500 and counting

Sunday went well for the USF softball team and coach Ken Eriksen.

The Bulls swept a doubleheader against Big East rival Notre Dame to improve their record to 35-21. The road wins improved USF’s conference record to 7-5, causing it to surpass Connecticut for possession of fourth place in the Big East.

Oh yeah, and Eriksen recorded his 500th career win, the most of any active USF coach.

That’s how Eriksen described the day, anyway. The highlight was his team’s victories. The milestone was just an afterthought.

“It means more to me today that we won two games on the road,” Eriksen said in a press release. “We have the conference tournament coming up, and to sweep Notre Dame at Notre Dame is big, and it puts us in a pretty good spot in the conference right now. I feel a lot better after this weekend. So that’s really what that means – we’re going in the right direction.”

Despite Eriksen’s attempt to downplay the feat, surpassing the 500-win mark says a whole lot about a coach. It shows the consistency, longevity and success required to maintain a head-coaching position in the pressure-packed world of Division I collegiate sports.

Consistency, Longevity and Success. Eriksen recorded his 500th career win.

This year marks Eriksen’s 11th season at USF, making him the school’s longest-tenured head coach. Since Eriksen began patrolling the dugout at the USF Softball Field in 1996, coaches have been hired for USF’s football, baseball, men’s and women’s basketball and soccer teams. In that time, Eriksen has transformed USF softball into one of the country’s elite programs.

The USF alum has guided the Bulls to five 50-win seasons, four 40-win seasons and an NCAA Super Regional playoff berth. Eriksen has also coached four All-Americans and seven NCAA All-Regional team members.

Even more impressive than the amount of success Eriksen has brought to USF is the speed at which he’s produced it.

In his 11 years at USF, Eriksen has compiled a record of 500-239-1, giving the coach a .675 winning percentage. To put that in perspective, it took USF’s former baseball coach Eddie Cardieri 14 years and 331 losses to reach 500 wins. Eriksen and Cardieri are the only USF coaches to ever reach the milestone.

USF hasn’t been the only program to take advantage of Eriksen’s knowledge, either.At the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, he brought home a gold medal as a coach of the United States National Softball team. Working primarily as a pitching coach, Eriksen helped Team USA break 18 records, including fewest runs allowed, shutouts, lowest ERA and consecutive victories.

Since Eriksen joined the Olympic coaching staff in 2001, Team USA has gone 28-0 in international competition, including nine consecutive wins to win the gold medal in 2004.

Despite his stellar resume, my guess is Eriksen would be the first one to tell his players and USF fans that he hasn’t accomplished his goal yet. After being only two wins away from achieving USF’s first Women’s College World Series appearance last season, you can bet he won’t be happy until he leads the Bulls to Oklahoma City and brings home a championship ring. As the USF softball team makes a run at its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, the Bulls should be proud to call Ken Eriksen their coach. With him in the dugout, Bulls fans can look forward to years of success from the USF softball team.

Congratulations, coach. Good luck with the next 500.