New head coach Jo Anne Ferguson hopes she can bring to Foggy Bottom what the GW softball program has lacked in its first two years of existence.
“Stability,” she said. “To be successful, the program needs stability. That means somebody who can come in for more than one or two years.”
Ferguson, who GW hired as its new head softball coach June 23, coached at Division III Kenyon College from 2000-2004.
She will look to stabilize a program that has seen its share of problems since its inception in 2001 and will fill the spot left vacant by Shaunte’ Fremin, who resigned in April amid allegations that she was abusive to the team.
Players told The Hatchet in March that Fremin, a first-year coach, often coerced them into playing with serious injuries, deceiving trainers and doctors, and practicing over the NCAA’s weekly limits. As a result of their injuries, the University suspended the softball season in early March and canceled it March 22.
But after an independent investigation by attorney Robin Green Harris, Fremin’s resignation and an NCAA investigation, uncertainty surrounding the program has dissipated. Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz said the NCAA will not penalize the softball program and each player on last year’s squad will regain that year of eligibility.
Sophomore co-captain Gabby Culp, who played a significant role in the hiring process, said she and her teammates are pleased to have Ferguson as their new coach.
“She has a very positive aura around her,” Culp said.
With eight recruits signed for next season, Ferguson should have substantial talent at her disposal.
“The new players and the upperclassmen are ready to move on to a new era here,” said Ferguson, who becomes the program’s third coach in three years of existence. Ferguson is no stranger to the rebuilding process. In 2000, she inherited a Kenyon College team that had never finished above .500. In 2004, Kenyon posted a 17-15 record, the team’s first winning season in its seven-year history.
In one-plus seasons, the Colonials have an all-time record of 11-42. Ferguson said she would like to improve that record significantly but stressed that her coaching philosophy goes beyond wins and losses.
“I obviously love to win,” she said. “But I want the kids on the team to … look back after they graduate and say they were excited to be part of a positive program and a great academic university.”
Ferguson said GW’s academic reputation and its location in D.C. were two factors that attracted her to the position. The coach grew up in nearby Clarksburg, Md., and was an assistant coach at the University of Virginia from 1997-2000.
“She has great credentials as a softball coach, and she was at Kenyon, which is a strong academic institution like GW,” Kvancz said. “She understands the culture of this university.”
What also impressed Kvancz and Culp was Ferguson’s ability to listen and relate to players.
“She was the only candidate interviewed who had her own set of questions for me,” Culp said. “I could tell she really wanted to see the student-athlete’s perspective and what we’ve been through.”
Kvancz said he is confident Ferguson will be successful at GW and reiterated that the athletic department will do everything in its power to avoid the problems of last season.
“If that means having more meetings with players and coaches than so be it,” he said. “I’m going to be a little more out and about. I want to see what’s happening in the program first hand.”