BY ANDREAS BUTLER
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Bethune-Cookman University welcomed back Laura Watten Tuesday as head softball coach.
Watten is the most successful coach in the program’s history and already is a member of the B-CU Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I am super excited to be back. I just wanted to come back home,” responded Watten.
Commented B-CU Director of Athletics Lynn Thompson, “When you think of this university, you think of family. Today we are glad to welcome one of our family members home.’’
Watten led the Wildcats’ program from 1998-2005, compiling a 322-207 record and won five MEAC titles. They also went to six NCAA Regionals during that span.
She led the program to a NCAA Regional title and NCAA Super Regional appearance in 2005.
Bethune-Cookman is still the only historically Black college and university to play in a Super Regional.
That remarkable Super Regional run led to several job offers.
“I can recall Laura telling me to get people away from her after that last lost to Texas. Job offers started pouring in,” recalled Thompson.
Nine seasons in Maryland
Watten spent the last nine seasons at the University of Maryland where she led the Terrapins to a 280-228 mark but was fired after the team went 11-35 this past season.
She believes her time has helped her evolve as a person and coach.
“I have gained a lot more experience. I know a lot more of what it takes to make a program run.
There were different challenges there and there will be different ones here,” stated Watten.
‘All about recruiting’
Getting the Wildcats back to an elite level is the goal.
“We can’t guarantee overnight success. I’ll know better when we get on the field. It’s all about recruiting. We have some pieces in place but will add more. The face of recruiting has changed.
There are a lot more opportunities now for players and recruiting is more competitive,” said Watten.
Upgrading the team’s home field also is a priority. B-CU plays at Sunnyland Park, which is owned by the city of Daytona Beach.
“I also want to get the facility up to par where everybody wants to come and watch games. That will be our No.1 goal. I am really excited to get back out there,” said Watten.
Thompson says Watten has more at her disposal this time around.
“We do have better strength and conditioning facilities than we did when she was last here. We definitely have a lot more resources,” added Thompson.
Watten takes over the program from Chris Cochrane, who was fired this season before the MEAC tournament.
Associate Athletic Director/Senior Women’s Administrator Sandra Booker has led the team since then. Booker also led the search for a new coach.
“I’m extremely happy to have her back. Anyone who knows the history of the program knows the hard work she put in and how she turned the program around the first time she was here,” expressed Booker.
B-CU went 25-31 this past season. The team lost to Florida A&M University by a score of 4-2 in the MEAC championship game.
Historically, B-CU’s program has won eight MEAC titles and has nine NCAA Regional appearances.