lions' women's tennis team was selected to host the NCAA South Region Tournament, an honor given to the most elite in each of the NCAA's eight regions.
"James Bryce will be missed by the entire Saint Leo Community," Reidy said. "He took his first opportunity as a head coach and elevated both programs to Top 10 in a short period of time. At this same time he had the highest academic performing teams."
The Division I ranks are a familiar spot for Bryce as he played college tennis at Samford University in Alabama before breaking into the coaching ranks as an assistant for Division II Columbus State.
Reidy continued, "While we are sad to see him go we wish him and Erin all the best in their new chapter in Starkville, Miss. The Bulldogs have added an outstanding person and coach to their staff."
"Saint Leo will always have a special place in my heart and look forward to watching the program grow even more," Bryce said. "In addition, I would like to thank all my players (past and present) for their support and hard work. Good luck and GO LIONS!"
The search for his replacement as the third head coach in the history of Saint Leo Tennis will begin immediately.