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James Madison—Playing with the 'Big Boys'


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#1
SpartanIlliniCub

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Mickey Dean has built an elite program at a midsized school. (Photo: Ryan Freeland)

 

James Madison softball is one of the best stories going in the softball world right now.

 

James Madison is a midsized school of 19,262 students in the mountains of north central Virginia.  James Madison is relatively new to the softball world—it has only had a Division 1 college program since 2002.  And the softball team from 2002-2012 was decently good with a respectable 283–252 record, appearing in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship Tournament twice.  But that is nothing compared to where the program has gone through since 2013.

 

Since then the program has reached new and elite heights, primarily due to its hiring of Mickey Dean as head coach.

 

Dean arrived on campus with an amazing list of credentials, including pitching coach for the Venezuelan National Team (2002-2008) and head coach for the National Pro Fastpitch Chicago Bandits (2004-2010), winning five NPF Regular Season Championships and the NPF Championship Series in 2008.  He was named NPF Manager of the Year three times, coaching one of the best-known pitchers in softball history, Jennie Finch, in the process.

 

Dean has helped turn the James Madison program from a middling backwater outpost to a consistently elite softball program.  During his tenure, Dean has led the program to an 185-48 record, including a 70-7 in-conference record and two Colonial Athletic Association conference championships—two in four years! 

 

2016 was an especially impressive year as Dean led the JMU Dukes to a 50-6 overall record, a CAA conference championship, an NCAA Regional title, an NCAA Super Regional appearance, and an overall 11th rank in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll.  The team also had two All-American Team selections in pitchers Jailyn Ford and Megan Good.  Mickey Dean was rewarded in 2016 with a contract extension through 2021.

 

So far in 2017, James Madison is ranked 14th in the nation and has a 37-6 record.  James Madison has wins over much larger programs including Mizzou, Oklahoma State, South Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas, UCF, Maryland, and a split series against #7 ranked Auburn. There is a good reason why James Madison is ranked #11!

 

It's nice to have some new blood amongst the elite softball programs.  And James Madison is such a cool "rags to riches " story.  James Madison's football team also won a national title in 2016.  From bringing in elite coaches like Mickey Dean to its  success in other sports, James Madison has made a massive investment in its sports programs, and it is fun to see it pay dividends!

 

James Madison is a great small-school underdog team to root for when the NCAA playoffs roll around at the end of May.  Go Dukes!



#2
CatOsterFan

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I had no idea there was a connection between a former Chicago Bandits coach and the current coach of the impressive James Madison University softball program.

 

I dug up a bio on Mickey Dean and found this timeline for him:

 

Coach Dean started his collegiate softball career at the University of Akron from 2001-2002.  Then he moved on to be an assistant coach at Indiana University from 2002-2004, and then on to Longwood University in 2005-2006.

 

Coach Dean received his first head coaching gig at the University of Radford where he served from 2007-2012.  At Radford he earned a 241-116 overall record and a 84-21 conference record.  Most impressively, under Coach Dean the Radford Highlanders made two NCAA Regional tournament appearances. 

 

Quite a career so far!  It is great to see that Coach Dean has found a place where he can be successful, and has built a winning program.  Most impressively, his success has earned him a contract extension good through 2021.  Nice work!



#3
FaspitchPapa

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Smaller schools from smaller conferences have won the WCWS before.  Cal State Fullerton won in the 80's and Fresno State won in the 90's.  Since then it has all been bigger schools from the power conferences.  But Cal State Fullerton and Fresno State have proven that small schools can go all the way!  Maybe James Madison can make it happen this year.






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