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Jeff Conrad selected as next head softball coach

After seven seasons in the dugout in assistant and associate coaching roles, Jeff Conrad has been named the next head coach of the North Florida softball program as announced by Director of Athletics Nick Morrow Friday, July 1.

“I am so happy for Jeff and our softball program,” Director of Athletics Nick Morrow said. “Jeff has been a loyal assistant to Coach Higgs for seven years and played an integral part in the progression of the UNF softball program. I look forward to supporting Jeff and the entire UNF Softball team in building on the record-breaking 2022 season.”

Conrad assumed the role of interim head coach June 10 after long-time head coach Marcie Higgs announced her resignation from the position just days earlier. A nationwide search was conducted in the interim period before Conrad was elevated to the head position.

North Florida wasn’t Conrad’s first stop in the state of Florida as he arrived in Jacksonville after spending 2014-15 at UCF as a volunteer assistant coach. With the Knights, Conrad helped elevate UCF to a program single-season batting average record of .292. During the ‘15 campaign, UCF won the American Athletic Conference Regular Season and AAC Tournament Titles as the program reeled in 50 wins. The historic season helped Conrad share National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Mideast Region Coaching Staff of the Year honors.

No stranger to the #BirdsofClay, Conrad joined the UNF staff as an assistant coach in 2015, a role he held until being elevated to the team’s associate head coach in 2018. Over his seven seasons in the Navy and Gray, Conrad has been charged primarily as the hitting coach, working heavily with the infielder. He’s also taken on duties as the recruiting coordinator, equipment manager and travel coordinator, while also working with day-to-day tasks such as practice planning and scouting.

Conrad and UNF are coming off one of the program’s best seasons to date, having won 42, tying a program Division-I era record. UNF rattled off a DI-era 13-game winning streak, a mark aided by another program record in 56-consecutive scoreless innings pitched.

All told, UNF has seen 14 ASUN All-Conference honorees, nine all-freshman picks, one ASUN Defensive Player of the Year honor, three ASUN Scholar-Athlete of the Year and one UNF Female Athlete of the Year laurels since Conrad has arrived in Jacksonville.

Conrad assisted in the development of some of the best to play for UNF softball. Navia Penrod (2016-19) went on to set the ASUN Conference and UNF all-time career hits record with 285, while also earning two ASUN Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards and a 2017 NFCA All-Region Third Team selection. Outfielder Dominica Cocuzza finished her tenure in 2019, concluding her career with a DI-era program record, 128 RBI.

2017 ASUN Defensive Player of the Year Kayla McGory joined Penrod and Cocuzza on the All-ASUN First Team before going on to finish her UNF career as the DI-era program record holder in games played (224), games started (221), walks (99) and assists (342).

Other Notables While at UNF

  • Helped UNF earn four wins against ranked teams
  • Swept a doubleheader against Michigan State
  • Defeated No. 19/20 Virginia Tech and Purdue in the same day Feb. 28, 2020
  • Set school single-season team records in doubles, sac flies, stolen bases and double plays turned
  • Initiated a new program for tracking quality at-bats (QUABS)
  • Helped develop five of the six career batting averages during the UNF DI era

A native of Chicagoland, Conrad played Division I baseball at Valparaiso in Valparaiso, Ind., earning his bachelor’s in communications. Initially not getting into coaching, Conrad spent time in media relations at the University of Michigan and also an equipment manager for the Michigan hockey program.

His career took him to a career in sales and back into sports as he had brief stints volunteering with the Michigan and FAU softball programs. Prior to his stop in Orlando, Conrad was the head coach of the 18-Gold Tampa Mustangs travel softball team, helping generate 19 college softball scholarships for his student-athletes in just two years.

Conrad’s sister, Traci, was a standout softball player for Michigan, earning three NFCA All-American honors and an induction to the University of Michigan Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.