IOWA CITY, Iowa — Renee Gillispie has been named head softball coach at the University of Iowa, Henry B. and Patricia B Tippie Director of Athletics Chair Gary Barta announced Friday.
Gillispie (gill-ESPY) is the fifth head coach in program history. She comes to Iowa after 18 years as head coach at UCF where she compiled a record of 625-403-1 (.608), won five conference championships, and advanced to seven NCAA Regionals, including four straight regional final appearances.
Gillispie is a native of Danville, Iowa, and played collegiately at Kirkwood and West Texas A&M University.
“The Hawkeye family and Iowa softball took a huge step forward today,” said Barta. “Renee Gillispie has proven she can Win, Graduate, and Do It Right. It is great to have coach Gillispie on the team.”
“I am honored to return to the state of Iowa as the head softball coach at the University of Iowa,” Gillispie said. “Having the opportunity to take over this program and return it to the championship culture it once had excites me.
“There is a rich tradition of talent in the state of Iowa. Being one of those players, I know how special it was to have the University of Iowa show interest in you. For me, it is being able to recruit these players and get them excited about Iowa, competing for Big Ten championships, and the ultimate goal of returning to the World Series. I can’t wait to hit the ground running and to Win, Graduate, and Do It Right.”
Gillispie started UCF’s Division I program in 2002, and averaged more than 36 wins per season. She has coached 75 all-conference honorees, 35 all-tournament selections, and 25 NFCA all-region selections. Eighty players have earned academic all-conference honors.
In 2014 and 2015, Gillispie’s staff was named AAC Coaching Staff of the Year, and in 2015 was named the All-Regional Coaching Staff of the Year. The Knights set a school record with 50 wins that season, leading the NCAA with a 0.93 earned run average. Central Florida’s .979 fielding percentage ranked second nationally that same year. The Knights reached as high as No. 13 in the national rankings, and finished the season ranked No. 16.
Prior to UCF, Gillispie spent four years building the Texas Tech program. She led the Red Raiders to a No. 17 national ranking in 1998 and a No. 24 ranking the following season. Her team placed runner-up at the 1999 NCAA Regional.
Prior to her time at Texas Tech, Gillispie rebuilt softball programs at Bradley University and Joliet Junior College. In 1993, she took over a Bradley program that finished 12-25 in 1992, and in two years posted a record-breaking 33-8 season. The 1994 team finished in second place in the Missouri Valley Conference and ranked fifth in the nation in winning percentage.
Gillispie received N4C Conference Coach of the Year honors as head coach of the 1992 Joliet (Ill.) Junior College team that won the conference championship. She inherited a 2-29 team in 1991, and led Joliet a 32-12 record in 1992, placing runner-up at the NJCAA Regional.
Gillispie worked as an instructor with the Griffey International Gold Medal Camp, and Higher Ground Camps and Clinics under British National coach Bobby Simpson. She has served as an international speaker for the Italian Softball and Baseball Federation Coaches Convention, and traveled to Athens, Greece, as a guest coach for the Greek National Team in 2001.
Gillispie pitched in two NJCAA National Championship Tournaments while at Kirkwood. In 1981, she ranked ninth nationally as a NJCAA pitcher. Moving on to West Texas A&M University, she set nine career pitching records, including career wins, strikeouts, and saves. Gillispie was inducted into the West Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Danville High School Wall of Pride in 2013.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING:
Former Iowa Coach Gayle Blevins:
“Renee is an outstanding selection to lead this program. As an Iowa native, she knows the history of the program, and the importance of this sport in the state of Iowa. She is a proven leader of successful programs, both on the field and in the overall development of her players.”
Sue P. Beckwith, University of Iowa Alumni:
“What an impressive hire. Coach Gillispie brings experience, drive, vision, enthusiasm, and a winning formula. She will make an immediate impact. I can’t wait until current and potential student-athletes have the opportunity to meet and play for her.”
Pat Murphy, head softball coach, Alabama:
“She is the perfect choice for the University of Iowa. I have known her for years, and as two native Iowans, she is one of the nicest individuals in the sport of softball. She has always fielded a very competitive team. I don’t see any reason why she won’t bring Iowa to new heights in softball.”
Brooke Banker, former Iowa softball player:
“As a proud alumni of a program with a rich history of success and tradition of producing championship teams and successful young women, I am very excited about the hiring of Renee Gillispie to be the next leader of the Iowa softball program.
“I believe with her years of experience in coaching and guiding winning teams, and her Iowa roots, she will keep the traditions of Iowa softball alive, while paving a new path for success for our current and future softball student-athletes.”