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Papa Continues Hall of Fame Coaching Career

Papa (left) was co-captains with Joanne Burruano.
July 10, 2017

STORRS, Conn. -- For the last 32 years, North Carolina softball head coach Donna Papa has been wearing light blue on a daily basis. Before that, however, it was a darker shade of blue during her time as a student-athlete at UConn.  

Since graduating from UConn in 1979, the Waterbury, Conn. native has enjoyed one of the most storied collegiate coaching careers in Division I softball -- resulting in a National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame induction in 2012.

In 32 years with the Tar Heels, Papa has posted a record of 1,198-662-5 (.644) and been named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year on five occasions (1996, 1998, 2000, 2008, and 2012).

North Carolina has made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and won five ACC regular season titles during her time in Chapel Hill. Papa has also mentored 10 different players in achieving All-American status.

Papa has led the Tar Heels to a winning record in 29 of her 32 seasons, helping to build North Carolina's softball program as one of the best in the country.

Prior to North Carolina, Papa spent time coaching at UNC Greensboro, St. John's and Susquehanna University after her playing days ended at UConn.

She played with the Huskies from 1976-79; UConn's softball program had only existed for one year before Papa's career began, making her one of the trailblazers in the continuing growth and success of the team for decades to come.

In her freshman season, the Huskies played just 11 games, followed by 14 as a sophomore. In her final two seasons as co-captain, UConn went a combined 32-13-1.

Papa played with UConn alum and future head coach Karen Mullins, who led the Huskies to an 862-626-5 record in 31 years at the helm. Mullins will join Papa in the NFCA Hall of Fame this December.

In 1979, Papa graduated with a bachelor's degree in physical education from the University of Connecticut. Catch up with one of UConn softball's most distinguished alumni by reading her responses below in this edition of "Where Are They Now?"

Where do you live now? 

Durham, N.C.

What was your major at UConn? 

Bachelor's in Education with emphasis on Physical Education

Where do you work? 

University of North Carolina, Head Softball Coach going into my 33rd year.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment since graduating from UConn?

My greatest accomplishment since graduating is being the head softball coach at the University of North Carolina for the last 32 years. It has allowed me to be around so many great people and accomplished coaches, as well as having the opportunity to influence the lives of so many young people and players along the way. I was definitely humbled and honored to be inducted into the NFCA Hall of Fame.

What was your favorite place to visit on campus?

Dairy Bar and Mirror Lake. Loved campus and my time there.

What is your favorite UConn softball memory?

There were a number of good memories. Favorite UConn softball memory though is being around my teammates and after practices jumping into the pool with our practice gear on.