The Iowa softball program is going back to its roots, and Danville native Renee Luers-Gillispie is coming home.
Luers-Gillispie has been named head softball coach at Iowa, athletics director Gary Barta announced Friday.
Luers-Gillispie is the fifth head coach in the program's history. Luers-Gillispie, a graduate of Danville High School, spent the last 18 seasons as head softball coach at the University of Central Florida, where she compiled a record of 625-403-1 (.608), won five conference championships, and advanced to seven NCAA regionals, including four straight regional final appearances.
"There is no better feeling in the world than coming back and coaching the program you grew up with, wearing Hawkeye shirts and cheering for the Hawkeyes," Luers-Gillispie said in an interview Friday night. "This is the only job I would ever leave Central Florida for. This really is a dream come true."
“The Hawkeye family and Iowa softball took a huge step forward today,” Barta said in a statement.
Luers-Gillispie graduated from Danville High School in 1979, the same year the school was conference champion in softball. A pitcher, Luers-Gillispie first attended Kirkwood Community College. During her two years there, she took the team to the National Junior College Championship Tournament and was ranked the ninth-best pitcher in the NJCAA. From Kirkwood, she accepted a full-ride scholarship to West Texas State University near Amarillo, where she set nine career pitching records, including most wins, most strikeouts and most saves. She was inducted into the WTSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Danville High School Wall of Pride in 2013.
Her softball coaching career started in 1991 at Joliet Junior College where she inherited a team with a record of 2-29 and, in one short season, turned the team around to a 32-12 record, the Conference Championship and the NJCAA Regional runner-up.
The next six years, Luers-Gillispie was head coach at Bradley University (1993-1995) and then at Texas Tech (1996-1999). In late 1999, she was contacted by the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where she would have the opportunity to create a NCAA Division I softball program from the ground up. She spent the first year recruiting and building a softball complex and the program was in full swing in 2002, where they finished with a 46-19 record, including a 21-game winning streak. In 2005 and 2008, Renee led the Knights to conference tournament championships.
Her program has appeared in the NCAA Tournament four times (2005, 2008, 2010, 2012) and, under Renee, the Knights have a record of 402-284-1 over 11 years. Renee has an NCAA record of 607-460-3.
Luers-Gillispie started UCF’s Division I program in 2002, and averaged more than 36 wins per season. She has coached 75 all-conference honorees, 35 all-tournament selections, and 25 NFCA all-region selections. Eighty players have earned academic all-conference honors.
In 2014 and 2015, Luers-Gillispie’s staff was named AAC Coaching Staff of the Year, and in 2015 was named the All-Regional coaching staff of the year. The Knights set a school record with 50 wins that season, leading the NCAA with a 0.93 earned run average. Central Florida’s .979 fielding percentage ranked second nationally that same year. The Knights reached as high as No. 13 in the national rankings, and finished the season ranked No. 16.
"I'm excited to get started and build this program back to where it was when Gayle (former Iowa coach Blevins was here and they were very competitive," Luers-Gillispie said. "I'm getting texts from coaches all over who are excited that I am coming back. I am excited to reconnect with them and get this program turned around. I'm glad to be back home."