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Iowa Softball hires Renee Gillispie as new head coach

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She’s only the fifth head coach in program history.

HawkeyeSports

Iowa Softball team has its new head coach.

The University of Iowa Athletics Department announced Friday morning that Renee Gillispie will become the fifth head coach in program history after a very successful 18-year stint as the head softball coach at UCF.

At UCF, Gillispie tallied a 625-403-1 record (good for a winning percentage of .608) that included five conference championships and seven NCAA Regional appearances that included a run of four straight regional final appearances. Gilllispie is a Danville, Iowa native, and played her collegiate softball years at Kirkwood and West Texas A&M University.

“I am honored to return to the state of Iowa as the head softball coach at the University of Iowa,” Gillispie said in the release. “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.”

Right off the bat, it’s refreshing to hear Gillispie tout Iowa’s in-state talent. I’m sure it was an emphasis she mentioned in her interview, and it had become a glaring area of weakness under former head coach Marla Looper. As Jordan Hansen mentioned in the piece I just hyperlinked, this Iowa Softball program is one with a history of success. On paper, Gillispie brings that pedigree to Iowa City with her.

Her tenure at UCF began in 2002 and over that span, she averaged 36 wins a season. Her staff was named AAC Coaching Staff of the Year in 2014 and 2015, and were also named All-Regional Coaching Staff of the year in 2015. That year, the Knights won a school-record 50 games, thanks greatly in part to an 0.93 ERA and a .979 fielding percentage.

More recently, Gillispie is coming off a 2018 season that saw the Knights finishing the year with a 34-22 overall record, and a 12-9 conference record. Their season ended with a 3-0 loss to Memphis in the AAC Championship tournament first round.

It’s clear that Iowa ties are a critical part of Barbara Burke’s decision to hire Gillispie, as well as what her gameplan will (and should!) be from the get-go, as evidenced very clearly from this quote from former Iowa Softball player Brooke Banker:

“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,” Banker said in the release.

“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.”

This seems like a strong hire for Burke and Iowa Athletics as a whole. The Iowa connection certainly seems like a great fit — we’ll have to wait and see if the on-field product lives up to the potential.