FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –- After building Wright State into an NCAA Tournament qualifier and establishing himself as one of the nation’s top coaches at the collegiate, national and international levels, Mike Larabee has been named head coach of the University of Arkansas softball program, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long announced on Thursday.
"We are pleased to announce that Mike Larabee has been selected to lead the Razorback softball program," Long said. "His diversified experience of competing in men’s fastpitch softball at the highest level, and coaching college baseball and women’s college softball made him uniquely qualified. He has built a program with limited resources into one that has qualified for the NCAA Tournament. His energy, enthusiasm and confidence in his ability to lead our program to competitive success set him apart from our other candidates. Coach Larabee has demonstrated his ability to teach and motivate his players on the softball field and support them in their academic pursuits as well.
"We have made a tremendous commitment to our softball program, including the completion of Bogle Park. I believe Coach Larabee’s ability to coach, instruct and recruit will allow us to continue toward our goal to compete at the top of the SEC and at the national level."
Larabee, a two-time United States National Softball Team pool coach and a two-time all-world selection as an athlete, becomes the third head softball coach in University of Arkansas history. The Razorback softball program was launched in 1997.
"I am appreciative of the opportunity Jeff Long and the University of Arkansas has given me to lead the Razorback softball program," Larabee said. "The University of Arkansas is a place where our coaching staff will work hard teaching and coaching the game while recruiting quality student-athletes. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity than to coach in the Southeastern Conference at an outstanding institution known for its academic and athletic excellence."
Larabee just completed his fifth season at Wright State in Dayton, Ohio, where his teams ranked among the nation’s top 15 in batting average each of the last two years. He won 92 games in the past three seasons with the Horizon League tournament championships and NCAA Tournament bids in 2007 and 2008.
"At Arkansas we have all the ingredients for a nationally competitive program," Larabee said. "Bogle Park is one of the best, if not the best, stadiums in the country. Our facilities will be a great draw in recruiting. When the job first came open, I did some research because I wanted it to be a good fit not only for me but for my family. After looking at the University of Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas, I felt like this was a great opportunity for all of us."
Larabee led Wright State to 34 wins in 2009, second-most in school history, while the 16-8 conference record also gave the Raiders the most league victories in school history. The 33-26 record in 2008 was the first winning record for WSU since 2001, and the NCAA Tournament appearances in ’07 and ’08 were just the second and third in school history.
The 2008 club won the Horizon League Tournament with wins over Loyola, Illinois-Chicago and two over regular-season champion Cleveland State to advance to an NCAA Regional in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the Raiders fell to Michigan and Kent State. Larabee was named Wright State’s Coach of the Year following the 2008 campaign.
The 2007 club was 25-35 overall, but won the conference tournament with wins over Cleveland State, Butler, Illinois-Chicago and Cleveland State again. Wright State fell to Northwestern and Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament in Evanston, Ill.
The 2009 team went 2-2 in the conference tournament for a 10-2 record over the last three years.
2009 highlights include six student-athletes earning All-Horizon League honors, a school record for team fielding percentage (.965), three individual single-season records and six individual career records.
The Raiders were No. 15 in the nation with a .309 batting average, No. 35 with 5.15 runs scored per game and No. 37 with a .445 slugging percentage.
Larabee’s 2008 squad set 11 school records, including 67 home runs, which shattered the previous mark of 25 in 1999. WSU was No. 5 in the nation with 0.36 triples per game, No. 10 with a .315 batting average and a .510 slugging percentage, No. 12 with 5.85 runs and 1.14 home runs per game, and No. 23 with 1.46 doubles per game.
A former member of the U.S. National Men’s Fastpitch Team in 1996 and 2000, Larabee was named to the USA Women’s National Team Coaching Pool for the 2005-08 and 2009-12 Olympic Quadrenniums. As a result, he was part of the selection camp committee which chose participants for the Pan American Qualifying Team. That team competed in Guatemala in 2005 and qualified for the 2006 World Championships in Beijing, China, and the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In summer 2006, he was part of the coaching staff of the World University Games in Taiwan and helped the United States win the gold medal.
This past year, he was selected as a clinician for the NCAA Youth Education Through Sports (YES) clinic during the 2009 Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Larabee was an assistant at Illinois for three years (2002-04) prior to going to Wright State. In 2003, Illinois earned an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time. In 2004, Illinois ended the year ranked No. 17 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll, was the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Waco Regional and came within one victory of advancing to the Women’s College World Series.
From 1998-2001, he was head softball coach, and assistant football (1997-2000) and wrestling coach (1999-2000), at Kentlake High in Kent, Wash. He also taught advanced weight training and speed development. He was named Class 4A softball coach of the year in 2001 after Kentlake finished second in the state. His 1998 team was fifth and the 2000 team placed fourth.
In 1996 and ’97, he was softball coach and assistant football coach at Kentridge High in Kent.
In six years as a head coach on the prep level, his teams were 145-25, including 88-6 in the South Puget Sound League, and he was named Seattle-Tacoma All-Area Coach of the Year in 1996 and 1999.
He won six consecutive SPSL North League titles (1996-2001) and his 2001 squad had the highest team grade point average in the state.
He also worked one year as a pitching and outfield coach for the University of Puget Sound baseball team (1992). Other coaching experience includes participating in the Diamond Basics Softball Clinics (1994-2001) in Kent, Wash., and working as assistant baseball coach at Kent Meridian High School (1994-95).
In addition to playing on the U.S. National Men’s Fastpitch Team, he also participated in the 1999 Pan American Games National Team Festival. A three-time American Softball Association All-American (1992, 1995, 1997), he played in the U.S. Olympic Sports Festival four times and was named to the ISC All-World Team twice (1990, 1997).
He played baseball at MiraCosta and Green River community colleges, and at Washington State, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1986. He earned his master’s in exercise science from WSU in 1988. While working on his master’s, he was an assistant baseball coach at WSU, working with the outfielders.
Larabee and his wife Dawn have a daughter, Michaela, and a son, John.
Mike Larabee Quick Facts
As a Coach
Head Coach, Wright State, 2005-09
NCAA Tournament Appearances: Two (2007, 2008)
Championships: Two (Horizon League Tournament – 2007, 2008)
USA National Softball Team Pool Coach, 2005-08, 2009-12
Assistant Coach, University of Illinois, 2002-04
Head Coach, Kentlake (Wash.) High School, 1998-2001
Head Coach, Kentridge (Wash) High School, 1996-97
As an Athlete
U.S. National Men’s Fastpitch Team, 1996, 2000
Pan American Games National Team Festival, 1999
Played in the U.S. Olympic Sports Festival four times (Los Angeles, San Antonio, St. Louis, Denver)
Honors: Twice named ISC All-World (1990, 1997); Three-time American Softball Association All-American
(1992, 1995, 1997)
Played men’s major open fastpitch softball from 1988-2000
Played baseball at Washington State, and Green River and MiraCosta community colleges
What Others Are Saying about Coach Mike Larabee
"This is fantastic news. First of all, I’m very excited for Coach B, as I call him. The University of Arkansas is getting not only a great coach, but a terrific man and I am confident he will be an excellent addition to lead the softball program. His energy, passion and commitment to the game and his student-athletes are second to none."
Terri Sullivan, Head Coach, University of Illinois
"Mike is one of the best young coaches in the country. He is innovative, passionate and a strong teacher of the game. Arkansas has found itself a coach that can help them get to the top of the SEC."
Eugene Lenti, Head Coach, DePaul University
"Mike was a great fastpitch player, but he’s an even better coach. He is one of the most underrated coaches in America and now with this opportunity at a BCS-level school, he’ll have a chance to show what a great coach he is to the rest of America. I think he’s going to do a tremendous job at Arkansas."
Ehren Earleywine, Head Coach, University of Missouri