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Winningest Coach In Michigan History Continues To Advocate For Gender Equity In Coaching

An 8-0 victory against Indiana University is nothing new for University of Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins, especially one that happened in 2016. But on that Saturday in April it was more than just a conference win for the Wolverines. 

An 8-0 victory against Indiana University is nothing new for University of Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins, especially one that happened in 2016. But on that Saturday in April it was more than just a conference win for the Wolverines. 

That was the game that made Hutchins the winningest coach in NCAA softball history, surpassing Margie White of Fresno State. 

“You just assume she wins all the time, and she does,” former Michigan pitcher Jennie Ritter said in an interview with The Detroit News. “I think she cares about this, but it’s the least important thing. She’s proud of her success, but she’s more proud of us. It’s a milestone and it should be something everyone celebrates, but that’s not Hutch. Hutch will say to her players, ‘You did it all.’ Of course she’s the best – that’s how we all think about her.”

The 63-year-old coach picked up other milestones along the way in her 37-year career. She is one of six coaches at the Division 1 level to win 1,000 games, became the first coach to win 1,500 games,  and the first to reach 1,600 wins.

Hutchins is also the winningest coach in Michigan Athletics history- man or woman. Her most notable year as coach was the 2005 season where she led the Wolverines to their first NCAA National Championship. That year, Michigan became the first softball program east of the Mississippi to win the Women’s College World Series. Ritter was among her players that season where the Wolverines achieved all-time records for their program: 65 wins, 32 consecutive victories (spanning 47 days), first No. 1 national  ranking, first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and first victory over a top-ranked opponent (a 6-2 win over then-No. 1 Arizona). 

As a 2006 inductee  of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Hutchins has also won 17 Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year honors and nine NFCA Regional Coach of the Year awards.

Originally from Lansing, Michigan, she played basketball and softball for Michigan State before joining Ferris State’s coaching staff. She spent two years as an assistant coach for Michigan before assuming the head coach role in 1983.

In the last 26 years, she has led the team to 12 Women’s College World Series appearances and helped some of her former players go on to the professional level. Sierra Romero played for Hutchins from 2013 to 2016, and eventually went on to be the No. 2 overall National Pro Fastpitch draft pick and the espnW Softball Player of the Year in 2015. In addition, she had three former athletes compete for the U.S. in the Pan American Games: Vicki Morrow (1987), Patti Benedict (1995) and Jordan Taylor (2011). 

With all of her great coaching accomplishments, advocating for gender equity for coaching at the collegiate level is just as important to Hutchins. She told Michigan Radio that the lack of women coaches at the collegiate level falls on the hiring process where men hold most of the athletic director positions. Hutchins also said that when a woman coach is fired she has a more difficult time finding a new position despite her success, whereas men have an easier time getting hired after their removal. 

“The presence of men coaching women is huge. Is there anything wrong with that? No. But if you look across the exact same men sports, across Division 1, across the Power 5, there’s virtually no women of presence on any benches of any male sports in the NCAA,” Hutchins said in an interview for Stateside through Michigan Radio.

Alongside Edniesha Curry, an assistant coach for the University of Maine’s men’s basketball team and Meredith Flaherty, a volunteer coach for the University of Florida’s women’s soccer team, the three collaborated on a video essay published in the New York Times on the absence of women coaches in the NCAA. 

“Think of all the championships being left on the field by limiting the talent pool to half the population,” the supplemental written article states. “That’s why university presidents, alumni, and fans should demand realistic, data-based metrics and hold schools accountable, just as they do with their teams on the field. Seismic change starts at the top with university presidents, athletic directors and the N.C.A.A. Today we raise our little girls to follow their dreams and to excel. That is, until they become women and expect to be paid for it.”

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