Rutgers Hires Kristen Butler to Lead Softball Program
Rutgers University softball program has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 1994. They’ve also not qualified for the Big Ten Tournament since 2016.
Since joining the Big Ten in 2014, the Scarlet Knights have struggled to a 28-61 mark in conference play and 86-121 overall.
After to the 2018 season, Rutgers Athletic Director Pat Hobbs opted not to renew the contract of head coach Jay Nelson, who had been leading the program in 2006. On Friday, Rutgers announced the hiring of Kristen Butler as the programs new head coach.
Butler comes over from Toledo where she led a program turn around, earning the 2018 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year honor. The Rockets won 104 games in the four years under Butler’s leadership. In 2018 they won their first MAC West championship since 1992.
Prior to her tenure at Toledo, Butler was an assistant coach at Charleston Southern, Mississippi Valley State, and Florida (her alma mater).
“Kristen is a proven program builder, but what most impresses me are the countless reports of best-in-class student-athlete experience under her guidance,” said Hobbs in a athletic department release. “She was a decorated student-athlete and a standout professional, so the young women at Rutgers are in great hands.”
Butler was a four-year starter for the Gators from 2003-06. In 2006, she set a program record for single-season home runs and earned SEC Player of the Year honors. After college, Butler took her game to the professional level with the Akron Racers of the National Professional Fastpitch League. She was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. After a brief stint in Japan, Butler returned to the NPF with the Chicago Bandits where she would finish her playing career. When she retired in 2015, Butler was league’s all-time leader in home runs and RBI.
For a Scarlet Knights team that has mostly struggles since joining the Big Ten, having a head coach familiar with rebuilding a program is a major hire. When Butler took the job at Toledo, the Rockets had averaged 15.5 wins per season from 2005-2014. From 2015-2018, that average jumped to 26 per year.
Butler will likely take over a veteran roster as seven of Rutgers’ nine regular starting position players and all five pitchers are eligible to return next season. The Scarlet Knights will however need to replace leading hitter Rebecca Hall who graduated this spring.