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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Sun Devils Hire Craig Nicholson As Softball Head Coach
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 06/30/2013
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TEMPE, Ariz. - Steve Patterson, Vice President for University Athletics and Dawn Rogers, a Senior Associate AD and Senior Women's Administrator announced the hiring of Craig Nicholson, pending approval by the Arizona Board of Regents, as the new softball head coach, just the fourth in program history.

"We launched this search with several priorities, including hiring someone with head coaching experience, an individual who could recruit elite softball student-athletes and a coach with integrity and a proven track record in graduating student-athletes," says Steve Patterson, ASU Vice President for Athletics.  "We wanted a coach that shared the same vision for ASU softball that our loyal fans and Sun Devil alumni have come to expect at Farrington Stadium." 

"As we conducted our search, it became clear that Craig Nicholson was the perfect fit for ASU.  His name kept surfacing as a young, up-and-coming coach.  He was a proven winner right here in Arizona and then went on to Ball State to build a consistent championship program.  As we visited about our position, Craig's passion and enthusiasm for Arizona State was contagious.  He is someone who wants to be here long-term and become a part of our community.  We are thrilled to have him join the Sun Devil Athletics family and lead our national champion softball program."

Nicholson, the head coach at Ball State for the past seven seasons, amassed a 241-162 record with the Cardinals and holds a 964-252 career record. Nicholson replaces Clint Myers, who accepted a similar position at Auburn on June 14. On top of coaching at Ball State, Nicholson was the associate head coach for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) in 2008 and helped the team to a NPF title.

"When we began our coaching search several weeks, ago, our first priority was to hire the best coach for our current student-athletes as well as future Devils," says Dawn Rogers, ASU's Senior Associate Athletics Director and Senior Women's Administrator.  "I had the opportunity to talk with countless head coaches about our position.  I so appreciated the willingness of championship coaches in softball to share their views on candidates from across the country.  I was humbled by the respect for Arizona State softball that the national softball community shares.  And as we progressed in the search, it became evident Craig Nicholson was the perfect fit for our program.  I especially appreciated his passion to be our next Head Coach; that stood out in our conversations.  He is a teacher, a consummate professional and has the drive and confidence to bring another national championship home to ASU."

"This is the job you dream about," Nicholson, 41, said. "This is a destination job for me."

The fastest coach in program history to pass the 100 and 200-win marks, Nicholson was instrumental in Ball State capturing three Mid-American Conference (MAC) regular season championships (2009, 2010, 2012), a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and the program's first All-American. Offensive minded, Nicholson saw much growth in the Ball State program under his tutelage.

"We have a veteran team returning and it's always great to have that veteran (player) leadership," Nicholson continued. "I'm going to need to lean on our upperclassmen to help me a little bit. I want to make sure the lines of communication are open with good feedback from players who have had great success at ASU."          

RECENT NICHOLSON HIGHLIGHTS
-  Prior to his arrival, single-season high in homers was 18. BSU had 70 in 2012.

- Cardinals were only team in the nation in 2012 to rank in the top 10 nationally in batting average (.318, 8th), slugging percentage (.543, 6th), runs scored (6.69/game, 5th) and home runs (1.27/game, 10th).

- Program record in 2008 with 151 stolen bases.

- Coached the 2009, 2010 and 2012 MAC Players of the Year

- In 2009 was MAC Coach of the Year and also had the Pitcher of the Year

- 2013 MAC Coach of the Year

- Had 31 All-MAC honorees, 13 first-team, 11 second-team and seven all-freshmen

 

COACH NICHOLSON'S YEAR-BY-YEAR DIVISION I RECORDS

Year

School

Overall

MAC Conference

Highlight

2013

Ball State

37-17

18-3

 

2012

Ball State

40-15

17-3

MAC Champions/NCAA Tournament

2011

Ball State

34-24

13-8

 

2010

Ball State

43-16

17-5

MAC Champions

2009

Ball State

29-24

18-3

MAC Champions

2008

Ball State

36-32

9-11

 

2007

Ball State

22-34

8-14

 

Total

7 Seasons

241-162 (.598)

100-47 (.680)

1 NCAA Tournament Appearance

In 2013, Ball State finished its season in the MAC Tournament with a 37-17 overall record and 18-3 in conference for its fourth league title in the last five years and a MAC Coach of the Year accolade for Nicholson. Nicholson saw the program earn its first All-American, with a third team selection in the two-time MAC Player of the Year, Jennifer Gilbert.

A similar stop along the way to ASU as former head coach Clint Myers, Nicholson spent 11 years at Central Arizona, one of which with Myers, where his coaching record was 723-90. He led CAC to four National Junior College Athletic Association National Championships (1997, 1999, 2003, 2005), seven conference championships and eight regional titles. In that time he was named Coach of the Year four times and the NFCA Junior College Coach of the Year on three occasions.

In addition to his coaching duties at CAC, Nicholson was a professor of sport and fitness. He is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada where he earned his bachelor's degree in physical education. He earned his master's in sport science from the United States Sports Academy in Mobile, Ala.

Also joining Nicholson in the Sun Devil family are his wife April and his children Cade, Avery, Payton and Colby.

As the fourth head coach in program history, Nicholson inherits a successful program that saw each of its former coaches tally more than 400 wins in their time as Sun Devils.

QUOTES ABOUT Craig Nicholson

Dallas Escobedo, senior pitcher
"I am excited to see what the new coach will bring to the team. We need excitement, positive energy and a great leader. I am excited to see what he has to offer ASU softball."

Clint Myers, former ASU softball head coach
"Craig is an outstanding, hard-working young coach. He will put every bit of effort in needed to maintain the program's success, now and in the future."

Tom Collins, Senior Director of Development in the Sun Devil Club and former Ball State athletic Director
"I hired Craig at Ball State and he proceeded to elevate our program from almost nothing to either winning or competing for the conference title every year. Craig is a tremendous evaluator of talent and has a real passion for recruiting.  Once he acquires that talent he is a masterful teacher.  All of his players improve.  He's a great communicator and he will do very well with our donors, fans and alumni.  He learned under one of the elite coaches in America in Clint Myers.  And, Craig has a beautiful family who will be heavily involved in every aspect of our softball program.  I think Craig is a perfect complement to our lineup of head coaches at ASU."

Greg Beals, Ohio State baseball head coach, former Ball State baseball coach
"Craig Nicholson can flat out coach and his track record at Ball State speaks for itself. Give him the name and resources of Arizona State and success will follow. As good of a coach as Craig is, he is an even better person and family man." 

Michelle Nulliner, former Sun Devil from 2008-11
"Throughout my recruiting process I was recruited by coach Nicholson to go to Central Arizona College. When he made the move to Ball State we continued the process and I went on a visit there. I really like him as a coach. He was fair, tough and knew the game very well. I see him continuing the winning tradition that coach Myers established at ASU."

SUN DEVIL PROGRAM QUICK NOTES

- Nine-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances since 2005

- 21 All-Americans in the last decade, three in 2013

- 13 Academic All-Americans in the last decade, two in 2013

- A 2013 squad that ranked in the Top 15 nationally all season

- An average attendance of 1,292 at Farrington Stadium in 2013

- Farrington Stadium upgrades in 2013: a press box, new stadium lights and added seating and solar power to come

- 17 wins against ranked teams in 2013

- Have hosted three consecutive NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals at Farrington Stadium

- Member of the Pac-12 Conference, a league that has won 24 NCAA titles, two at Arizona State

- Back-to-back second place finishes in the Pac-12 Conference

- Pac-12 Network TV games aired 11 games in 2013, ESPN aired nine

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