Connie Clark, the only softball coach that Texas has ever known, has resigned, the school announced on Wednesday.
The news comes a few days after UT wrapped up a 33-26 season. Clark went through this season without any guarantees past the three-year extension she received in 2015.
Clark went 873-401-3 at Texas.
Clark, then an assistant coach at Florida State, was hired in April 1995 to start Texas’ program. The Longhorns played their first varsity game in 1997 and went 30-24 that first season, one of 19 30-win seasons for her.
She guided Texas to four regular-season Big 12 championships in 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2010 and was a three-time Big 12 coach of the year honoree. She coached two Olympic gold medalists in Christa Williams and Cat Osterman and she led Texas to three College World Series appearances; with Osterman as her pitcher, UT went 203-44 from 2002-03 and 2005-06.
Clark, 52, was Texas’ second-longest tenured coach behind long-time men’s swimming coach Eddie Reese.
“This decision comes with a great deal of emotion because it was such a blessing to be able to build this program from day one and to manage it for 23 years,” Clark said in a statement. “… When I think back to all of the energy we’ve poured into this program, the many highs we’ve had and the lows we’ve grown from, it’s been truly special. I’m really proud of everything we’ve been able to accomplish.
“… But I feel like it’s a really good time to pass the baton,” Clark added. “The program has a great foundation in place and it’s refreshing to be able to make this decision and go out on my own terms. I know a coach can come in and hit the ground running because the culture is solid, and we have a great group of women in place from a character and talent standpoint. I’m extremely proud of all we’ve accomplished, but just think the timing is right for a change.”
Clark, who won a national championship as a player while pitching for Cal State Fullerton in 1986 but was unable to win one as a coach. The Longhorns made five trips to the College World Series but never reached the championship series, twice falling in the semifinals.
Texas last missed the postseason in 2004, but the program has struggled to stay on the national radar. The last CWS appearance was in 2013; UT hasn’t reached the NCAA super regionals since. Texas went 1-2 at the Seattle regional this season.
“I’ve enjoyed playing for her,” UT pitcher Erica Wright said earlier this month. “Confidence is such a huge thing, and I really feel she plays up to the confidence piece of the game. I think she’s super patient with us. She understands because she was a pitcher that not every day is your best day. The main thing she wants from you is just to give it all you have for that day and always be competing.”
Texas has finished either third or fourth in the Big 12 in four of the past five years. And the Longhorns have lost 15 straight matchups with Oklahoma, which has won the last two national championships.
Texas’ next coach should expect to inherit an experienced lineup. Catcher Taylor Ellsworth, outfielder Kaitlyn Washington, infielder Janae Jefferson and pitcher Brooke Bolinger have earned all-conference awards over the past two seasons. Of the 10 Longhorns with 80 at-bats this season, only Paige von Sprecken was a senior.
The impending departures of von Sprecken and Wright, however, leaves Bolinger as the pitching staff’s only veteran arm. Freshmen pitchers Chloe Romero and Ariana Adams played sparingly in 2018.
Texas now has two coaching vacancies that athletic director Chris Del Conte, who was hired this past December, must fill. UT fired track and field coach Mario Sategna in February. Del Conte did not oversee a softball program while he was TCU and Rice.