Success has become an annual occurrence with UConn softball coach Karen Mullins
and is something she has been accustomed as she enters her silver anniversary
season with the Huskies.
Establishing a coaching record of 715-450-5, and a record of 705-440-5 in her 24
seasons with the Huskies, Mullins has played a major role in the tradition of
excellence celebrated by the Connecticut softball program.
Known as one of the most successful coaches in the nation, Mullins has led
Connecticut to eight trips to the NCAA Tournament, one Women’s College World
Series appearance and to dominance in the Northeast Region and BIG EAST
In 1999, Mullins was inducted into the Connecticut Scholastic and Collegiate
Softball Hall of Fame as its 1999 college coach selection. She was honored for
her outstanding contribution to the game of softball in 20 years of collegiate
coaching and selected from a wide field of candidates.
Mullins has directed Connecticut to eight NCAA National Championship Tournament
appearances in the last 16 years, the only appearances in program history. UConn
made five consecutive NCAA National Tournament showings (20-team field) from
1989-1993, and also qualified in 1995, 1996 and 2001.
Her UConn teams have advanced four times to the NCAA regional championship game
(1989, 1992, 1993 and 1995), winning the NCAA regional title in 1993 en route to
its berth in the Women’s College World Series. In a five-year span from 1989-93,
Connecticut was one of only nine Division I softball programs to qualify for
each of the five NCAA National Tournaments.
UConn has emerged as a perennial power in the BIG EAST Conference. Since BIG
EAST softball tournament play began in 1990, the Huskies have won seven of the
15 conference tournament championships and has been the runner-up four times.
Since BIG EAST regular season round robin play started in 1992, Connecticut won
all four regular season championships from 1992-1995 when the league crowned an
After leading her team to a championship in the BIG EAST tournament and an
appearance at the NCAA Regionals in 2001, Mullins and her staff were named the
2001 Speedline NFCA Northeast Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
In 1996, the first year of North and South Division play in softball with the
expansion of the BIG EAST, UConn clinched the Northern Division title and
repeated that feat in 1997.
Connecticut’s BIG EAST overall record is an impressive 213-133, for a winning
percentage of 62%. Since round robin play began in 1992, UConn is 188-118 in BIG
EAST regular-season action and 23-12 in BIG EAST tournament play.
She celebrated two milestones in the 2007 season. She won her 700th career game
as a collegiate coach with a 7-4 win over Santa Clara on March 4 in the Santa
Clara Bronco Classic. She followed it up with her 700th career win at
Connecticut with a 9-8 win over Villanova in the first game of a doubleheader on
April 21. The Huskies have posted a record over .500 or above in all but three
seasons of her tenure, with 25-plus wins in 15 of her 24 seasons.
During the 1993 season, Mullins’ 10th season as the
Huskies’ head mentor, she concluded her “Decade of Excellence” at Connecticut on
an impressive note by leading the 45-14 Huskies to their first NCAA Tournament
regional championship. This took them to the NCAA Women’s College World Series
in Oklahoma City, Okla., where UConn finished tied for fifth in the tournament.
During the 1990s, UConn softball posted an overall record of 335-175-2 for a
65.4 winning percentage. UConn also gained its highest NCAA national poll
regular season finishes in this span, finishing No. 14 in 1992 and No. 16 in
For her efforts, Mullins was voted National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA)
Division I Northeast Softball Coach of the Year in 1989, 1990 and 1993. Since
voting for BIG EAST Softball Coach of the Year was initiated nine years ago,
Mullins has earned that distinction five times, from 1992-95 and again in 1997.
Always stressing the importance of academics with athletics, Mullins has seen 96
percent of her softball student-athletes earn degrees from the university in her
tenure. Of those graduates, nearly half have attained Dean’s List status.
Since Mullins’ appointment at Connecticut, the Husky softball program has
finished first or second in the final NCAA Northeast rankings 10 times and has
been ranked No. 1 in the region at season’s end three times (1989, 1990 and
1992). In 2001, the Huskies claimed the No. 2 final ranking in the East region.
Under Mullins’ guidance, nine UConn players have earned All-America status a
total of 10 times over the past 16 years: shortstop Vicki Bartolucci and pitcher
Sue Rybczyk in 1990; outfielder Janna Venice and pitcher Kim Mizesko in 1992;
Venice, pitcher Pat Conlan and outfielder Andrea D’Innocenzo in 1993; second
baseman Shari Blackman in 1994; D’Innocenzo again in 1995; and Micah Truax in
2007. Venice also was selected ECAC Player of the Year in 1992 and 1993, firsts
for the program. Six of Mullins’ student-athletes, including 1997 graduate
Bridgett McCaffery, 1988 graduate Julie Sherman and 1986 graduate Millie Didio,
were honored as National Academic All-Americans during their playing careers.
She then had an impressive three players receive Academic All-American status
from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. They included 2007 graduate
Holly Calcagno and current Husky seniors Allie Gendron and Kristina Tolles.
In the 14 years BIG EAST Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year honors have
been voted on, 11 of the possible 28 awards have gone to Connecticut players,
six of the 12 Pitcher of the Year honors and five of the Player of the Year
honors. Venice was tabbed Player of the Year in 1992 and 1993, followed by
Blackman in 1994, D’Innocenzo in 1995 and Truax in 2007. Mizesko (1992), Conlan
(1993), Kara Chanasyk (1994) and McCaffery (1995, 1996, and 1997) earned BIG
EAST Pitcher of the Year honors.
In addition, 30 of Mullins’ standout athletes have been selected to the NCAA
All-Northeast Region Team a total of 59 times, and 43 players have earned
All-New England status a total of 76 times.
A member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and the New England
Softball Coaches Association, Mullins served a two-year term on the NFCA
All-America Committee. She also is a member of the New England Intercollegiate
Coaches Association and chair of the BIG EAST Conference Softball Coaches
Mullins, who resides in Tolland, Conn., is a 1979 graduate of the University of
Connecticut, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in physical education and
also received her master’s degree in sport management in 1980. She was a
standout basketball and softball player as an undergraduate and was awarded a
UConn Senior Athletic Medallion from the University upon graduation.
She is a former nationally-recognized Major League Fastpitch Softball infielder
and was the co-founder of the Single A Major Waterford (Conn.) Mariners softball