The motto above the doorway in USF’s locker room says a lot about Head Coach Ken Eriksen’s expectations for the USF softball program. It reads:
Expect Perfection, Accept Excellence.
Eriksen has tried to embody this philosophy first as a player, then as an assistant coach, and now as head coach--all at USF. His philosophy of paying attention to all the details has provided the Bulls softball program success on and off the field. Through it all, he has come out a winner. Now in his 19th season as USF’s head coach and his 30th overall with the softball program, Eriksen is imparting this wisdom to his players.
Since Eriksen became head coach in 1997, he has ended the season with a winning record on 17 occasions. While at the helm of one of the most successful programs on campus, Eriksen has led 11 teams to the NCAA Regional, won Regional Championships in 2006 and 2012, and won the 2012 Super Regional to advance to the school’s first ever Women’s College World Series. Eriksen has also won five conference titles, including a BIG EAST Regular Season title in 2008, an American Athletic Conference regular season title in 2016, and the program’s first BIG EAST Tournament Championship in 2013.
In all, Eriksen has amassed a record of 863-436-1 and is the winningest coach in the history of USF athletics as well as being one of only 22 active coaches with 800 or more career wins. He has coached five All-Americans, including two-time All-Americans Monica Triner (1998 and 1999) and three-time All-American pitcher Sara Nevins (2012, 2013, 2014), 24 All-Region selections and 10 NCAA All-Regional Team members. Success has come off the field as well. Under Eriksen, USF has had six Academic All-Americans, nine Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medal winners, one BIG EAST Institutional Female Scholar-Athlete and one American Athletic Conference Institutional Female Scholar-Athlete. In 2001 and 2003, USF finished first in C-USA among softball teams with a cumulative grade point average of 3.24. In 2009 during the fall, the team finished with a 3.41 GPA and was more impressive with a 3.47 GPA in the spring.
Eriksen has guided USF to one 60 win season, six 50-win seasons and 15 40-plus win seasons. The Bulls finished 2012 ranked No. 8 in the NFCA/USA Today Coaches Poll, their highest finish ever. In 1999, USF was ranked as high as No. 6 in the NFCA/USA Today Coaches Poll during the season. USF finished the 2003 season with a 54-19 record, and Eriksen was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year. In 2004, USF finished with a record of 60-14--the highest win total in school history--and ranked 12th in the NFCA/USA Today Coaches Poll.
In January of 2011, Eriksen was also named the head coach for the Women’s National team and still holds the position. Eriksen became the first male in USA Softball history to represent the organization as both a player and a head coach.
In 2015, Eriksen led the team to its fourth NCAA Tournament in five years and 13th overall in program history. USF finished first in the regular season standings, amassing a 15-3 record and sweeping four of its six opponents. The Bulls finished as the runner-up in the conference tournament. Under Eriksen, Erica Nunn and Juli Weber earned conference Pitcher and Player of the Year honors, respectively. Six athletes were named to all-conference teams, with three unanimous selections. Eriksen and his new coaching staff of Jessica Moore and Tommy Santiago were named the Conference Coaching Staff of the Year. The Bulls 45 wins during the season marked the 14th time under Eriksen that USF won at least 40 games in a season.
In 2014, Eriksen led the team to its third consecutive NCAA Tournament and 12 overall in program history. The Bulls finished second in the regular season standings during their first season in the American Athletic Conference and narrowly missed advancing to their third NCAA Super Regional, falling to No. 3 Florida State in the Regional Finals in Tallahassee. It was USF’s fourth straight season with a winning record and third straight with 40-plus victories.
In 2013, he led the softball program to its first-ever BIG EAST Tournament Championship, and was able to do it at home while hosting the tournament at the USF Softball Stadium. The Bulls put together their best record in conference play since joining the BIG EAST, going 18-3 to finish second in the regular season standings. With 45 wins it was the 13th time in Eriksen’s career as head coach winning at least 40 games in a season as the Bulls advanced to the NCAA Regional for the second straight year.
In 2012, Eriksen led the USF softball program to its biggest accomplishment to date. The Bulls defeated Hofstra in the NCAA Super Regionals to advance to the Women’s College World Series for the first time in school history. Eriksen led USF to 50 wins for the sixth time in program history while the pitching staff ranked second in the country with a 1.23 team ERA.
In 2011, Eriksen led a young team to a fourth place finish in BIG EAST play, finishing with an overall record of 33-21 and a 3-5 mark in league play. Eriksen was later honored with the 2011 USA Softball Coach of the Year award.
In 2009, the Bulls made their fourth consecutive BIG EAST Conference Tournament appearance since joining the league in 2006. They also claimed the USF Under Armour Invitational and The Game Tournament Championship. The Bulls finished the season ranked in the Top-100 in several categories: earned run average, batting average, W-L percentage, triples per game and double plays per game.
In 2008, Eriksen and his Bulls made their ninth appearance in the NCAA tournament while claiming their first BIG EAST Regular Season Championship. USF finished 16-4 in BIG EAST games in 2008.
In 2006, the Bulls entered their first year with a new conference - the BIG EAST - and made an immediate impact, finishing second in the league with a record of 17-3. USF made history by making its fourth-consecutive trip to the NCAA Regional and then went on to win the Gainesville Regional (FAU, UF, UNC-Chapel Hill), posting a perfect record of 3-0. USF then represented the conference by being the lone BIG EAST team to advance to the Super Regionals. For the third time under his direction, the Bulls were one step away from making a trip to the Women’s College World Series.
The 1998 season was one of the most successful seasons for the Bulls, as they finished 57-14 and won their second-consecutive SASA (ACC) regular-season title. Eriksen, who garnered acclaim as the Southeast Region Coach of the Year, led the Bulls to the NCAA tournament for the third-straight year. USF almost made an appearance in Oklahoma City, but fell to Texas in the NCAA Regional finals. Even though they did not make it to Women’s College World Series that year, they still finished eighth in the last NCAA Poll for 1998.
During his first year at the helm in 1997, Eriksen guided USF to its then-best-ever national ranking at No. 14 in the NFCA/USA Today Coaches Poll, finishing 50-13 and advancing to the NCAA tournament.
Eriksen began his affiliation with USF over 25 years ago when the freshman from Stony Brook, N.Y., first appeared in Tampa as a baseball player for Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. It was under Roberts that Eriksen learned the strategy and execution involved with quality ball. In four seasons, Eriksen posted a .315 batting average and a 2.84 ERA while playing five different positions for the Bulls. In 1982 he was named to the All-Regional Team as an outfielder.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in political science, Eriksen decided to turn his attentions from the baseball diamond to the softball field. He competed at the elite fastpitch level with the Clearwater Bombers from 1986-93, and with Miller-Toyota of Salt Lake City, Utah, from 1993-95. In 1997 he retired after winning an ASA Men’s National Championship with the Tampa Smokers.
During his playing career, Eriksen amassed a wealth of international experience. He participated in eight ISC World Championships and eight ASA National Major Championships. In 1988, he was a member of a select team that represented the United States against the Cuban National Team. In 1991, Eriksen was the catcher on the United States National Fastpitch Team that won a silver medal at the Pan American Games in Cuba. In 1992, he was named First Team All-World as a catcher and to the All-North American Team. Eriksen played in three Olympic Festivals winning a silver medal in 1993. In 1997 after retiring from playing, he was named the head coach for the Men’s 19U World Team that represented the United States in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
In 2001, Eriksen was named assistant coach with the United States Women’s National Team and made history helping lead Team USA to an Olympic gold medal in 2004 while becoming the only USF coach in school history to accomplish such a feat. Eriksen, held his position with the national team throughout the decade, with the primary responsibilities of pitching, catching and scouting for Team USA, before being named head coach in 2011.
Throughout his coaching and playing career, Eriksen has added to his workload with camps and clinics.
He is also thoroughly devoted to his family. Eriksen lives in Tampa with his wife Debra and his two daughters, Tatiana and Natasha.