After 36 years of coaching the Arizona softball team, head coach Mike Candrea announced his retirement on Monday, June 7. Arizona Athletics announced that associate head coach Caitlin Lowe will be promoted and serve as the next head coach of the Arizona softball team.
"It has been an honor to represent the University of Arizona for 36 years," Candrea said in a statement. "I am indebted to every player, coach and member of my support staff that has made the Arizona softball experience one that I will cherish forever. When I arrived in 1985, I wanted to build a culture of excellence and compete consistently at the highest levels of Division 1 softball. Most of all, our goal was to prepare our student-athletes for life after softball and build relationships that would last a lifetime."
There had been speculation all year that this may be Candrea’s last season. In his final press conference after his team’s loss to Florida State in the Women's College World Series, Candrea would not confirm anything.
“Once you get to my age you evaluate life,” Candrea said in a past press conference. “The only thing I can tell you is when that day comes, I will do it on my own terms.”
That day finally came. For many, it is still hard to believe. Candrea has been around the game longer than the lives of many who have played for him.
"Over his four decades as the head coach of Arizona Softball, Mike Candrea established himself as one of the most iconic coaches, of any sport, in college athletics history," Vice President and Director of Athletics Dave Heeke said in a statement. "While his impact on the game is widely recognized, his legacy is in the lives of the thousands of Wildcats who he coached. Mike's career embodied true excellence in all facets of leading a softball program -- winning on the field, student-athlete success in the classroom and developing them for life after graduation. He established a championship culture within Arizona Athletics that permeates throughout our department, and represented our state with honor and distinction. Mike is the epitome of a Wildcat for Life who coached, mentored and developed countless other Wildcats for Life.”
It is no question that he will leave behind a legacy that is unmatched in the eyes of many. What many do not know though, is that Candrea never planned for a career in softball.
“I got talked into going into [coaching] women’s softball,” Candrea said in a past press conference. “My career path was baseball, so I have to thank [everyone] who talked me into it because I fell in love with it.”
Many at the UA and beyond is thankful for what Candrea did for them.
"Over the past 36 years, Coach Mike Candrea has built Arizona Softball into one of the premier programs in the country," University of Arizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said in a statement. "His legacy is unmatched: 8 national titles, 1600+ wins, and – more importantly – the countless students who have told me their lives are better because he was their coach and mentor. As he retires, I know the impact of his example and leadership at the University of Arizona will continue for new generations of Wildcats. Truly an all-time great.”
Here is just a small piece of the legacy of Candrea at the UA.
- NCAA softball leader in wins (1,674)
- On April 19, 2019, became the fastest coach in NCAA history, any division, any sport, to accumulate 1,600 wins.
- Fifth-most Division I victories of any coach in any sport.
- Has led Arizona to eight national championships, more than any coach in NCAA Softball history.
- Arizona has made 24 trips to the Women's College World Series in his tenure, missing just eight times in the last 32 years.
- Under Candrea, Arizona has a spectacular postseason record of 178-65. The Wildcats have played in an NCAA-record 34 consecutive postseasons.
- 53 All-Americans with a staggering 108 total citations have played in the program since Candrea took over.
Arizona Athletics will hold a Mike Candrea retirement press conference on the floor of McKale Center, tomorrow, June 8 at 10:30 a.m. MST.
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