Larabee leaps up a division

Austin Lane, Senior Sports Reporter

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Editor’s Note: The Observer staff attempted to interview current CWU Softball players about head coach Mike Larabee resigning from CWU. The CWU Athletics Department requested student journalists send in questions prior to the interviews. When The Observer declined sending interview questions, Caleb Dunlop (Assistant Director of Athletic Communications) and Will McLaughlin (Director of Athletic Communications) said athletes could not be interviewed. This was due to a noon deadline for questions to be submitted not being met. 

The Observer stands by its decision to not send questions prior to interviews in order to keep answers genuine. In attempts to reach out further, former CWU Softball athletes denied interviews as well, citing that they were also advised by the CWU Athletics Department to not accept interviews before student journalists sent questions to the athletics department to look at.

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After four seasons as head coach of the CWU Softball team, Mike Larabee resigned from CWU to continue his coaching career as an assistant coach at the University of Maryland (UM).

Larabee said quite a few things went into the decision to resign. It started when UM head coach Mark Montgomery contacted Larabee, looking for an outfield and hitting coach with experience. Another factor for Larabee was the opportunity to be close to family.

CWU Athletic Communications

“College Park is only about 20 minutes from where my daughter lives, in Arlington, Virginia … having family close by was very appealing. It was kinda the first time my wife could be close to her family, she’s followed me around the country at different places coaching, so that was a big part of it,” Larabee said.

Another reason for taking on the new job was the move from Division II to Division I. Larabee is the fourth coach to make the jump since Athletic Director Dennis Francois was hired in June 2013.

“Getting back into Division I into a Power Five conference played a little bit into it,” Larabee said. “They’ve struggled the last few years and that challenge of being able to flip the program around, which I think we can do really quickly, was also a part of it.”

Out of four seasons at CWU, Larabee was GNAC Head Coach of the Year three seasons. CWU set 17 single-season records and had a total of 22 players earn GNAC honors.

In his first season in 2016, Larabee led the Wildcats to their winningest season in school history at 42-17. In the same season, the Wildcats were GNAC regular season champions, GNAC tournament champions and NCAA DII West Region champions. 

In 2017, Larabee led the team to a 20-6 conference record. In 2018 the Wildcats went 31-16 overall and went 19-9 in conference competition. In 2019 he led the Wildcats to another successful season, finishing the season 30-16 overall and 21-7 in the GNAC.

Larabee’s success at CWU was one of the things he struggled to walk away from and was the main reason Larabee debated whether or not to resign from CWU.

“It was tough because we won four consecutive championships at [CWU] and we had an incredibly talented team,” Larabee said. “That was very very difficult to say goodbye to.”

After missing the GNAC tournament in 2015, prior to Larabee taking over at head coach, the Wildcats’ goal for 2016 was to just get back into the tournament. However, Larabee had a more optimistic vision for the team.

The team just missed the NCAA Division II College World Series with two losses to number- one seed Humboldt State University in the NCAA Division II West Super Regional.

“In our first team meeting, I looked to see where the College World Series was being played that year for Division II and I said ‘that’s our long-range goal’ and the girls looked at me funny,” Larabee said.

Larabee’s proudest moment as head coach was winning four straight conference championships, which he said “put a target on [the team’s] back, a bullseye.”

CWU Athletic Communications

Francois said the plan for now is to do what is best for the program. According to Francois, now is ideally not the best time to do a search because classes have already started, but he also knows the position is a “very attractive” one. Francois believes this is the reason the right candidate will throw their name in the hat. So what does the right candidate look like?

“We’re looking for someone that’s gonna be able to come in here and run our program with the utmost integrity and do it the right way with the right kids. That’s first and foremost and that’s one of our core values,” Francois said. “Somebody that’s also going to be a great member of our staff, we pride ourselves on having a Wildcat family, which is just that togetherness with our staff and student-athletes supporting each other. We also want to make sure this coach is hungry and is going to be competitive and is going to do what’s necessary to have a successful program.”

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