Minnesota fans were taken by surprise a just over a week ago when former Gopher Softball Head Coach Jessica Allister announced she was leaving the U to take the same position at Stanford. Allister left the U after the best program in season history to take the job at her alma matter. While the loss stings for Gopher fans, Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle did not waste anytime and on Monday announced Jamie Trachsel as Alister’s replacement.
Trachsel comes to Minnesota after one year as the head coach at Iowa State where she led the Cyclones to their best overall season in eight years, and their best regular season Big XII record since 1994. Previously to her year in Ames she was at North Dakota State where she was co-coach for six seasons and an assistant coach for the eight seasons before that. Trachsel’s teams at NDSU regularly were NCAA Tournament participants. Her North Dakota State teams compiled a 221-109 overall record, a 98-19 record in the Summit League and advanced to NCAA Regional play five times. Her teams had a 5-10 NCAA Tournament record in those five appearances. The Bison won their conference regular-season championship and the tournament championship five times each with Trachsel as co-head coach.
Trachsel is a Duluth native and played her college softball at St. Cloud State. She led the Huskies to three straight NCAA Division II tournament appearances playing both third base and catcher.
From all indications, Trachsel was the top outside candidate for the job. According to several current Gopher player parents it appears Coyle first offered the job to Minnesota Associate Head Coach Jessica Merchant who was the Gophers lead recruiter. However, it appears Merchant will be headed to Stanford with Allister.
Just like the PJ Fleck hiring, it appears Mark Coyle identified a target with whom he had previous positive interactions. This Fargo Forum profile of Trachsel from 2015 talks about her experience moving up the program at NDSU from graduate assistant to assistant to co-head coach. She was offered the head coach position at Boise State and turned it down deciding it wasn’t the right fit. The Boise State AD at the time? Mark Coyle.
In this interview with WCCO Radio’s Dave Lee, Trachsel says she was contacted by Minnesota last Thursday—two days after Allister’s departure was made public. So its obvious that Coyle was moving quickly.
So What Does This Mean To the Future of the Gopher Program?
From all accounts, Trachsel is one of the most highly respected up and coming coaches in the collegiate softball world. All the sources I’ve been able to find all are praising Coyle for hiring a coach who has high potential to succeed at Minnesota. Trachsel has extensive contacts in the Midwest, and it is expected that is where Minnesota will get the bulk of their recruits, something that will not change under Allister. Trachsel is considered a defensive guru, and has good recruiting ties both in the Midwest and in California. In this interview she did with Jack Michaels from Radio Station 740 The Fan in Fargo from Monday she talks about recruiting.
“You have to control and own your local recruiting and surrounding areas. For us that will be the state of Minnesota, down into Iowa and other surrounding states. We certainly will be focused on that and continuing to do that just like Allister did. But its more important you find the right kid at the right time, and we don’t care where the kid is from if its the right fit.”
Another positive for the Gophers is that highly respected pitching coach and Gopher alum Piper Ritter will stay on with Trachsel. Ritter played a very large role in the development of both Sara Moulton and Sara Groenewegen into the top two pitchers statistically in the history of the Gopher program over the past six seasons.
It also appears that Trachsel may be bringing another coach with her with extensive Midwest recruiting knowledge and experience. Her lead assistant at Iowa State a season ago was Randy Schneider. Prior to last season, Schneider was an Associate Head Coach at Wisconsin for six seasons. He helped the Badgers to an unprecedented run of success, as Wisconsin racked up a 193-130-1 record during his tenure, including a 69-63-1 mark in Big Ten play. In Schneider's six-year tenure, Wisconsin put together four 30-plus win seasons after only previously having five such campaigns in the previous 15 years. Schneider is known for his offensive teaching abilities and could help to make a potent Minnesota offense even more dangerous.
Schneider has not been officially announced as an assistant, but his bio page from the Iowa State website has disappeared along with Trachsel’s.
Additionally, from all indications no transfers are expected from a Gopher team that returns seven starters from the year a year ago that shattered multiple school records with their performance. Add in the transfer of former LSU pitcher Sydney Smith and Minnesota appears loaded for another run next season.
While it may take a few years to see if Jamie Trachsel is the right woman for the job at Minnesota, she definitely appears more that qualified to continue the Gophers run to the top of the Big Ten, and to finally make that breakthrough nationally in the next few seasons.