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Texas A&M opts not to renew Jo Evans' contract

Texas A&M opts not to renew Jo Evans' contract

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Ross Bjork will do what few Texas A&M athletic directors have done and that’s hire a softball coach.

Bork opted not to renew the contract of Jo Evans who led the program for 26 years. Bjork made the announcement Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the Aggies lost to top-ranked Oklahoma in the championship of the NCAA tournament’s Norman (Okla.) Regional.

Evans, who was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in 2015, leaves as the program’s winningest coach. Evans’ last victory, a 10-7 comeback victory over Minnesota in a Saturday night elimination game, was her 1,300th, making her 1,300-713-2 overall. She is the ninth coach in Division I softball to reach that total. She ranks fourth among active coaches behind Michigan’s Carol Hutchins (1,710), Oklahoma’s Patty Gasso (1,387) and North Carolina’s Donna Papa (1,342).

“Coach Evans has been a tremendous ambassador to our university and softball program for the last 26 years, but we have decided that our softball program needs to go in a new direction,” Bjork said in a release. “We are deeply appreciative of her efforts while building on our softball program’s winning tradition with three Women’s College World Series appearances. Jo is a first-class person, and we wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors.”

Evans was 987-503-2 at A&M. She took A&M to the Women’s College World Series in 2007, ’08 and ’17. The Aggies reached the championship series in 2008, falling to Arizona State. A&M won Big 12 Conference titles in 2006 and ’08.

"Being the leader of this program for the past 26 years has been the greatest honor of my professional life," Evans said in a statement. "I have put my heart into this team and in return, I leave with amazing relationships, memories, and experiences that have shaped me for most of my life. I am deeply grateful for my time here at Texas A&M and for the people I have had the privilege to work with and coach. I wish this program all the best as it transitions into the next chapter."

Evans’ greatest success came while playing at the Aggie Softball Complex, which was one of the worst venues in the Southeastern Conference after the school joined the league in 2012. Evans patiently waited while A&M finally built $28.6-million Davis Diamond, one of the nation’s best facilities. The Aggies moved into the facility for the final home series of the 2018 regular season, even though it was far from complete. Evans and the program have been unable to take advantage of the pristine facility. That season was A&M’s last time to make the super regionals of the NCAA tournament, coming within a strike of a return trip to the WCWS.

A&M, which made a school-record 20 straight NCAA trips under the 61-year-old Evans, lost in the regional round of the last three NCAA tournaments, including going 2-2 over the weekend at the Norman Regional, capped by a 20-0 loss to the defending champs. It was the most-lopsided loss in NCAA tournament history.

A&M had losing records in SEC play the last four seasons going 21-54, including a pair of 6-18 records. The Aggies finished last in the league in 2019 and were 12th this past season. A&M was 31-28 overall this season.

“The expectation for our softball program is competing for championships every year in Oklahoma City while hosting regionals and super regionals in the best softball stadium in the country at Davis Diamond,” Bjork said in the release. “I have no doubt we will be able to move forward and bring in a championship-level head coach.”

Evans is the second straight diamond coach Bjork opted not to renew a contract. Baseball coach Rob Childress was let go last year after 16 seasons and replaced by former TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle who led the Aggies to the SEC West Divisional title this year after finishing last a year ago. Bjork, along with hiring Schlossnagle, recently replaced retiring Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Gary Blair with Georgia’s Joni Taylor. A year ago, Bjork hired Gerrod Chadwell as women’s golf coach. Chadwell, who came from Houston, has the Aggies in the match play of the NCAA Championship this week.

Whoever Bjork hires takes over a potential top 20 team. All-American Haley Lee (.405, 15 HRs, 45 RBIs), who plays catcher and first base, announced she’ll come back for a super senior season as did pitcher/outfielder Makinzy Herzog (9-8, 2.66 ERA & .248 BA, 5 HRs, 312 RBIs) and outfielder Morgan Smith (.320, 5 HRs, 28 RBIs). Pitcher Emiley Kennedy (13-11, 2.94), shortstop Koko Wooley (.359, 26 SBs) and utility player Katie Dack (.303, 13 HRs, 40 RBIs) were highly productive freshmen. A&M was hampered by injuries with sophomore outfielder Bre Warren, a second-team All-SEC pick, missing the season, while Herzog missed time in the circle as did fellow right-handers Shaylee Ackerman, Grace Uribe and graduate senior Kayla Poynter, the lone player not expected back.

Evans before coming to A&M, coached four seasons at Colorado State (91-67) and seven seasons at Utah (222-143), her alma mater. Evans replaced Bob Brock, another Hall of Famer, who was from 1982-96 with the Aggies. Brock won NCAA titles in 1983 and ’87 and an AIAW title in 1982. He was 688-255 at A&M.

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