Arizona softball head coach Candrea should be safe

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Tim Glass | Arizona Daily Wildcat

Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA softball team plays an exhibition game against Yavapai College, October 3, 2010. (Photo by Tim Glass)

Arizona softball is having its worst season since the beginning of the Mike Candrea era, but the idea that he is to blame is off-base.

After going to the Women’s College World Series 22 out of 23 years, the Wildcats haven’t been in Oklahoma City since 2010. They look like they will even miss the tournament this year.

It’s still pretty premature to give in to the Internet trolls and call for Candrea’s head, though.

Every other coach on campus would kill to have the success that Candrea has had. Every other program in college softball wishes they had the UA’s success — except for UCLA, which beat Arizona in its last national championship series appearance in 2010.

The Bruins also haven’t been to the WCWS since then.

Baseball head coach Andy Lopez didn’t go to College World Series from 2005 to 2011, but he could run for mayor of Tucson and easily win since the team won the national title last year. Things can change in a heartbeat, and it looks like the 2014 softball team is poised to make a serious run at its ninth national title.

The program is in decline, no doubt, but it won recent national championships in 2006 and 2007 and was just a few pitches from winning it all in 2010, which is the main reason why college softball has exploded in popularity and there are many more teams to compete with.

Getting to the WCWS is getting to be like making it to the CWS — something you put on your outfield wall, even at Arizona.

In the ’90s, it was mainly just the UA and UCLA competing, but as Candrea put it, “We’re rivals with everyone in the Pac-12 now.”

Oregon and ASU are very serious national championship contenders, Washington and Cal (when their ace, Jolene Henderson, is healthy) are very good and UCLA and Stanford have been top 20 all season.

That’s just in the Pac-12, which has been passed by the SEC as the best softball conference, but Oklahoma has been the best team all year long.

No. 1 Oklahoma’s best players, Keilani Ricketts, Lauren Chamberlain and Michelle Gascoigne, are all top-25 finalists for national Player of the Year.

College softball has grown to feature powerhouses in the SEC, Big 12 and even a couple Midwestern teams — Michigan and Notre Dame — but high school softball in the Southeast, Midwest and Great Plains hasn’t caught up.

Candrea did allude to needing to cater to “this generation” in multiple interviews, and he is actively trying to adapt.

In one interview, Candrea talked about the need to update Hillenbrand Stadium and how important facilities are to current players. He is adjusting and wants to cater to ’90s kids.

In another interview, Candrea spoke about Kellie Fox transferring from UCLA to Arizona, saying that the players didn’t used to switch to rivals.

She is replacing Pendley though, showing Arizona softball still has it.

The Wildcats have lost a lot of players in the last few years, but Pendley is the only one of note.

Becca Tikey moved from the UA to rival ASU, which should be huge news, but she only appeared in 48 games in two seasons here.

Men’s basketball loses a lot of players. Why do people accept that they are just leaving because of lack of playing time?

Maybe it’s because men’s college basketball is big time, but with college softball on TV all the time now, it is getting there as well.

Arizona softball needs to change, and it has. It’s added two new coaches in the last two years: One from the 2006 championship team and one who is so accomplished she should be a head coach.

But no matter who is next in line, they won’t be able to replace Candrea’s contributions. He is not wholly to blame for this disappointing season.

– James Kelley is a history senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @JamesKelley520.

Read the opposing view by Evan Rosenfeld


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