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New Nevada softball coach enters role amid controversy

Published: Jul. 4, 2021 at 3:42 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (Nevada Athletics & KOLO) - Linda Garza is one of the most successful softball coaches in the Mountain West Conference. Before accepting the vacant Nevada job - just weeks after former Wolf Pack head man, Josh Taylor, left for Louisiana Tech - Garza led Fresno State for the past five seasons. While in the Central Valley Garza led the Bulldogs to two NCAA tournaments, and a Mountain West title.

But it’s what she’s accused of doing last season that is casting a shadow over her accomplishments.

Garza stepped down at Fresno State last month after former player, Kaitlyn Jennings, said Garza pinned her against a dugout wall during a game on April 6. Jennings said in a series of tweets she has experienced depression and anxiety since the alleged incident occurred.

Friday Nevada Athletics held a press conference with Garza and Athletic Director, Doug Knuth. Nevada’s new head coach addressed the allegations.

“Everyone knows there is something that potentially had happened,” Garza said of the allegations presented from Jennings. “It was a unique circumstance with a unique individual, and there were more things that led to that situation.”

Immediately following Garza’s response Knuth was asked why this hire makes sense for Nevada and if he thinks a similar incident will happen to Wolf Pack student athletes.

“Everyone I talked to said the same thing. This one incident is one situation and not (Garza’s) normal character and not anything that has happened before...so I don’t think that type of thing will ever happen again,” Knuth said.

Knuth acknowledged he did not talk to Jennings when going through the hiring process

Original release from Nevada Athletics:

Linda Garza has been named head coach of the Nevada softball program, Director of Athletics Doug Knuth announced Friday.

Garza, the sixth head coach in program history, comes to Nevada after spending the previous five seasons as head coach at Fresno State.

“I am thrilled to bring a coach of Linda Garza’s caliber to Wolf Pack Athletics,” Knuth said. “She is committed to lifelong learning and the value of education in an athletic environment. She is dedicated to helping her team grow and compete at the highest level. She will build a coaching staff second-to-none, and she will be another great teammate in a department full of great coaches. I am excited to work with Coach Garza and build our softball program to be one of the power programs in the Mountain West conference and a regular post-season participant.”

“I would like to first say ‘Thank You’ to President Brian Sandoval and Athletic Director Doug Knuth for all of the conversations, and for entrusting me with this incredible leadership opportunity with these young women,” Garza said. “I’m humbled and honored to be a part of the Wolf Pack family. Nevada is a hidden gem. This campus is stunning, the athletic department staff is committed, and the support shown for my vision has already been inspiring. I have much respect for Coach Taylor and his staff, and I look forward to building on their hard work and success. I am so excited to meet each player and her family, the alumni, and supporters. We are all in this together. I will work daily to earn the love, trust and respect from this team. We are going to create something special and have a lot of fun doing it. Go Pack!”

At Fresno State, Garza compiled a 161-82 record with 21 Mountain West all-conference selections, 12 NFCA All-Region honorees, three postseason appearances, including two NCAA Tournaments, two Mountain West Pitcher of the Year recipients, two Mountain West Freshman of the Year awardees, one Mountain West Player of the Year recipient, one 2021 USA Top 25 Player of the Year watch list selection, one 2019 Shutt Sports NFCA Freshman of the Year Top 25 honoree, and one Mountain West title.

Prior to Fresno State, she spent four seasons as head coach at UC Riverside, winning 39 and 32 games in 2015 and 2016, respectively. After taking over at UC Riverside in 2012, Garza took a program that went 13-33 in 2011 to a 39-17 record, a 14th-best ERA (2.13) in the country and program-best RPI ranking of 70 in 2015. She registered the program’s first back-to-back 30-win seasons since the Highlanders joined the Big West in 2002. She coached over 10 All-Big West student-athletes, three NFCA all-region performers, and back-to-back 20-game winning pitchers in 2015-16.

Before taking over at UC Riverside, Garza served as associate head coach at Cal Poly from 2010-12, head coach at Wright State from 2009-10, and an assistant coach at Purdue (2005-09), Tulsa (2004-05) and Arkansas (2002-04).

While at Cal Poly, Garza coached the outfield and assisted with hitting, the infield and day-to-day operations of the program.

As head coach at Wright State in 2010, she guided the Raiders to the Horizon League Tournament title, advancing to the NCAA Tournament. Wright State also set single-season program records in hits (538), walks (148) and stolen bases (150).

During her tenure as an assistant coach at Purdue, she helped the Boilermakers reach 30-plus wins in each of her four seasons.

Garza began her coaching career as a student assistant at UNLV following a standout playing career for the Rebels from 1998-2001. As a four-year starter, she recorded a .262 career batting average and All-MW accolades while earning a spot in the program’s top 10 in doubles, hits, walks and sacrifices. In addition, she received four All-MW academic honors.

Garza earned her bachelor’s degree in school health education with a minor in athletic coaching and physical education in 2002. Garza graduated with her master’s degree in kinesiology in 2009 from Texas Woman’s University.

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