Georgia’s Lu Harris-Champer Announces RetirementFeatured
Longtime University of Georgia head coach Lu Harris-Champer announced her retirement on Sunday, one day after her team was eliminated from the Women’s College World Series.
Harris-Champer spent 25 seasons as a collegiate head softball coach, including 21 at UGA. The three-time SEC Coach of the Year amassed more than 1,100 victories and took teams to 23 NCAA Tournaments, including seven Women’s College World Series appearances.
“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.”
Harris-Champer began her head coaching career at Nicholls State (1996-97) before taking over at Southern Miss for two seasons (1999-2000). She led Nicholls to 94 wins and two NCAA appearances in two seasons and guided Southern Miss to 115 victories and back-to-back Women’s College World Series berths.
Harris-Champer was hired as just the second softball coach in UGA history before the 2001 season. During her stint, the Dawgs have won 959 games, two SEC championships, one SEC tournament title and made 19 straight NCAA Tournament appearances. UGA has reached 11 Super Regionals and made five trips to the WCWS. Her teams embodied Harris-Champer’s competitive nature and were known for their gritty play.
“Coach Harris-Champer has had a tremendous career,” UGA 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.”
Associate head coach Tony Baldwin will serve as interim head coach while a national search takes place to replace Harris-Champer.
Assuming nobody transfers, Harris-Champer’s successor will find a young team in Athens that found its groove in the postseason. The roster consists of 13 underclassmen and three juniors. After finishing the season on a seven-game losing skid, the Dawgs (34-23) won five straight to reach the WCWS. They lost the only two games they played in OKC. The pitching staff will need to find a replacement for veteran ace Mary Wilson Avant.