BALTIMORE—UMBC head softball coach Joe French has signed a three-year contract extension that runs through the 2014 season, Director of Athletics Dr. Charles Brown announced today.
"I am very thankful to Dr. Brown and the administration for the opportunity to skipper this program in the coming years as we strive for an America East championship," French said. "I have enjoyed my 10 years here at this terrific university, and I look forward to many more."
French has led the Retrievers to five America East Championship berths in the last six years, including four straight from 2006-09. After a one-year absence, UMBC returned to the four-team tournament last season.
French enters his 11th season with the Retrievers in 2011-12 as UMBC's all-time winningest softball coach (327-245-1).
In his first season at the helm (2002), he immediately led the Retrievers to their second-ever NCAA berth and a school-record 47 wins. The Retrievers defeated Bethune-Cookman in the NCAA play-in series for their first victory in an NCAA Tournament game in school history, and they also won a game in the NCAA Regionals with a 7-1 triumph over Liberty. In 2003, French's Retrievers were Northeast Conference regular-season co-champions and posted a 40-22 record, marking the program's first-ever back-to-back 40-wn seasons.
After struggling in 2004-05, UMBC's first two seasons in the more competitive America East conference, French guided the Retrievers to a 46 wins and their first-ever berth in the America East Championships in 2006. That year, the Retrievers shattered nearly every offensive team record and were one of the most prolific run-scoring teams in the nation, ranking second in the country with 6.53 runs per game. Then in 2007, UMBC took another big step with an appearance in the America East title game.
During his tenure at UMBC, French has coached 35 All-Conference players – including three league players of the year and one rookie of the year – nine All-Region selections and seven Academic All-District honorees. His teams have combined for a .284 batting average with over 4,000 hits, including 445 home runs.
"Joe French has been with us for a decade and has provided excellent leadership for our softball program," Dr. Brown said. "Our athletes graduate, and many are leaders within SAAC and our community. We always field a competitive softball program, and the team always plays hard and gets positive results. This extension is a reflection of Joe's hard work and dedication to UMBC softball."
French has been a head coach at every level, including junior college, Division III, Division II and Division I, and he has been highly successful at every stop. He has coached nearly 900 games, racking up a career record of 541-354-1 in 18 years at the helm, good for a .604 winning percentage, and he ranks in the NCAA's top 50 for winningest active Division I coaches.
A native of Waterloo, N.Y., French earned his bachelor's degree in recreation from SUNY-Brockport in 1977 and his master's in recreation from University of Southern Mississippi in 1984.