Blevins, Gayle (1953-Present)
The University of Iowa’s varsity women’s softball program began in the 1970s, in the aftermath of the 1973 federal Title IX legislation that mandated equal opportunities for men and women in collegiate sport. Head Coach Gayle Blevins joined the program in 198, drawn by the leadership and activism of the then-contemporary women’s athletic director, Dr. Christine Grant.
During Blevins’s her 23-year head coaching career, the Hawkeyes made 4 trips to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Women’s College World Series (1995-1997 and 2001), 16 NCAA tournament appearances (1989, 1991, 1993, 1995-1998, 2000-2006, 2008, 2009), 4 Big Ten regular season championships, and 2 Big Ten Tournament titles. In that same period, the University’s softball team finished each season ranked top-5 in the Big Ten Conference and did not experience a losing season. The 1995 season put the Hawkeyes in the national limelight, beating top-ten ranked teams to earn the program’s first NCAA College World Series appearance and advance to the semifinal round of the Series.
Iowa teams during this period featured 16 players with all-American honors, 54 first team all-Big Ten players, 109 all-Big Ten performers. The student-athletes on these teams also received a variety of academic honors, with 76 academic all-Big Ten appearances, 15 all-district honorees, and 9 academic all-Americans.
Blevins also oversaw the 1998 construction of Pearl Softball Field at the University of Iowa Softball Complex, and during her time at Iowa, the University was selected to host 8 NCAA regional tournaments. She received National Coach of the Year honors in 1991, Big Ten Coach of the Year (1989, 1997, 2000), and Mideast Region Coach of the Year (1989, 1991-1992, 1996-1997). The entire Iowa coaching staff was the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Coaching Staff of the Year in 2003, and Blevins was inducted into the NFCA Hall of Fame in 1999.
When Blevins retired in 2010, the 1,245 wins she had amassed during her coaching career were the second-most in NCAA Division I softball history.