Friday, Nov. 10, 2006
WASHBURNE, FORMER EASTERN COACH, NFCA HALL OF FAMER
For his pioneering efforts in the sport of softball, he will be inducted December 8
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- In 1987, Clyde Washburne was inducted into the Eastern Connecticut State University athletic Hall of Fame. In 1990, he was enshrined in the Connecticut Scholastic and Collegiate Softball of Fame. This coming December, he completes the trifecta when he receives the ultimate honor by becoming only the fourth coach ever from the Division III ranks to earn induction into the National Fastpitch Coaches’ Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame.
Photo courtesy NFCA
Listen to Clyde Washburne's acceptance speech
(18 min.) CLICK HERE
The 16th annual NFCA Hall of Fame Banquet will be staged Dec. 8 as part of the NFCA national convention at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson. Joining Washburne in the Class of 2006 will be UCLA head coach Sue Enquist and University of Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins. Washburne will be presented for induction by current Central (IA) College coach George Wares, a coaching colleague and close friend for more than 20 years.
For his trailblazing achievements during the early years of Title IX in the 1970s, Washburne will be inducted into the NFCA Hall of Fame as a “Pioneer”. He becomes only the fourth coach from a Division III program to gain induction and will be one of only five males in the NFCA Hall of Fame.
“We were the first Title IX team to win a national championship,” noted Washburne, who agreed to serve as the program’s first head coach in the spring of 1977 – just weeks after retiring as Eastern’s winningest head men’s basketball coach. “We (the softball program) challenged the system -- we fought the battle alone. We had a point to prove, and we proved it.”
Washburne, a Willimantic native who coached the program through its first 11 seasons on the intercollegiate level before returning for one year (1993) on an interim basis – won four national championships in a six-year period. Under Washburne, who retired from the
Eastern coaching staff after 21 years in 1987, the Warriors won the last AIAW Division III national title in 1981 and the first NCAA Division III crown in 1982. Washburne later led the program to additional national championships in 1985 and 1986 (the feat of winning consecutive NCAA Division III national titles has been duplicated only one time since). Washburne led Eastern to seven straight national tournament berths between 1981 and 1987 and an overall 12-year record of 284-110-1 (71.9 per cent).
“Clyde was definitely the pioneer in the Division III softball world.”says long-time AmericanInternationalCollege coach Judy Groff, who has known Washburne since 1977. “In 1979, AIC had a record of 17-2, and Clyde drove to New Jersey and represented both Eastern and AIC to the AIAW committee that we should be considered for the Eastern Regional, which was comprised of all three divisions. At that time, no one had ever heard of us. It was always the physical education colleges which dominated the selections.”
Despite experiencing unparalleled success, the game was never about winning and losing for Washburne. “If it wasn’t more than just trophies on the wall or championships, I never would have gotten into coaching,” he says. “At the beginning (1981), our goal was to improve. We just wanted to improve, every day, every game. And if we won, that was the next step. But the goal was to improve.”
Sue Murphy, a member of the fourth Eastern softball team in 1980 and a player on the 1981 and 1982 national title teams, praises Washburne for the positive influence that he had on her.
“Twenty three years after I graduated, he’s still with me every day,” says Murphy. “The influence that he had on me, and the person I have become is more important than any win-loss record or national championship. His life lessons and unique approach to coaching made me a better person.”
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