Jun. 6—After 25 seasons as a collegiate head softball coach, including 21 at the University of Georgia, head softball coach Lu Harris-Champer announced her retirement Sunday.
Her final Bulldogs team made the Women's College World Series.
"A decision like this is always difficult, particularly when you work at a wonderful institution like the University of Georgia," Harris-Champer said. "I am beyond grateful for my time here in Athens. I was truly blessed to work with tremendous colleagues and coach amazing student-athletes that mean so much to me. This decision came down to family. It was the right time for me to step away from the team and institution I love, while still being lucky enough to have more time with my children before they graduate high school. I am thankful to Coach Dooley for giving me this opportunity and to Greg McGarity and the entire UGAAA family for all of their support on and off the field. I will always be proud of my time here."
Harris-Champer's career spanned 25 seasons as a college head coach, amassing over 1,100 victories. She took teams to 23 NCAA Tournaments and seven Women's College World Series appearances. She concludes her career in the top-25 all-time in NCAA victories with 1,168. In her career, 23 student-athletes have earned All-America status 38 times from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
"Coach Harris-Champer has had a tremendous career," Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks said. "We were so lucky to have her lead our program from infancy to relevancy in the juggernaut softball conference that is the SEC. She built a strong foundation that we can build on and left a legacy of players and coaches that compete with integrity, toughness and pride. We are going to miss having her around the athletics department and the softball program. We are all better for having worked with her."
Harris-Champer began her head coaching career at Nicholls State (1996-97) before taking over at Southern Miss for two seasons (1999-2000). She guided Nicholls to 94 wins in just two seasons and berths in the 1996 and 1997 NCAA Regionals. In two seasons in Hattiesburg, Harris-Champer took the Golden Eagles to back-to-back Women's College World Series and 115 victories.
Harris-Champer, just the second head softball coach in the Georgia's history, came to Athens prior to the 2001 season. Since then, she guided Georgia to 959 victories, two Southeastern Conference championships (2003, 2005), one SEC Tournament title (2014), 19-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, 11 Super Regionals, and five trips to Oklahoma City including final four appearances in 2009 and 2010. She was named Coach of the Year three times by the SEC (2003, 2005, 2018).
A total of 20 Georgia Bulldogs have earned NFCA All-America status 33 times under Harris-Champer's tutelage while nearly 80 have earned All-SEC recognition and have been named NFCA All-Region honorees. Georgia carried the SEC Player of the Year once (Kim Wendland, 2005), SEC Pitcher of the Year twice (Michelle Green, 2003, 2005), and SEC Freshman of the Year once (Geri Ann Glasco, 2013). Harris-Champer's student-athletes have appeared as finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year nine times. A total of 14 players have been drafted to play professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch league.
Off the field of play, Georgia softball has produced a student-athlete on the SEC Academic Honor Roll 145 times to date and 39 on the SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll. 17 student-athletes have been named to the SEC Softball Community Service Team. Bulldogs earned CoSIDA Academic All-District distinction 12 times and two (Katie Lewis, 2005, Kasi Carroll, 2006, 2007) were named CoSIDA Academic All-America.
"I've had the privilege of knowing Lu for the entirety of her tenure at UGA and I have worked directly with softball for the last 10 years," Georgia deputy athletic director for finance Stephanie Ransom said. "Her competitive spirit and tenacity shine through in all she does, and her teams reflect that by playing with toughness and grit. She leads by example with tremendous work ethic and attention to detail, while always insisting on excellence. She will be greatly missed on and off the field."
Associate head coach Tony Baldwin will serve as interim head coach. A national search will begin immediately.