Missouri’s search for a new softball coach has officially begun.
Mizzou athletic director Jim Sterk said in a statement that his department has begun the process of finding the “very best individual to lead Mizzou Softball into the future.”
“Our program enjoys a rich tradition, plays in a state-of-the-art facility and competes in the nation’s toughest conference, and it is our desire to build upon past success moving forward,” Sterk said. “We will not utilize a search consultant in this process, and in order to protect the integrity of the search, I will have no further public comments regarding the process or the status of any candidates until the announcement of Mizzou’s next head coach is made.”
The next hire will replace Gina Fogue, who spent this entire past season as the interim head coach after Sterk fired longtime head coach Ehren Earleywine just before the start of the 2018 season. The athletic director said in a statement at the time that he “lost confidence in Coach Earleywine’s leadership to foster the type of healthy environment we expect for our student-athletes.”
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Earleywine — who led Mizzou to three Women’s College World Series but was the subject of controversy, including a department investigation into potential verbal abuse of players — later said he was “blindsided” by the move.
Under Fogue, the Tigers finished this season 30-29 and won two games in a NCAA regional at Norman, Okla., before being eliminated by regional host and No. 4 national seed Oklahoma on Sunday in a 7-0 defeat. Mizzou made its 12th straight NCAA regional appearance — 11 of which came under Earleywine — despite finishing last in the 13-team SEC.
With a 6-17 record in league play, the Tigers failed to qualify for the 12-team conference tournament that it hosted at the Mizzou Softball Stadium, which opened in 2017.
At an athletic department fundraising event in early May, after the Tigers had failed to qualify for the conference tournament and were waiting to hear whether they would make an NCAA regional, Sterk told The Star that Fogue “did a great job being put in that situation. Both her and the team did a great job of competing.”
When asked before the Tigers departed for their NCAA regional whether she had spoken to Sterk about taking on the job with no interim tag-line, Fogue elected to keep any such conversation private.
Sterk had said he would wait until the season was over before deciding whether to retain Fogue, and the university listed openings for two softball positions — head coach and assistant coach — on its human resources website this week.