Fresno State fourth-year softball coach Trisha Ford is leaving for Arizona State of the Pac-12, her new school announced Wednesday morning.
Though her time with the Bulldogs was short compared to the 27-year tenure of predecessor Margie Wright, Ford made a significant impact.
She brought the storied program back to a conference championship and NCAA Tournament level, rebranding the softball program with her inviting personality and a style of play that showcased high-level hitting.
Ford, 38, finished 143-73-1 in four seasons at Fresno State, highlighted by two Mountain West championships and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances.
“She kept that legacy, and all the good that Fresno State stands for, going – pride in your school, pride in yourself, having a good character,” said four-year starting catcher Paige Gumz, who was the Mountain West’s Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons. “I’m sure this wasn’t the easiest decision for her to make.
“I know that she’s emotionally invested in each one of her players. She cares about every one of her players. We love her and we’re happy for her. The next team to have her is really lucky.”
This past season, Fresno State went 42-12-1, won a school-record 23 straight, which included a 15-0 run in April, and set school records with 63 home runs and a .499 slugging percentage.
The Bulldogs, ranked in the Top 25 for 14 straight weeks, also won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2011.
“Coach really wanted to emphasize being aggressive and having a good offense,” Gumz said. “She wanted us to get on top early and put our foot on the pedal.”
On Monday, Ford and her assistants were named Pacific Region Coaching Staff of the Year by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
Ford, who is also a USA Softball assistant, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. She is in Oklahoma working with the national team.
Ford called players Tuesday to tell them she was leaving. Seniors from this past season were informed of Ford’s departure via text message from her.
“It was awesome playing for her and I’m really happy for her,” said Jill Compton, a two-time Mountain West Pitcher of the Year who’s now playing professionally for the Dallas Charge. “She taught me so much about my mental game and physically, my mechanics.”
Compton added that most of the returning Bulldogs players were happy for Ford but nervous about the future.
“It’s difficult because we love Coach Ford and everything she made our program to be,” Compton said. “Transitions can be hard. They don’t know who’s coming. I didn’t know four years ago, either. But I told them not to worry.
“We have a good program, good facilities, good players. We’re going to get a good coach.”
Fresno State Athletic Director Jim Bartko thanked Ford for her service on Twitter and said a coaching search has begun.
Ford became the fourth coach in program history in June 2012, replacing Wright – now the namesake of Fresno State’s home stadium. Overall, the Bulldogs have made 32 NCAA appearances and under Wright won the 1998 national championship.
Ford takes over an Arizona State program that won two national championships under Clint Myers. He departed after the 2013 season for Auburn and this year led the Tigers to a national runner-up finish.
Myers’ replacement, Craig Nicholson, resigned last fall citing medical reasons. The Sun Devils were led in 2016 by co-interim coaches Robert Wagner and Letty Olivarez.
Ford returns to the Pac-12, where she served as an assistant at Stanford for nine years prior to joining Fresno State.
The softball hiring will be Bartko’s fourth coaching search during his 1 1/2 -year tenure with the Bulldogs, with the school also in the process of hiring a women’s water polo coach.
Bartko last month hired Troy Steiner from Oregon State to head the rebooting of the wrestling program. He hired Luke Shields from Boise State as men’s tennis coach in September.