The voice of USF Athletics, Jim Louk, will routinely put down his radio headset and pick up the pen to share his perspective on the history of USF Athletics.
Louk has been broadcasting games for 27 years and is the resident historian in the Athletics Department hallways so this week he talks with Hall of Fame inductee Sherry Bedingfield.
The list of people who have made an impact at USF Athletics as both a player and then as a head coach is a short one. Certainly former baseball player and current softball head coach Ken Eriksen is at the top of that list. So, too, is Sherry Bedingfield, who will become a member of the second USF Athletics Hall of Fame class on Dec. 3 of this year.
Bedingfield came to USF from Miami Dade Community College in 1970 and was a multi-sport athlete, playing both tennis and volleyball for the Bulls. As a senior, she played number one singles on USF’s undefeated women’s tennis team.
As successful as her playing career was, however, she was destined to make her greatest contribution to USF Athletics in another way.
“I graduated in 1972 and tried to play professionally,” Bedingfield said in a recent interview. “Then I decided that I really wanted to be a college coach.”
That meant going back to school, and receiving a Master’s degree from USF in 1976.
The following year, her coaching career began when Dr. Louis Bowers offered her a part time graduate assistant’s job. Full time positions coaching women’s sports were rare at that time, but Title IX legislation was about to change that.
“The openings and the opportunities instantly grew,” says Bedingfield. “The University saw the need for growth in women’s sports, so the opportunity for more full time coaching positions became available.”
She took the head women’s tennis job in 1980, and began one of the great coaching runs in USF Athletics history. For 23 years, she guided USF women’s tennis through independent status, the Sun Belt Conference, the Metro Conference and Conference USA. Her teams finished first at least once in every league they competed in. In the Metro Conference, they finished first every year USF was in the league.
By the time she retired after the 2002 season, Bedingfield’s teams had compiled ten conference championships and six second place finishes. The team made five NCAA tournaments, and more than 50 of her players received all-conference honors. Her 348 career wins remain today as the standard for USF women’s tennis.
Bedingfield is still actively coaching at clubs in the Tampa Bay area. Now eight years removed from her USF days, she is clear about what she misses the most.
“For 23 years I worked with student athletes. The thing I miss the most is my kids. To watch them grow and mature and become tremendous individuals is something I truly miss today.”
Bedingfield is still a fixture at USF football and basketball games, and says she is unsurprised at the growth of USF Athletics since she left. One of her very few regrets is not coaching the Bulls during their Big East era.
And as for that Hall of Fame nomination?
“It’s the icing on my career,” she says.
It’s a career that is very unique to USF Athletics, spanning almost every major era of the department’s history, with success at every stop. At 23 seasons, Sherry Bedingfield has the longest head coaching career in our program’s history. Her tenure with the Bulls mirrors the important growth of women’s athletics, not only here at USF, but nationwide.
A true USF Athletics pioneer, Sherry Bedingfield will be inducted in to the Hall of Fame on December 3rd, with Kerine Black, Ross Gload, Dan Holcomb, and Joe Lewkowicz.