AUSTIN (KXAN) — Connie Clark, the first and only head coach in Texas softball history, resigned on Wednesday.
The Longhorns’ 2018 season, the program’s 22nd as an NCAA varsity sport, came to an end on Saturday in the Seattle Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
“After a lot of reflection and consideration, I have decided to step down as Head Softball Coach at Texas,” Clark said in a statement released by Texas. “This decision comes with a great deal of emotion because it was such a blessing to be able to build this program from day one and to manage it for 23 years.”
Clark led the Longhorns to five Women’s College World Series appearances, most recently in 2013. She took Texas to the NCAA Tournament 19 times, including 14 straight trips from 2005 to 2018.
“I feel like it’s a really good time to pass the baton,” Clark said. “The program has a great foundation in place, and it’s refreshing to be able to make this decision and go out on my own terms.”
When Texas first decided to start a softball team for the 1996 season, Jody Conradt, then the Women’s Athletic Director, tabbed Clark, a Florida State assistant, to lead the program.
“I was so lucky to have that chance as a rookie head coach, and I’m beyond thankful to Jody Conradt for that opportunity,” Clark said. “When I think back to all of the energy we’ve poured into this program, the many highs we’ve had and the lows we’ve grown from, it’s been truly special. I’m really proud of everything we’ve been able to accomplish.”
After one year as a club team, the Longhorns became an NCAA Varsity program in 1997. The very next year, Texas made its first appearance in Oklahoma City in the Women’s College World Series.
The Longhorns didn’t return to the WCWS again until 2003 when they were led by sophomore pitcher Cat Osterman, arguably the best player in program history. That year, Texas lost in the championship game, 1-0, to UCLA.
With Osterman in the circle, Clark had her most successful run, making three WCWS appearances in four years. The one year Texas did make it to Oklahoma City, 2004, Osterman took a redshirt season to pitch for Team USA in the Athens Olympics, where the US won the gold medal.
After that impressive run that ended in 2006 with the program’s fourth overall appearance in the Women’s College World Series, Texas would struggle for the next six seasons.
Following a super regional appearance in 2012, Clark finally led the program back to Oklahoma City for a fifth and final time in 2013 behind another standout pitcher in Bowie product Blaire Luna. But in the five years after that season, Texas has failed to advance beyond the regional round.
“We can’t thank Coach Clark enough for everything she’s done for The University of Texas and our softball program,” athletic director Chris Del Conte said. “She was there from the beginning, built a strong foundation and had several tremendous seasons in her 23 years as head coach. She will always be remembered as the first coach in our proud softball history and celebrated for all of the great accomplishments she guided our young ladies to. We are forever grateful for all she’s given to Texas for so many years.”
In all, Clark leaves Texas with a record 840-375-3, four Big 12 regular season titles, four Big 12 tournament titles, 19 NCAA Tournament appearances and five Women’s College World Series.
“I think Chris Del Conte is going to do great things here, and I’m excited for the future of Texas Softball, but it’s time for me personally to start a new chapter in my life,” Clark said. “I think the timing coincides well for both me and the program to go in a new direction. I’m excited to see the new energy that will be brought to Texas Softball and look forward to being a fan, not only of softball, but all Texas sports. Thank you players, coaches, administration, fans and everyone one at The University of Texas. It’s been an awesome ride.”
Texas said it will immediately begin a national search for Clark’s replacement.