The University of Iowa and Rutgers University softball programs will be under new leadership for the 2019 season, as both schools announced the hiring of new head coaches late Friday. The Hawkeyes will be led by former UCF and Texas Tech head coach Renee Gillispie, while the Scarlet Knights will begin a new era under former Toledo head coach Kristen Butler.
Details on both schools' hirings, as well as the full release from each institution, can be found below.
Renee Gillispie Named Iowa Softball Coach (FULL RELEASE)
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.
Kristen Butler Hired As Rutgers Softball Head Coach (FULL RELEASE)
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers Athletics has announced the hiring of Kristen Butler as the next head coach of the Scarlet Knights' softball program. A former SEC Player of the Year and record-setting professional softball player in the United States and Japan, Butler has spent the last four seasons turning around the program as head coach at Toledo while earning the 2018 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year honor.
Under Butler's guidance, the Rockets enjoyed their best four-year stretch since the late 1990s with 104 overall victories. Toledo reached the 30-win plateau in 2018 for the first time since 1995 and earned a share of the MAC West regular season title with a 16-7 league record, marking its first such championship since 1992. Butler was subsequently named the MAC Coach of the Year.
"We are proud to announce Kristen Butler as the next leader of Rutgers Softball," said Director of Athletics Patrick Hobbs. "Kristen is a proven program builder, but what most impresses me are the countless reports of best-in-class student-athlete experience under her guidance. She was a decorated student-athlete and a standout professional, so the young women at Rutgers are in great hands."
"I want to thank the Rutgers administration and Pat Hobbs for considering me, as well as the Toledo community and Athletic Director Mike O'Brien for the wonderful opportunity over the last four years," Butler said. "I knew quickly during my interview and visit to Piscataway that this is the community, family and program I want to be a part of. Pat's vision, enthusiasm and goals for the softball program and the athletic department are what inspired and encouraged me to take the position. I'm excited to be a Scarlet Knight and to join the Big Ten, where a top-of-the-line academic experience is just as important as the high level of competition."
Previously, Butler served as an assistant coach at Charleston Southern (2013-14), at Mississippi Valley State (2011-12), and her alma mater, Florida (2007-08). The Orlando, Florida native was a four-year starter for the Gators from 2003-06, primarily playing catcher. Butler was named the 2006 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year after setting a new program single-season home run record.
Butler joined the professional ranks following graduation as a member of the Akron Racers of the National Professional Fastpitch league, where she was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. She continued her pro career in Japan with Denso Softball and collected another record as the first player to hit three home runs in a game. Butler then joined the Chicago Bandits of the NPF until she retired in 2015 as the league's all-time record holder in both home runs and RBIs.
That led to her first head coaching gig at Toledo, a team that averaged 15.5 wins per year from 2005-2014. During Butler's tenure at the Northern Ohio school, the program's win average rocketed to 26 per year from 2015-18. She also produced and mentored a MAC Freshman of the Year, six All-MAC First Team selections, an NFCA All-Region pick and two MAC All-Freshman honorees.
There is a litany of "first since" statements on Butler's resume at Toledo. In 2018, the team played postseason softball for the first time since 1992 with an appearance in the National Invitational Softball Championship, resulting in the Rockets' first postseason win since 1989. The 2016 Rockets finished the regular season on a 13-game winning streak, the longest unbeaten stretch since 1992. Toledo also finished 2016 with its first winning MAC record (12-11) since 1997 and highest conference winning percentage (.522) since 1996.
Following the 2017 season, Toledo had its first player signed to the National Pro Fastpitch League as Chandler Rice joined Butler's former club, the Akron Racers.
The success on the diamond was paralleled in the classroom with 27 selections to the Academic All-MAC Team during Butler's four years at UT. Academic achievement has been a staple of Butler's career going back to her playing days, when she was a four-time NFCA Scholar-Athlete and a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection.
Championships and honors rolled in at each one of Butler's coaching stops since her graduation from Florida. The 2014 Charleston Southern team won the Big South championship and booked a trip to the NCAA Regionals, while the 2012 Mississippi Valley State program boasted the Southwestern Athletic Conference Coaching Staff of the Year while going undefeated in regular season conference play and through the conference tournament for Butler's first trip to NCAA Regionals.
Kristen and her husband, Marcus, are the parents of a son, Austin, and a daughter, Kalli. Marcus has extensive softball coaching experience of his own and will join his wife on the Scarlet Knights' staff as volunteer assistant coach. Butler graduated cum laude from Florida with a degree in sport management before earning a Master's from Toledo in recreation and leisure administration in 2017.