TAMPA ― Veteran USF softball coach Ken Eriksen didn’t win arguably the most significant press conference of his life Tuesday.
Perspective prevailed instead. In lieu of welling up or waxing melodramatically over the announcement that he’ll coach the United States in the 2020 Olympics, Eriksen spoke about all the pressing matters preceding the Games in Tokyo.
There’s a daunting slate of international competition this summer, and a 15-player Olympic roster to finalize. There’s still a Bulls team to manage, not to mention that pesky algae to eradicate in the pool at his Temple Terrace home.
“I’m sure one day I’ll be sitting on the beach and have a pineapple drink with an umbrella in it going, ‘Wow, what a journey,'" Eriksen said. "But right now, there’s too much going on to do that.”
Nonetheless, the 58-year-old USF alumnus called Tuesday “a pretty exciting day, and humbling.” Eriksen was chosen by members of the USA Softball Women’s National Team Selection Committee. The nomination must formally be approved by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
USF athletic director Michael Kelly called the news a “badge of honor” for the school and bay area at large.
“Everyone always loves to watch the Olympics and kind of learn more about the men and women that are representing our country," Kelly said. "And in this case, the human interest story is local and here, and one of USF’s own.”
The coach of the women’s national team for nearly a decade, Eriksen had been widely deemed the front-runner for the job since the International Olympic Committee approved the return of baseball and softball to its program in August 2016.
Under Eriksen, the U.S. became the first country to qualify for the ’20 Games when it advanced to the gold-medal contest at last summer’s WBSC World Championship in Chiba, Japan. The U.S. then clinched the gold with a 10-inning, 7-6 victory against the host country.
That triumph was the latest in an assortment of international feats for the married father of two grown daughters, himself a former USF baseball outfielder in the early 1980s.
Eriksen is 52-4 as coach of Team USA in international play, leading it to a pair of WBSC World Championship gold medals (2016, ’18) and a Pan-American Games gold medal ('11). He also served an assistant on the ’04 Olympic gold-medal-winning team.
“Ken Eriksen has a proven track record in not only leading our women’s national team program to the top of the podium, but also maintaining that success and developing world-class athletes,” USA Softball Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Craig Cress said in a news release.
“His accolades speak volumes and in the 11 years that softball has been off the Olympic program, he has been a constant for our women’s national team. He has built upon the legacy established before him, and we are confident that he will guide the team to the gold in 2020.”
At USF, Eriksen is the winningest coach (any sport) in school history, compiling a 976-502-1 record in 23 seasons. He has led the Bulls to 14 NCAA Tournaments, highlighted by the program’s lone trip to the Women’s College World Series in 2012.
He acknowledged that balancing his Bulls coaching duties with Team USA, especially as the Olympics draw closer, will be delicate, and suggested USF assistants Jess Moore and Laura Ricciardone could assume a greater workload down the line.
They also could potentially join Team USA in Tokyo in some type of staff role.
“It’s gonna be real important for myself and Michael Kelly to sit down and map out a game plan for my two assistants...and then our support cast to see how we’re gonna handle this going forward," Eriksen said.
“I think we’ve got some pretty good plans.”
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.