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A new softball coach isn't the only thing that OSU needs

Mike Holder has fired his softball coach.

The Oklahoma State athletic director announced late Monday afternoon that Rich Wieligman won’t be back to coach Cowgirl softball next season. It’s not a huge surprise. Wieligman, who just finished his ninth season, had several good years in his early days in Stillwater, but of late, the Cowgirls have hit the skids.

Two consecutive losing seasons.

Only three league wins this season.

“He worked hard at his job for nine years and has a lot of great qualities,” Holder said of Wieligman in a statement. “Unfortunately, our program has lost its momentum, and I feel it’s time we move in another direction.”

Here’s part of the direction that Holder should move — he needs to hire a female head coach.

As of this moment, OSU has only one female head coach. Eight women’s sports. One female head coach. That is women’s golf coach Courtney Jones, and I have to be honest, if she walked past me in a deserted room, I still might not know who she is.

OSU has long been a place where diversity was above average — it hired Bob Simmons at a time when a black head coach was a rarity in college football — but of late, there hasn’t been as much variety in the athletic department’s highest profile jobs. But with this softball opening, OSU has a chance to change that.

Softball in these parts is as high a profile as they come in women’s sports. The Women’s College World Series being in Oklahoma City helps make that so. But so does the success that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have enjoyed over the years. Sports fans in our state tend to take notice of the programs at both schools.

So, this hire is a big deal for OSU and Holder.

I don’t pretend to know who they will hire, but here are a couple suggestions:

*Cat Osterman: OK, I’ll admit up front I’m a big fan of the former Olympic pitcher. On the field, she’s a bulldog and so much fun to watch. Off the field, she’s as personable as they come. But here’s the thing — she’s also an emerging coach. She’s the pitching coach at Texas State, so she knows about coaching and about recruiting the Lone Star State. Both skills could come in handy at OSU. Osterman would also be someone who could inject some excitement into Cowgirl softball. She’s one of the sport’s biggest names. And lest you think Osterman is too young — she looks about as youthful now as she did the first time she came to the WCWS with Texas — she is 32. That means she’s four years older than Billy Donovan was when he got his first head coaching job, and things seem to have turned out OK for him.

*Jennifer Rocha: I have followed up a former Texas pitcher with a former Oklahoma pitcher. Sacrilege in Stillwater? Maybe. But if OSU wants a coach who knows what it takes to win, Rocha would rank high. She has been the pitching coach at Florida for a decade, and there, she has helped fellow former Sooner Tim Walton build the Gators into a powerhouse. They won the national title last year and are the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

*Chelsea Spencer: Here’s a suggestion that has no ties to a rival school. Spencer is currently an assistant at Oregon, where another powerhouse has been built. Even though the Pac-12 is filled with some of the sport’s biggest names, the Ducks have been the team to beat over the past few years. Spencer, a Cal alum, has been a big part of the turnaround. According to those in the Pacific Northwest, she is very charismatic, which means she can go out and recruit and sell a program. Those would be huge benefits to OSU.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›