Ohio State announced back on May 15 that they were not renewing the contract of head coach Linda Kalafatis. She spent the past 16 seasons at the helm bringing a lot of things to the program. Her overall record at Ohio State was 538-358 while leading the team to 30 win seasons in 10 of the 16 years. The Buckeyes made 6 NCAA tournament berths during her tenure including a first-ever appearance for Ohio State in the Super Regionals. In 2007, Kalafatis’ Buckeyes won the Big Ten Championship and she was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. Her 800 career wins landed her the top 25 of active coaches in 2012.
With all the great things that Kalafatis brought to the program, one may ask, “Why on Earth would Ohio State NOT renew her contract?” The overall body of her work looks great but I’m going to take a deeper look into some that may OR may not have led to Ohio State’s search for a new softball coach.
First of all, the competition in softball is getting fierce. While the Pac-12, the Big 12, and the Western coast still dominate NCAA softball, the East coast is starting to show some fight. Until 2012, there had only been one team east of the Mississippi to win the NCAA World Series and that honor belonged to the Big Ten’s own Michigan Wolverines. Alabama’s Championship win over Oklahoma this year changed things dramatically. Simply being average in the Big Ten and occasionally making a NCAA tournament appearance isn’t enough anymore.
In addition to Alabama’s championship, South Florida’s appearance in the World Series also is shaking things up. Not only did it prove the East coast teams are starting to make headway in the uphill battle to catch up to the Pac-12 and Big 12, but head coach Ken Ericksen has brought a new concept to the world of recruiting. Players in the Eastern states CAN play softball. Coach Ericksen’s team this year had only one player from West of the Mississippi, and she was from Alaska. Several of his players were from the home state of Florida, including star pitcher Sara Nevins.
How does the recruiting correlate to Kalafatis? She tried to tap into the California pipeline but it never seemed to pan out, with the exception on SS Alicia Herron. It always seemed as if Ohio State was getting the players from California that the other softball power conferences didn’t want.
Also two star pitchers in our own State of Ohio have decided to leave Ohio. Poland Seminary’s pitcher Erin Gabriel made the U.S. Junior National team as a junior. An honor that no one east of the Mississippi has had. Erin will be playing for the University of Tennessee next year. Taran Alvelo is freshman from Bloom Carroll located just outside of Columbus and she has committed to the University of Washington, which won a Championship with Danielle Lawrie.
I am not saying the Coach Kalafatis wasn’t a good coach. I’m not saying what Coach Kalafatis did over her 16 years as head coach wasn’t great for Ohio State Softball and for the University. I’m not even saying she deserved to be let go. What I am saying is that the East Coast’s recent emergence in competing with the West Coast along with the recruiting changes that seem to be taking place, may have been a change that Kalafatis either wasn’t able to adapt to or wasn’t given the chance to. No one knows the real reason but one thing is for certain…..Ohio State will begin their search for a new head coach immediately and the pressure to produce will be high.