Illinois State All-Time Leader Melinda Fischer Announces Retirement

NORMAL, Ill. – The winningest coach in Illinois State Athletics history is calling it a career, as legendary softball coach Melinda Fisher announced her retirement on Sunday after 37 seasons at the helm of the Redbird program.


Fischer, who has more wins than any coach in ISU history, ends his illustrious career as one of 28 NCAA Division I softball head coaches who have won 1 000 games in their coaching career with at least 10 years of Division I head coaching experience.


Melinda FisherIllinois State’s legacy is forever etched in the history books and the profound impact she has had on our program and countless student-athletes over the years cannot be understated. -estimated,” the Illinois State athletic director said. Kyle Brenan said. “Melinda has not only led our softball program with class and dignity for the past 37 years, but she has been a mentor to so many coaches, staff and administrators over the years, helping them become the best versions of themselves. She has dedicated her professional life to improving this university and the game of softball, while being a beacon for equality for generations of student-athletes. Melinda will certainly be missed by many in the sport, but his legacy will live on forever here at Illinois State.


Fischer’s 1,159 career wins, spanning 39 seasons as a collegiate head coach (both at Eastern Illinois [1979-80] and the State of Illinois [1986-2022]), ranks her as the 18th-winningest coach in NCAA Division I softball history. Her ISU softball head coaching record stands at 1,118-842-4 (.569), giving her the most wins by a female or male head coach in league history. ‘University.


“I’m not sure there are enough words or the right words to express the tremendous amount of gratitude, gratitude, appreciation and love I have for being a part of Illinois State University and Redbird Athletics for nearly 47 years,” Fischer said. “I’m very fortunate to have been surrounded by so many great people including Presidents, Athletic Directors, Athletic Administrators, Faculty, all of our athletic staff, fans, supporters, alumni and most importantly, our coaches and students. We all know in this profession that winning is very important and it certainly matters, but what really matters to me is the development of student-athletes and the total experience they have over the course of their career. I’m so proud to have had the amazing opportunity to lead this program for 37 years.”


In his 37 seasons at the helm of the Illinois State softball program, Fischer led the Redbirds to national prominence, most recently with their ninth NCAA regional appearance in 2012, and led his teams to 10 Missouri Valley Conference regular season titles, most recently in 2021. Prior to that, in 2017, the Redbirds made their first NISC (National Invitational Softball Championship) appearance and earned a regional title victory over the State of Michigan. She also has two Gateway Conference regular season championships to her name, as well as five MVC tournament titles.


“In addition to her winning record, Coach Fischer has inspired generations of Redbird student-athletes to achieve greatness,” said Terri Goss Kinzy, president of Illinois State University. “I was impressed and inspired by her stature as a leader, trailblazer, and legend not only at Illinois State University, but in the broader realm of college athletics.”


The recipient of six Conference Coach of the Year accolades, Fischer led a coaching staff that was honored as both MVC Coaching Staff of the Year and Speedline/NFCA Coaching Staff of the Great Lakes Region of the Year in 2006. Two Regional Coach of the Year citations, 28 All-American selections, five Academic All-Americans Academic Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) and countless other accolades highlight the success of the State of Illinois under the direction of Fischer.


A two-time inductee into the Illinois State Athletics Percy Family Hall of Fame and a 2016 ISU College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) Hall of Famer, the success and dedication of Fischer in softball extend far beyond the state of Illinois. In 2010, Fischer was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame and prior to that, she was the first recipient of the NFCA Distinguished Service Award in December 2002. The NFCA Distinguished Service Award was subsequently renamed the Melinda Fisher Distinguished Service Award on October 8, 2018, in honor of the longtime Redbird trainer.


Fischer’s attraction to softball began long before she became head softball coach at Illinois State in the fall of 1985. She began her coaching career in 1974 after a stint from four years as an ISU student-athlete. She became a graduate assistant coach for the ISU softball and basketball teams while completing a master’s degree in physical education. As an athlete from Illinois State, Fischer helped the Redbirds qualify for the 1969 Women’s College World Series, where they finished second.


Knowing she would return to NCAA Division I softball, Fischer began a three-year coaching stint at Eastern Illinois in 1976 and was initially hired as head coach of women’s basketball, a position she held. during three years. She took over the Panther softball program after her freshman year, and in two years with EIU softball, Fischer led the Panthers to a 41-25 mark, including a 1980 season that saw Eastern Illinois crowned the Illinois Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (IAIAW) State Champion, which secured the Panthers a spot in the regional championship.


Fischer returned to her alma mater to become co-head coach of the women’s basketball team in 1980. She joined her former coach and fellow ISU Athletics Hall of Famer Dr. Jill Hutchison for the next five seasons. During her first two seasons, she also served as an assistant coach for the softball team before becoming head coach before the 1986 season. In 1988, her team qualified for the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. Then in 1995, his team compiled 46 wins – the third-most total of any team in ISU Athletics history – and won another conference title with an MVC mark of 19-1.


Fischer first became a member of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) in 1960 and served as the NCAA regional representative for numerous regional tournaments, in addition to serving on NCAA regional ranking committees. She served as chair of the NFCA All-American Committee and from 1993 to 1997, Fischer served as the NFCA’s first vice president as well as convention director.



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