TUCSON — Mike Candrea is retiring after winning eight national championships and amassing more wins than any coach in college softball history during 36 years at Arizona.
“It has been an honor to represent the University of Arizona for 36 years,” Candrea said in a statement Monday. “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.”
Candrea won 1,674 games — fourth-most in any sport — during a career that spanned four decades, leading the Wildcats to 24 Women’s College World Series appearances and 19 conference championships. He coached 50 All-Americans at Arizona and won gold and silver medals with Team USA.
Arizona went 41-15 this season and was knocked out of the College World Series with losses to Florida State and Alabama.
Candrea, 65, is a former Central Arizona College coach. After taking the Arizona job, he commuted from the Casa Grande area for many years before moving to Tucson.
Assistant Coach Caitlin Lowe has been named as Candrea’s replacement.
“Coach Candrea has built a culture of excellence that puts his players at the forefront,” said Lowe. “He has shown us all what it looks like to fiercely pursue our passion. He has led this team with integrity, class and the upmost humility.”
Lowe learned under Coach Candrea as a player both at Arizona and the U.S. Olympic Team and then for the last decade on his staff.
“Caitlin Lowe has been a superstar her entire life,” said Candrea. “She is bright, a good communicator, understands what it takes having been there as an athlete, and the players love her. Without a doubt, Caitlin is the best person to continue the Arizona legacy into the future. She will be a superstar for many years to come.”
Lowe was an outstanding player at the sport’s highest levels, succeeding collegiately at Arizona, professionally with the USSSA Pride and internationally with Team USA before returning her to her alma mater to join Candrea’s staff for the 2013 team. Lowe served as the program’s director of operations in 2013 and then the volunteer assistant coach in 2014 before joining the coaching staff full time in 2015. She has served as the team’s associate head coach for the last four seasons and will now take over as head coach for the 2022 season.
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.
“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.”
Heeke said Candrea established a championship culture within Arizona Athletics that permeates throughout the department, and represented “our state with honor and distinction.”
Heeke said Candrea became the face of the 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 athletic department.
Arizona Athletics will host a farewell press conference for Candrea on Tuesday at McKale Center.
Hall of Fame career
- 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.