LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Carol Bruggeman has signed a five-year contract to continue as the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Executive Director, the Board of Directors announced today.
The new agreement, which started this month and runs through Dec. 31, 2027, allows Bruggeman to continue in the position she has held since Feb. 1, 2016, following four months in an interim role. As she has done in her previous NFCA contracts, Bruggeman selflessly negotiated additional incentives for the staff, so that when the Association succeeds, the entire NFCA team is rewarded.
“I am extremely honored and grateful for the opportunity to continue as NFCA Executive Director and very appreciative of the NFCA Board of Directors trust and vote of confidence with this new contract,” Bruggeman said. “Of equal importance, I would like to thank the talented NFCA team for their dedication and commitment to the Association on a daily basis. My entire career has been, and continues to be, dedicated to the sport of softball and to the amazing coaches, student-athletes, and supporters who live and breathe it every day.”
“As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our Association and the 50th anniversary of Title IX, we have accomplished so much as a sport, yet there is more to be done. I look forward to the journey ahead as the best is yet to come.”
Bruggeman is certainly no stranger to the Association, having been an active coaching member for 25 years while unselfishly serving the NFCA in numerous capacities. She had a four-year term as Board President and stints as both the Past-President and Fourth Vice President, in addition to time spent as the Division I Representative.
“Carol Bruggeman is a true leader and visionary. Under her guidance, our Association has grown tremendously in every area,” said Northwestern University head coach Kate Drohan, who recently completed a term as NFCA Board President and has moved into the role of Board Past-President. “Her professionalism, work ethic and ability to bring people together have elevated the sport of softball.”
Since taking the role as interim Executive Director in September 2015, Bruggeman has overseen tremendous growth in the organization. Membership has grown 63 percent, sponsorship revenue has increased 433 percent, and events have increased in both the number offered and overall attendees during Bruggeman’s tenure. Part of the increase is due in part to joint membership initiatives with the NJCAA, California Community College Fastpitch Coaches Association, and various state High School Associations, as well as a grassroots pilot program.
She was recently recognized as one of Louisville Business First’s 2022 Most Admired CEOs and honored during a reception and dinner at the historic Galt House Hotel in Louisville. The award recognizes CEOs who are innovators, standard-bearers, role models and exceptional leaders.
“Carol is one of the absolute best leaders I have ever worked with,” said NFCA Hall of Famer Karen Weekly, the head coach at the University of Tennessee and a longtime former member of the Board. “The NFCA is a healthy, vibrant and growing organization, and that, in large part, is because of her leadership and vision. I am thrilled that she will continue in the Executive Director role and confident she will take us to even greater heights over the next several years.”
Bruggeman’s leadership was critical during COVID. While shepherding the Association through a challenging pandemic, she maintained a full-time staff and continued business relationships with all sponsors and partners. After dipping below 3,500 members during COVID, the Association set a record high for overall membership in November 2022 with 6,520. She also led the charge in bringing back and executing a thriving in-person annual Convention in December 2021 in Las Vegas with over 1,500 attendees and 138 companies in the Exhibit Show.
In addition to the membership regrowth after COVID, the NFCA had to shift its focus following the cancellation of the 2020 softball season. Weekly virtual educational offerings (coaches clinics, webinars, and mentoring sessions) were added to the docket, while the Association also gave back to the membership with the implementation of “Building Champions: A Week of Giveaways.” This initiative, during what would have been the 2020 Women’s College World Series (WCWS), rewarded member coaches with prizes such as membership extensions, Convention registration and NFCC course registration, along with the grand prize of two 2021 WCWS Championship Series tickets.
Bruggeman has presided over three of the highest attended National Conventions, which included this past year’s event in December at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa (1,625 attendees), and she was pivotal in the April 2017 acquisition of the seven National Softball Coaches Clinics founded by NFCA Hall of Famer Mary Nutter and Traci Mayberry that had been a staple of softball instruction for 30 years — to accompany the NFCA’s own highly-successful Louisville clinic, which Bruggeman started in 2016.
She introduced a legal counsel as a member benefit, Coaching Tools education for grassroots members, a year-round coach mentoring program, an expanded coach and student-athlete awards program, and increased scholarship opportunities.
Bruggeman also spearheaded the implementation of the prestigious Rawlings Gold Glove awards for the sport of softball in 2022. That program, which had long been known as a baseball-only award, debuted in NCAA Division I softball last year and will expand to all NFCA college divisions this coming spring.
“Carol Bruggeman is an exceptional leader and I was so pleased to work on this contract to continue her tenure as the Executive Director,” said NFCA Legal Counsel Samantha Ekstrand. “I have witnessed her navigate challenges with vision, confidence, and grace. Because of her leadership, the NFCA and its team have emerged stronger and better. Carol constantly inspires and empowers those around her with her charismatic and humble disposition. Any interaction with Carol is the best part of my day. This is a win.”
Bruggeman was recognized by her alma mater, the University of Iowa, with her selection as the 2020 recipient of the Dr. Michael Teague All-Star Award, which salutes significant contributions to the program and achievements in the sport and recreation industry.
Also in 2020, she was the featured softball clinician at the Italian Baseball Softball Federation (FIBS) National Coaching Convention in Rimini, Italy. Bruggeman spoke once to the leadership track and led sessions on practices, defending the short game, middle infield defense, outfield defense, slapping and hitting.
During her time as Executive Director, the NFCA has successfully campaigned many legislative changes on behalf of its coaches. Examples include eliminating the mid-year transfer loophole for softball, implementing the fourth paid coach, implementing video review, eliminating early recruiting practices in college softball, the adoption of a four-umpire system for postseason play, the adoption of a three-day format for Division I Super Regionals, and the expansion of softball championships at various levels (i.e. WCWS nine-day format, Division II seven-day format, push back of Division III championship).
In 2019, the Association unveiled its Diamond of Ethics, which stresses four key principles — Commitment, Integrity, Respect, and Professionalism — which serve as the foundational ethical bases of the NFCA. In April 2018, Bruggeman oversaw the first major revamp of the NFCA’s bylaws since they were initially adopted in 1983.
Bruggeman also took steps to protect the Association’s brand, by trademarking the NFCA name and logo, as well as the NFCC abbreviation for its series of National Fastpitch Coaches College classes.
Significant improvements have also been made to the NFCA’s Louisville headquarters, ranging from upgraded technology, to new carpeting, furniture and windows, to new graphics throughout the building. Bruggeman has grown the Association staff to 11 full-time team members, one part-time team member, and several outside contracted employees.
Bruggeman joined the NFCA full-time as Associate Executive Director in September 2014, after a long career and over 700 victories as an NCAA Division I coach at Michigan, Purdue and Louisville.
On the Louisville staff, Bruggeman helped guide the Cardinals to nine NCAA regionals and set school records for wins twice — in 2009 (48) and 2012 (55). Louisville averaged 42 wins per year and won the Big East regular-season crown in 2006 and 2012, captured the Big East tournament in 2007, was the Big East tournament runner-up in 2010 and 2011, and won the American Athletic Conference tournament in 2014. Seven of those years, the team ranked in the top 25, once each ranked in the top 20 and top 15, and was ranked in the top 10 in 2012 and 2013. Sixty-seven players on her watch earned Big East All-Conference honors, 20 collected NFCA All-Region recognition and eight were named NFCA All-Americans. Two Cardinals were named Big East Player of the Year, one was chosen Big East Pitcher of the Year and one was the Big East Scholar-Athlete Award honoree. Two players were selected as Lowe’s Senior Class Award finalists, one was chosen for the USA Softball national team camp and six went on to play professionally. Bruggeman earned her 400, 500, 600 and 700-win milestones at Louisville.
At Purdue, Bruggeman won 21 games in 1994, the team’s inaugural season, and she collected her 100, 200 and 300-win milestones while the Boilermakers’ head coach and averaged 32 wins per season. Twenty-three players earned All-Big Ten selection, 24 were named NFCA All-Region and one was a first team NFCA All-American. She mentored 71 Academic All-Big Ten players, seven Academic All-District selections and four Academic All-Americans. One was chosen for an NCAA post-graduate scholarship and every player who competed all four years earned her degree. Three players went on to play professionally, three were chosen for the USA Softball national team camp, and two attended the NCAA Leadership Conference. Purdue was ranked in the top 10 of the NCAA Mideast Regional rankings from 1996-2005.
During her time on the Wolverines’ staff, Michigan averaged 38 wins per year and went to the 1992 and 1993 NCAA Regionals after capturing the Big Ten title both those seasons. Twenty-three players were named to the All-Big Ten team, 12 earned NFCA All-Region and two were NFCA All-Americans. Twelve garnered Academic All-Big Ten honors, while three were Academic All-District and one was an Academic All-American. Three each were selected Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and two earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Year during her tenure.
In July 2011, Bruggeman traveled to Australia as head coach of the college team that won a gold medal with USA-Athletes International, and traveled to the Czech Republic in 2009 in the same role.
Bruggeman is also a well-respected national speaker, clinician, educator, television analyst and author. She continues to speak and teach, and remains a fixture on the ESPN, SEC, ACC, and Big Ten television networks during the college softball season.
As an infielder at the University of Iowa, Bruggeman was an All-Big Ten and All-Mideast Region selection, as well as an Academic All-American and a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, who received Iowa’s Athletic Academic Medal of Honor. In 1997, she was inducted into the Iowa Softball Association Hall of Fame.
A native of Charter Oak, Iowa, she received her bachelor’s degree in accounting and business from Iowa in 1987 and continued her education at Iowa, earning a master’s in athletic administration and coaching in 1990.
What they are saying about Carol Bruggeman …
“Carol Bruggeman has been an exceptional leader in the sport of softball her entire career, and I am thrilled that she will remain the Executive Director of the NFCA for another five years. Her passion for softball is unmatched, both in the broadcast booth as well as in her role at the NFCA. She is a true champion for the sport, and the NFCA is lucky to have her as their Executive Director.” – Meg Aronowitz, ESPN Vice President – Production
“Carol Bruggeman’s contract extension as the Executive Director of the NFCA is vitally important for the growth and future of our organization. She led us through a pandemic and the NFCA came out on the other side of it better than it was before; with her visionary leadership, her forward thinking and her attention to detail. I am confident in Carol’s leadership and the direction that softball is headed. As the current president of the NFCA, I look forward to working closely with Carol and continuing our quest for education and growth in the sport of softball.” — Larissa Anderson, Head Coach, University of Missouri, and NFCA Board President
“Carol is a fantastic leader who the softball community is so lucky to have. As a peer, I have been able to witness her visionary thinking, her passionate advocacy, her out-of-the-park energy, and her genuine care for those around her. I feel very fortunate to have Carol as a peer mentor because she has not only set the standard for how a successful coaching association can run, but has always been there to share ideas and help elevate others as well. The future of the game and the members of the NFCA are in great hands with Carol leading the way, and I look forward to working with her in the years to come!” — Liz Robertshaw, Executive Director, Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association
“Carol is the North Star for her employees, her Board of Directors, and for the members of our esteemed organization. She notices people. She notices strengths. She does not shy away from challenging tasks. She is OUR representative on the big stage — with the NCAA, with ESPN, and with our other public spaces and ventures. She has been the continued laser pointer as we have created and shaped our brand that has been so critical to our success … and it shows in her daily actions, not just her words.” — Renae Hartl, Athletic Director & Head Softball Coach, Luther College
“Our partnership with the NFCA is one of our most valued industry relationships. Carol’s leadership has fostered a strong collaboration between our company and the NFCA, and we are excited about the future of our continued work together to grow and support the fastpitch community.” — Tom Stepsis, HitTrax Director, NFCA Official Sponsor
“Carol Bruggeman is a true leader and visionary. Under her guidance, our Association has grown tremendously in every area. Her professionalism, work ethic and ability to bring people together have elevated the sport of softball.” — Kate Drohan, Head Coach, Northwestern University, and NFCA Board Past-President.
“I have had the absolute privilege of working closely with Carol Bruggeman in preparation for the Leadoff Classics in Columbus, Georgia, to continue the great work of the NFCA. Through the many years of working with Carol, our team in Columbus has experienced the passion that she has for softball and have witnessed the continued growth of the organization through education and leadership development. Carol is a humble and caring mentor who serves and gives her all. We are inspired by the growth of the NFCA under Carol’s leadership and look forward to the progress that will be made in the years to come.” – Merri Sherman, Executive Director, Columbus Georgia Sports Council
“Carol Bruggeman is an exceptional leader and I was so pleased to work on this contract to continue her tenure as the Executive Director. I have witnessed her navigate challenges with vision, confidence, and grace. Because of her leadership, the NFCA and its team have emerged stronger and better. Carol constantly inspires and empowers those around her with her charismatic and humble disposition. Any interaction with Carol is the best part of my day. This is a win.” —Samantha Ekstrand, NFCA Legal Counsel
“I am thrilled to hear Carol’s contract has been extended through 2027. Carol is a tremendous leader and an even better person. To have the opportunity to work with someone who truly cares about the sport, the Association, and all its people is an absolute honor. While Carol’s contributions to the growth of the organization have been tremendous, her impact on the NFCA team has been just as significant. She relates to people, recognizes individual talents, and creates an environment where each team member feels empowered to be creative in their role. I feel so fortunate to be part of this organization and to have the chance to work with a leader who every day makes me want to be better.” — Kelley Fisher, Special Projects, NFCA
“Congratulations to Carol and the NFCA! Carol is a first-class leader with a passion for serving the softball community. Carol’s desire and vision for growing the National Fastpitch Coaches Association membership and Convention, along with her understanding of the needs that softball coaches at all levels of the sport possess, make her a tremendous asset for the NFCA. I value the working relationship that we at the ABCA have established with her and her staff and look forward to continuing to work together in the coming years.” — Craig Keilitz, Executive Director, American Baseball Coaches Association
“Carol is one of the absolute best leaders I have ever worked with. The NFCA is a healthy, vibrant and growing organization, and that, in large part, is because of her leadership and vision. I am thrilled that she will continue in the Executive Director role and confident she will take us to even greater heights over the next several years.” — NFCA Hall of Famer Karen Weekly, Head Coach, University of Tennessee, and a longtime former member of the Board
“I am fortunate to have felt the impact of Carol Bruggeman’s leadership on my coaching career. Carol has a unique ability to make everyone feel welcome and included in the NFCA, regardless of stature, division, or title. She is a major reason why I continue to devote time and efforts to volunteering on committees, the Board of Directors and other capacities with the NFCA.” – Darin Monroe, Athletic Director & Head Coach, Rock Valley College
“Our NFCA Board of Directors and the entire fastpitch community is thrilled to extend the tenure of one of the Association’s most valuable assets — our Executive Director and future NFCA Hall of Famer Carol Bruggeman. I’ve known Carol since her days as a coach at Louisville and through her various elected and appointed positions with the NFCA. Her long trail of impact and influence brought to the sport at all levels is almost as impressive as her bottomless passion and contagious enthusiasm.” — Frank Ehrenfeld, Pennsbury Gems, NFCA Board Travel Ball Representative
“Carol is a dynamic leader and strategic visionary which makes the announcement of her extension well-earned and notable news. She has built a vast network of relationships within the softball community through her ability to connect and work collaboratively with all affiliations of the NFCA, from her exceptional staff, the membership, partners, sponsors and beyond. Carol is a clear winner and the scope of her impact on our great game is to be commended.” — Shonda Stanton, Head Coach, Indiana University
Celebrating 40 years in 2023, the NFCA is the professional organization for fastpitch softball coaches. Known for its highly-regarded coaches polls and All-America awards, the NFCA also educates and supports softball coaches on a variety of different levels: from podcasts to awards, to in-person events and National Convention.