On Friday afternoon, Rutgers announced the hiring of Kristen Butler as new head coach for the softball program. A national search was conducted and athletic director Pat Hobbs moved swiftly, making a decision in just under a month’s time. Butler is the reigning MAC coach of the year and led Toledo to 104 victories over four seasons, including it’s first 30+ win season in 2018 in 23 years. She led Toledo to a 35-23 season in which they went 16-7 in league play, earning a share of the MAC Western division title.
From the Rutgers press release:
“We are proud to announce Kristen Butler as the next leader of Rutgers Softball,” said Director of Athletics Patrick Hobbs. “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. She was a decorated student-athlete and a standout professional, so the young women at Rutgers are in great hands.”
“I want to thank the Rutgers administration and Pat Hobbs for considering me, as well as the Toledo community and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien for the wonderful opportunity over the last four years,” Butler said. “I knew quickly during my interview and visit to Piscataway that this is the community, family and program I want to be a part of. Pat’s vision, enthusiasm and goals for the softball program and the athletic department are what inspired and encouraged me to take the position. I’m excited to be a Scarlet Knight and to join the Big Ten, where a top-of-the-line academic experience is just as important as the high level of competition.”
The Rockets averaged just 15.5 wins per season in the decade before her arrival, but Toledo’s average victory total jumped to 26 per season in her four year tenure at the school.
Butler was also a four-time NFCA Scholar-Athlete at Florida and has a masters degree from Toledo in recreation and leisure administration. In her four years at Toledo, she oversaw 27 All-MAC academic selections.
Toledo was Butler’s first head coaching position and was previously an assistant at Charleston Southern, Mississippi Valley State, and Florida, her alma mater. Butler was the 2006 SEC Player of the Year for the Gators and set the program’s single season home run record, where she was a four year starter at catcher. She went on to play professionally in Japan and the United States, where she is the all-time home run and RBI leader for the National Professional Fastpitch League.
As Hobbs did with women’s rowing in hiring Justin Price and with gymnastics in finding Umme Salim-Beasley, on paper he appears to have made a strong hire for the softball program with Butler. She brings an impressive resume as a player and a coach, appearing ready to take over a program like Rutgers in a top conference like the Big Ten. Her history of prioritizing academics fits the profile that Hobbs has been looking for as well. Rutgers softball is coming off three consecutive losing seasons and was just 19-31 in 2018, including only 4-16 in conference play. Butler has plenty of work to do in turning around the program, but she seems to have the credibility and experience to do so.