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Coach Mike Candrea: An Appreciation to the Standard

Jun 5, 2021

In a coaching career that spanned four decades, Mike Candrea established a legacy of elevating the game of softball, growing women's sports, and helping build a program and athletics department at the University of Arizona that became synonymous with championships. Candrea was able to achieve all of that and more over the course of 36 seasons as thousands of student-athletes, coaches, staff members and fans had their lives changed for the better by a man affectionately known as "Coach".

"It has been an honor to represent the University of Arizona for 36 years," said Candrea. "I am indebted to every player, coach and member of my support staff that has made the Arizona softball experience one that I will cherish forever. When I arrived in 1985, I wanted to build a culture of excellence and compete consistently at the highest levels of Division 1 softball. Most of all, our goal was to prepare our student-athletes for life after softball and build relationships that would last a lifetime."

With the Hall of Famer's official retirement as head coach of Arizona Softball on Monday, the all-time winningest coach in the history of the sport begins to pen a new set of chapters of his story.

Candrea's coaching career goes beyond the utterly impressive statistics. Eight national championships, 24 appearances in the Women's College World Series, 34 postseason berths, 10 conference championships, over 50 All-Americans coached, Olympic gold and silver medals as well as 1,674 career wins. The jaw-dropping nature of that resume transcends just softball as Candrea tallied the fourth most wins of any coach in any NCAA sport.

"Over his four decades as the head coach of Arizona Softball, Mike Candrea established himself as one of the most iconic coaches, of any sport, in college athletics history," said Vice President and Director of Athletics Dave Heeke. "While his impact on the game is widely recognized, his legacy is in the lives of the thousands of Wildcats who he coached. Mike's career embodied true excellence in all facets of leading a softball program -- winning on the field, student-athlete success in the classroom and developing them for life after graduation. He established a championship culture within Arizona Athletics that permeates throughout our department, and represented our state with honor and distinction. Mike is the epitome of a Wildcat for Life who coached, mentored and developed countless other Wildcats for Life.
On behalf of the entire Wildcat Family, I want to thank Mike for his immeasurable impact on our university. Mike, his wife Tina, and the entire Candrea family have been incredible supporters of Arizona Athletics and the University of Arizona and left an everlasting impact on all our lives. Thank you for defining the Wildcat Way and for what it means to Bear Down. Thank you for everything you did for the game of softball, for college athletics, and for the University of Arizona."

He became the face of a sport. He became a figure in the lives of the many young women he coached. He became an idol for new generations of coaches. You can see all of that and more in the tributes filling social media after the Wildcats' final game of 2021.

"Over the past 36 years, Coach Mike Candrea has built Arizona Softball into one of the premier programs in the country," said University of Arizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins. "His legacy is unmatched: 8 national titles, 1600+ wins, and – more importantly – the countless students who have told me their lives are better because he was their coach and mentor. As he retires, I know the impact of his example and leadership at the University of Arizona will continue for new generations of Wildcats. Truly an all-time great. 

While the iconic coach may be retiring from his official duties, he will continue to be a part of the Arizona Athletics family in an advisory role as well as assisting with coaching development for the athletics department.

Arizona Athletics will host a farewell press conference for the Arizona icon on Tuesday, June 8 at McKale Center. It will be streamed live beginning at 10:30 a.m. MST.


  • NCAA softball leader in wins (1,674) 
  • On April 19, 2019, became the fastest coach in NCAA history, any division, any sport, to accumulate 1,600 wins.
  • Fifth-most Division I victories of any coach in any sport.
  • Has led Arizona to eight national championships, more than any coach in NCAA Softball history.
  • Arizona has made 24 trips to the Women's College World Series in his tenure, missing just eight times in the last 32 years.
  • Under Candrea, Arizona has a spectacular postseason record of 178-65. The Wildcats have played in an NCAA-record 34 consecutive postseasons.
  • Fifty-three All-Americans with a staggering 108 total citations have played in the program since Candrea took over.