If Stacy Iveson had any ideas about moving into the head coach’s seat when her boss retires from the University of Arizona softball program, she may have at least another five years before that opportunity presents itself.
The Wildcats’ head coach, Mike Candrea, just had his contract extended through the 2022 season. And Iveson, who came on board in 2011 after a highly-successful run as a junior-college head coach who won four national titles, is expected to continue making her invaluable contributions as associate head coach.
That decision to extend Candrea’s contract had to be one of the easiest the new athletic director, Dave Heeke, will make during his time at the Pac-12 school. His head coach is coming off a season in which the Cats won 52 of their 61 games and capped the season off with the Pac-12 title.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Candrea has put in 32 years directing one of the elite programs in college softball. During that time, he has won eight national championships, 11 conference championships, and made 22 appearances in the Women’s College World Series.
Wait, we’re not done. The 61-year-old former baseball coach at Central Arizona College has produced a .796 record at Arizona and earned conference Coach of the Year honors 12 times. Last season he won his 1,500th game, making him the fastest coach in NCAA history, in any sport at any level, to win that many games.
Candrea also made history by winning those eight national titles and taking 22 teams to the WCWS. Both of those marks are the most for any coach in collegiate history.
His accomplishments haven’t been limited to NCAA competition. He was the head coach for Team USA when it won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and a silver in 2008.
And he didn’t wait until he took over at UofA to begin making his mark. When he switched from being an assistant baseball coach to head softball coach at CAC, he took the women’s program to back-to-back national JUCO titles.
His program at Arizona is also a revenue-producer – something every athletic director covets. Since Hillenbrand Stadium opened 24 years ago, Arizona has led the nation in attendance per game nine times, including five times in the last 12 years. Over those two decades, 1 million fans have pushed through the turnstiles at Hillenbrand.
All of that use has taken its toll on the stadium. Estimates indicate Hillenbrand is in need of about $5 million in renovations. But Heeke seems committed to providing his top-drawer coach with a top-drawer facility.
Candrea has given his school a program with national prestige that has produced some of the top players in the country. For 22 consecutive years, at least two players each season earned All-America honors. He has coached 57 All-Americans at Arizona and four national Players of the Year.
His extension certainly recognizes those contributions in the best way possible – with a salary increase. Candrea will jump from his current $230,763 salary to $345,000, including performance bonuses and other incentives. That will make him one of the highest-paid college softball coaches in the country.
If history is any indication, those bonuses will pile up like runs on the scoreboard.
And there should also be another national title somewhere in the mix over the next five years.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)