It's the best, and perhaps the only, word to describe the career of Florida State University softball coach Dr. JoAnne Graf as she enters her 29th season as the Seminoles' dugout boss.
With each passing year, the winningest coach in softball history keeps pushing her record farther and farther up the charts. Following the program's 25th 40 win season in 2006, Graf 's 1,355 total wins are 149 ahead of the next closest coach. An 8-1 victory over Jacksonville on February 22, 2006, made her only the second coach in NCAA history to record 1,100 NCAA fastpitch wins.
While she probably won't admit it, the 2006 season may have been one of Graf 's best coaching jobs in her 28 years at Florida State. With one of her youngest pitching staffs ever and a mixture of veterans, newcomers and role players thrust into the starting line-up, Graf got the Seminoles to gel at the right time and guided the team to the NCAA Tournament Super Regional where it was two wins away from the program's eighth Women's College World Series.
Last year the Seminoles rebounded for one of the best offensive seasons in school history, surpassing many of the numbers put up by the 2002 and 2004 World Series teams. FSU registered nine victories over ranked opponents - including a pair against No. 8 Georgia in the NCAA Tournament - and ended the year ranked in the Top 25 of both polls for the school's ninth end-of-the-year ranking in the last 12 seasons.
Proof of last year's success also came in the form of individual awards as Veronica Wootson was named an NFCA/ Louisville Slugger First-Team All-American. Wootson joined Natasha Jacob on the Easton-Bell Sports All-America team and Jacob grabbed the program's first CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine First-Team Academic All-America awards. Wootson, Jacob and Yuruby Alicart were First-Team NFCA All-Southeast Region selections and the trio was joined by LaShaun Davis on the All-ACC squad.
At the start of the 2007 season, her career record stands at 1,355-425-6 (.760) with an 1,136-372-6 (.753) ledger during fastpitch competition. In her 28 seasons, Graf 's squads have averaged 48 wins a year with 15 years of 50 or more wins.
While her coaching contemporaries are inching closer in victories - there are now double the number of coaches with 1,000 wins or more compared to just three years ago -- Graf joined even more elite company on April 2, 2005. That day university president Dr. T.K. Wetherell and FSU athletics director Dave Hart offi cially renamed the softball stadium "JoAnne Graf Field at the Seminole Softball Complex."
She joins Bob Heck at Georgia State as the only two active softball coaches with fi elds named after them. It was only fitting that one day later Graf crossed the 1,300-win plateau with a 5-2 triumph over Virginia Tech as the Seminoles marched to their 18th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
One of the most prolifi c coaches in collegiate softball, Graf kicked down another barrier a year earlier on Feb. 11, 2004, when she recorded her 1,000th NCAA win against Mercer. At the time she was only the fourth Division I coach to ever reach that milestone and just the fifth coach at any level to record 1,000 victories.
Her accomplishment was recognized by Sports Illustrated as Graf appeared in the "Faces In The Crowd" section. Reaching that milestone erased any doubts that Graf is the greatest DI softball coach in the history of the game. Only three coaches with 1,000 wins in any division have a higher winning percentage than Graf and no coach has more NFCA wins (slow pitch and fast pitch combined) than Graf 's 1,355.
Every year Graf seems to surpass another major milestone. From winning her fi rst slow pitch National Championship in 1981 to becoming the all-time winningest coach in NFCA history in 2002, Graf 's career has been nothing short of remarkable. After setting the NFCA's all-time wins record in 2002 with 1,125 victories, Graf was inducted into the organization's Hall of Fame in the fall of 2003. On May 6, 1999 in a 2-1 victory over South Florida, Graf became the first coach in Division I softball to earn 1,000 wins, including slow and fastpitch competition, and in 2001 she picked up her 1,100 win by downing rival Florida.
Graf, who was voted the South Region Coach of the Year in 1986, has seen 95 of her players selected to All-Region teams, including 24 players in the last seven seasons. In 2001, 2002 and 2004 Graf and her entire staff were named the Southeast Coaching Staff of the Year.
Think of a measuring stick for the greatest collegiate softball programs of all time and Graf 's Seminoles are among the best. All-time Women's College World Series appearances? Sixth all-time at seven after the most recent trip in 2004. Consecutive WCWS? Sixth with the four-straight from 1990-93. How about all-time NCAA Tournament wins? The three wins last season brought FSU's total up to 44, ranking them ninth. FSU's 19 NCAA Tournament appearances trails only Fresno State (25), UCLA (23), California and Cal State Fullerton (22) and Arizona (20). In addition, Graf is also one of just three coaches to lead a team to the WCWS in three straight decades.
Graf 's 1,136 wins ranks fourth all-time in NCAA history behind Fresno State (1,227), Arizona (1,222) and UCLA (1,126). However, the Seminoles' win total is in 23 years, compared to 25 for the other three schools, making FSU the alltime leader at 49.39 wins per year. If you factor in FSU's last 25 years, the Seminoles would be No. 1 at 1,238 victories.
On top of all of those records, Graf has coached 24 All- Americans including her seventh fi rst team NFCA All American in 2006 with Wootson's selection. Two-time All-American Jessica van der Linden will go down as one of the greatest players to ever be coached by Graf and she had nothing short of a dream season in 2004 as she became the most decorated female athlete ever at Florida State. She was named the USA National Softball Player of the Year, a back-to-back NFCA All-American, a Honda Broderick Award winner for softball, and one of five nominees for an ESPY Award in the "Best Female College Athlete" category.
Want to really know just how dominant Florida State has been under Graf, ask the other teams in the ACC. Since the league began sponsoring the sport in 1992, the Seminoles have won 10 of the 15 ACC Tournaments and 11-of-15 regular season crowns. In terms of league wins, FSU holds a 30-game lead over the next closest team, North Carolina, and the 4-3 win over NC State on April 16, 2006, made FSU the fi rst school in the ACC to amass 100 conference victories.
Florida State's league dominance has carried over into the individual awards as well. Graf has earned ACC Coach of the Year honors six times, UNC's Donna Papa is the only other coach to earn more than one. The Seminoles also have twice as many ACC Player of the Year awards (6) than any other school and their 69 All-ACC selections outdistances the next closest team, UNC, by 32. There have been 39 All-Americans from the ACC since 1992 and 22 of them have worn the Garnet & Gold. The Tribe's conference dominance under Graf was never illustrated more clearly as when 23 Seminoles were named to the ACC's 50th Anniversary softball team. Florida State players comprised 43 percent of the 53-player roster.
If there was any question that former women's athletics director Barbara Palmer made the right decision to hire Graf, it was answered during her third season. During the 1981 campaign, Florida State burst onto the softball scene by winning 54 games and bringing home the AIAW National Championship. All the Seminoles did for an encore one year later was win 56 contests and successfully defend its national championship.
Two years later Florida State joined the NCAA ranks and it didn't take very long for Graf 's squad to make its presence felt amongst the nation's elite teams. The 1986 edition secured the first of 11-straight trips to the NCAA tournament and in year four of NCAA competition, the Seminoles advanced to their first WCWS.
As the school prepared to enter the ACC in 1992, a warning shot went out signifying that Tobacco Road had to go through Tallahassee in the softball neighborhood. FSU's 1990 squad was the first of four-straight to qualify for the WCWS and during the last three years of the run the Seminoles posted 177 victories, the highest three year total in school history.
The mid-1990's saw FSU post 50, 58, 51 victories and three more regional appearances from 1994-96. After a `slow period' by FSU standards with just one NCAA Tournament from 1997-99, the Seminoles started their current streak of seven-straight national summits in 2000 and two years later were back in the WCWS.
FSU's run at the 2002 WCWS was one of the top moments in program history. The Seminoles entered the WCWS as the eighth seed and used a home run in the top of the ninth to upset top-seeded UCLA. After a 1-0 loss to eventual national champion Cal, Florida State bounced back by eliminating Nebraska 4-3. Florida State staged another dramatic comeback in the semifi nals against No. 2 Arizona, tying the game 2-2 in the fifth before succumbing to the Wildcats in 11 innings.
The 2004 edition shaped up to be one of her best ever and was a testament to Graf 's coaching acumen. Despite the squad's youth, Graf led the team to its highest national ranking at No. 2 and its fi rst fi rst-place vote. Graf 's Seminoles recorded 13 wins over ranked opponents and advanced to the WCWS for the seventh time in the program's history. On top of having her second national player of the year and second Honda Award winner for softball in 2004, Graf had three NFCA All- Americans for the second-straight year and FSU fi nished with a 62-12 mark.
A 1975 graduate of Florida State, Graf returned to her alma mater after two years at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro where she earned her master's degree in physical education. Graf also worked in the athletic department at UNC-Greensboro as head coach for the men's and women's swim teams while also serving as assistant softball coach.
Graf, who serves as director of the FSU softball camp each summer, is a former president of the Florida Collegiate Athletic Association. She has also served as a member of the NCAA Softball Committee, chaired the NCAA Softball Advisory Committee for the South Region and served on the NFCA All-American Committee. In 2006, Tallahassee Community College named her as one of its "Outstanding Women".
In 1992, she added "Dr." to her name after completing her doctorate degree in athletic administration at FSU. In addition she has lent her expertice to a pair of books, penning the chapter "Organizing and Orchestrating a Winning Program" in The Softball Coaching Bible as well as the chapter "Ethics" in She Can Coach.
SEMINOLE SOFTBALL UNDER DR. JOANNE GRAF
1979 26-15 .634 1980 37-10 .787 1981 54-7 .882 1982 56-10 .848 1983 46-11 .807 1984 41-5-2 .875 1985 50-12-2 .797 1986 42- 7 .857 1987 50-14 .781 1988 44-14 .759 1989 39-14 .736 1990 47-16 .750 1991 62-12 .838 1992 63-9 .875 1993 52-9 .852 1994 50-19 .724 1995 58-15 .795 1996 51-21 .708 1997 45-19-1 .700 1998 51-21 .708 1999 40-25-1 .614 2000 51-27 .654 2001 58-12 .829 2002 55-20 .733 2003 46-33 .807 2004 62-12 .838 2005 35-28 .556 2006 44-30 .681 Career 1355-425-6 .759