LOS ANGELES – UCLA head softball coach Sue Enquist, a winner of 11 National Championships as a player or coach for the Bruins, will retire from coaching effective January 1, 2007, UCLA Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero announced today. Enquist will become a Director of Major Gifts for the UCLA Athletics External Relations Office, reporting to Senior Associate Athletic Director Ross Bjork.
Kelly Inouye-Perez, who has been an assistant coach with the Bruins for the past 13 seasons, will take over the head coaching duties on January 1 and become just the third head coach in the 32 seasons of Bruin softball.
Three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and two-time NCAA Champion Lisa Fernandez will serve as a volunteer assistant coach for the program through fall practice and join the Bruins coaching staff as a full-time assistant effective January 1. Olympic Gold Medalist Natasha Watley plans to join the program as a volunteer assistant after the first of the year. Gina Vecchione will remain as an assistant coach working primarily with outfielders and hitters.
A 1980 UCLA graduate, Enquist was the program's first All-American and the Most Outstanding Player of the 1978 AIAW Championships as the Bruins won their first softball National Championship. She was the first softball player inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame, and has served as a member of the UCLA coaching staff since the 1980 season.
Enquist served as UCLA's Co-Head Coach with Sharron Backus beginning with the 1989 season and took over the reins as UCLA's sole head coach in 1997. Since then, Enquist's teams added three NCAA titles, most recently in 2004, and seven NCAA Championship Game appearances to the program's long list of achievements. In December 2005, Enquist was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. She concludes her coaching career with a mark of 887-175-1 (.835). She ranks in the top-five on the NCAA's all-time winningest coaches by percentage and is in the top-20 all-time in wins (all divisions).
"For over 31 years, I have loved UCLA as a player and a coach," said Enquist. "I am thrilled to continue my relationship with UCLA Athletics in Development. I am fortunate to step down as the head coach of UCLA Softball with my passion and excitement for the game intact. I will continue to be a spokesman for our great sport.
"My UCLA coaching experience has been enjoyable because of the outstanding fellow coaches and administrative staff that resides in the UCLA Athletic Department. I look forward to continuing my relationship with the many 'behind the scenes' people that make the UCLA experience extraordinary."
"Sue Enquist has represented UCLA softball with class and distinction throughout her entire adult life," said Guerrero. "She is the ultimate icon of her sport.
"As a player, she helped build our program's foundation, becoming the first softball player elected to the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame, and contributed to the program's success as an assistant coach.
"As a head coach, Sue has kept UCLA at the forefront of her sport with her passion for excellence and extraordinary results. The number of NCAA titles, Olympians and National Team player selections earned by UCLA is a tribute to her. And Sue has been more than a coach, she has been a mentor for student-athletes who have been taught the right way to represent themselves, both on and off the field of play.
"While Sue is ending the on-field portion of her career, we are excited that she will continue to represent UCLA as a member of our Athletics External Relations staff. We feel strongly that her professionalism, drive for success and love of UCLA will allow Sue to be extremely successful in this new endeavor."
In her new position as a Director of Major Gifts, Enquist will assist in the execution of major fundraising campaigns for the Bruins. She will work with the UCLA softball team through the fall, assisting Inouye-Perez in her transition from assistant to head coach before stepping down effective January 1, 2007.
Inouye-Perez takes over the helm of the most storied program in collegiate softball, but is no stranger to the Bruin dugout having spent the last 18 seasons in a UCLA softball uniform. She is a link to all three decades of Bruin softball success, joining the UCLA softball program as a freshman in 1989, the same season Enquist was named co-head coach with Backus, the only two head coaches in program history prior to today's announcement.
Her staff will include eighth-year assistant Gina Vecchione and fellow Bruin Alumni Lisa Fernandez. Fernandez will serve as a volunteer assistant coach until January 1, at which time she will become the program's second full-time assistant coach.
"Kelly Inouye-Perez is the ideal selection to be the third head coach in the history of the UCLA softball program," said Guerrero. "She was an outstanding player and has been Sue's top assistant for a number of years. She knows the game inside and out and has built strong relationships with the student-athletes in the program. The UCLA softball program will continue to flourish under Kelly's guidance."
"Kelly Inouye-Perez is prepared and ready to carry on the Bruin Tradition," said Enquist. "She has surrounded herself with an outstanding group of Bruin Alumnae in Gina Vecchione, Lisa Fernandez and Natasha Watley and they will provide our student-athletes with an excellent experience. Kelly has played at the highest level in a Bruin uniform. She is a champion on and off the field. She has the knowledge, integrity and passion for what it means to be a UCLA Softball player.
"She has an ASA Hall of Famer on her staff in Gina Vecchione, one of the greatest to ever wear a softball uniform in Lisa Fernandez and an Olympic Gold Medalist in Natasha Watley. They were all great players but I am most pleased that they are great teachers and role models to our current softball players."
Inouye-Perez helped lead UCLA to the NCAA title game all four of her active seasons, starting at catcher for the 1989, 1990 and 1992 NCAA title teams. The Bruins fell in the national title game in 1991, when she sat out the season due to injury, and also advanced to the title game in her final collegiate campaign of 1993. In addition, UCLA captured four Pac-10 Conference titles in her five seasons (1989, 1990, 1991 and 1993).
A three-time All-Pac-10 selection (1989, 1990, 1992) as well as a All-Women's College World Series honoree in 1992, Inouye-Perez turned her attention to coaching immediately upon the end of her playing career. Since becoming assistant coach in 1994, the Bruins have added three more NCAA Championships to their record total (1999, 2003, 2004) as well as three more Pac-10 titles (1999, 2002, 2006).
"I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the UCLA softball program," said Inouye-Perez. "I am excited for Coach Enquist's new opportunities in the Athletic Department and I know she will always have one eye on the program. I look forward to maintaining UCLA softball's tradition of academic and athletic excellence."
During her 13 seasons as an assistant coach, specifically in charge of coaching the Bruin pitchers and catchers, UCLA has compiled a record of 617-150-1.
In addition, 22 Bruins have earned 42 All-America honors while Inouye-Perez mentored two Pac-10 Pitchers of the Year, 2005 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year Anjelica Selden and arguably the best catcher in NCAA softball history in two-time Olympic gold medalist and NCAA all-time home run champion Stacey Nuveman.
Some of the best pitchers in UCLA and NCAA history have called Inouye-Perez their coach, including All-Americans DeeDee Weiman, B'Ann Burns, Courtney Dale and current UCLA junior Anjelica Selden. Former UCLA hurler Keira Goerl tossed a no-hitter in the 2003 NCAA Championship game while another Olympic gold medalist, Amanda Freed, also honed her collegiate skills under the watchful eye of Inouye-Perez.
Joining the staff as a volunteer assistant through the end of 2006 and taking over as a full-time assistant coach on January 1, 2007, will be possibly the greatest player ever in the history of women's fastpitch softball, Lisa Fernandez.
"I'm excited to bring Lisa back to the UCLA softball coaching staff," said Inouye-Perez. "She will bring a high level of intensity and will instill a confidence to the entire program. I look forward to her excitement and passion for the game and feel that every Bruin will be able to benefit from her involvement with the UCLA Softball staff."
"We are very happy to bring Lisa Fernandez back to the program as a full-time assistant coach" said Guerrero. "She is arguably the best player in the history of the sport, as illustrated by her three Olympic gold medals and two NCAA Championships. Having the opportunity to work with her on daily basis will benefit the student-athletes in our program immeasurably."
Fernandez won two NCAA Championships (1990, '92) and was a four-time All-American and three-time Honda Award Winner for the Bruins from 1990-93. She was the first softball player ever to be selected as the Honda Broderick Cup recipient, recognizing the nation's best female collegiate athlete, following her senior season in 1993.
Fernandez remains the only person to pitch for the winning team in an Olympic Gold Medal softball game, pitching the United States to Gold in the Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004) Games. In Athens two years ago, Fernandez was not only the tournament's dominant pitcher, but she was also the best hitter in the tournament, hitting .545 (12-for-22) with three doubles, a home run and eight RBI. In the circle, she shouldered 24 of Team USA's 56 innings, going 4-0 as the Americans breezed to a third consecutive Gold.
UCLA is the most successful program in major college softball history, earning 11 national championships, plus another eight national runner-up finishes, in the last 29 seasons (1978-2006). The Bruins have won 82 percent of their all-time games, compiling a record of 1,338-293-4 since 1975, the first year records are available. Backus served as the program's first head coach (1975-1996) with Enquist at the helm from 1989-2006.