Michelle Gardner Named Head Softball Coach at Indiana University
June 9, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana University Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan announced the hiring of Michelle Gardner as head softball coach on Monday. Gardner will be the eighth head coach in Indiana softball history and comes to IU after spending the previous six seasons at the University of Nevada, where she was recently named 2008 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Coach of the Year.
"We are excited to attract a person of Michelle's background to lead the Indiana softball program," said Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan. "She was able to accomplish a great deal in a very short time in building a program from the ground up at Nevada. Having been an assistant coach at Arizona State and Florida State, Michelle learned first hand at how to run a nationally prominent program. Additionally, her experience as a student athlete at Michigan gives her a good sense of the level of competitiveness in the Big Ten. We welcome Michelle and her family to IU."
Gardner, a native of Petersburg, Mich., led the Wolf Pack to an appearance in the NCAA Regional this past season and was named WAC Coach of the Year following a school-best 44-18 overall record. She also posted a 16-2 record in conference play to claim the WAC regular season title, also the first in program history. Yet another first in the 2008 season for Gardner came at the end the year when freshman catcher Noelle Micka was named NFCA Second Team All-American, the first Wolf Pack player to ever receive all-american laurels.
"It is a great opportunity for me to be able to come back to the Big Ten," said Gardner. "Indiana is a place we can take in the right direction and make something special. We are looking forward to becoming part of the Hoosier family."
Gardner was hired in December of 2001 when Nevada decided to bring softball back a varsity sport following a 14-year hiatus. The Wolf Pack began competing in the WAC with the start of the 2003 season and Gardner led them to 22 overall wins, the first of six consecutive seasons with 20-plus wins.
While at Nevada, Gardner had an overall record of 187-176 and 60-56 in WAC play and coached 34 Academic All-WAC selections, 13 preseason All-WAC selections, 21 postseason All-WAC honorees, 21 WAC Players of the Week, eight WAC All-Tournament selections, one WAC Tournament MVP and 2008 WAC Player of the Year, Vanessa Briones. The success of her players also began to show itself on the national scene, as three Wolf Pack players on the 2008 roster received NFCA All-West Region honors.
The 2007 season saw four Wolf Pack players receive All-WAC honors en route to 28 wins and an appearance in the WAC Tournament finals. All of this came one year after Gardner led Nevada to the WAC regular season and tournament titles and the first-ever appearance in the NCAA Regionals in 2006.
The Wolf Pack record dipped below .500 in 2005 but they were still able to land a player on the first and second all-conference teams. In 2004, Gardner led Nevada to a then-school record 38 wins and saw Candice Rainwater earn First Team All-WAC honors, the first time in school history a player was named to the first team.
In her inaugural season in Reno in 2003, Gardner and the Wolf Pack went 22-35 on the year and were still able to place a pair of players on the All-WAC Second Team.
Before heading up the Nevada program, Gardner was an assistant coach at Arizona State (1999-2001) and Florida State (1995-1998) helping lead both schools to NCAA Regional appearances and a College World Series appearance at Arizona State. She was also and assistant coach at Bowling Green State University as well as a hitting and pitching instructor at the high school level.
Gardner is a 1989 graduate of the University of Michigan, where she was a standout pitcher from 1984-1988. In her senior season, she was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and garnered first team all-region honors as well. After exhausting her eligibility at Michigan, Gardner participated with several nationally-ranked Amateur Softball Association (ASA) teams in addition to competing in three Olympic festivals. She was also part of softball's first appearance in the 1996 Olympic Games when she took part in the Olympic Trials.
"I am excited to come back to the Midwest," said Gardner. "I wanted to make sure that if we made that move, it was to a program that was special and Indiana certainly is that."
Garner is married to William "Gard" Gardner and they have three children, Lucas (6), Jilliyn (2) and Lydia (1).
What They're Saying About Gardner:
"I'm very excited that she has come full circle back to the Big Ten. She understands the game from the pitching perspective, because she was an elite pitcher and that gives her a great perspective. She gives you a great recruiting background because she was involved with recruiting at Arizona State at a very high level. Michelle has proven her worth at a recruiter because she built the Nevada program around her recruiting abilities. I'm excited for her and for Indiana." -- Linda Wells, former Arizona State softball head coach
" Michelle has done a terrific job as Nevada's softball coach. She was hired to reinstate the program and within her six-year stint as head coach she took our team to two NCAA appearances. She is a quality person who will bring much enthusiasm and experience to Indiana University. The University of Nevada will miss Coach Gardner." -- Cary Groth, Director of Athletics, University of Nevada
"She has been an extremely good for the WAC the years she was with us. She took a brand new program to a national competitor in a very, very short time. The last three years, in particular, she has had the program competitive with NCAA bids and we are sorry to see someone of her caliber and professionalism leave the conference." Darlene Bailey, WAC Associate Commissioner/Senior Women's Administrator
""I am very pleased for Michelle and for Indiana. I think she has proven that she's a top-notch coach. She's been in the game a long time and has great experience, starting here at Michigan as both a player and an assistant. She had a great experience at Arizona State under Linda Wells, a hall of famer, and did a fantastic job at Nevada. I believe her career continues to evolve, and she brings great credibility to Indiana and the Big Ten." - Carol Hutchins, head softball coach at University of Michigan
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