Coach Larry Ray
(Idaho State '74)
123-76 (.618) / three years
1998 SEC Coach of the Year
After only three seasons, Larry Ray, 47, has guided Florida to becoming a perennial Southeastern Conference headliner and has put the Gators’ name on the national scene.
Perhaps known best for the 1998 campaign in which Ray led the Gators to a 47-22 season, claiming the Southeastern regular-season title, the SEC Eastern Division title, and the Gator’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Region 6 Championship along the way, Gator squads have captured several other honors under his wing.
A 34-29 overall and 13-15 mark in 1999 earned UF its third-consecutive berth into the Southeastern Conference Tournament as well as its third-straight, 30-plus win season. The Gators were also ranked preseason for the first time at No. 20 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches’ Poll.
In Florida’s marquee season to date, Ray was named the 1998 SEC Coach of the Year while former Gator pitcher Chelsey Sakizzie became Florida’s first softball All-America player. Florida recorded nine victories over top-25 teams, the most in the SEC, and finished the ‘98 season ranked 25th in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll.
Ray led the Gators to a 42-25 inaugural season record (16-8 SEC) in 1997, including a third-place finish in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division and a trip to the SEC Tournament Championship game. Florida also split with nationally-ranked instate rivals Florida State and South Florida and defeated No. 12 Oklahoma State, while playing a challenging schedule that included five College World Series teams.
The top assistant at perennial national power Arizona for 10 seasons, Ray joined the Gator program on Sept. 4, 1995 as the University of Florida’s choice as head coach of the inaugural Gator softball team and spent over a year recruiting to build the foundation of the UF squad.
Ray brings more than 20 years of coaching experience to the Gator program. Since joining the Arizona program in 1986, the Wildcats have posted seven top-three finishes at the College World Series. Arizona reached the NCAA Championship game in each of the last five seasons of Ray’s tenure, claiming the title three times (1991, ’93, ’94). Arizona also claimed the 1992 and 1994 Pacific-10 Conference softball titles during Ray’s time with the Wildcat program. At Arizona, Ray coordinated recruiting and his on the field responsibilities include outfield play, base running, and the short game. During games, Ray coached first base and handled several defensive assignments. He has authored several articles for Women’s Fastpitch World magazine and has produced two coaching videos.
Ray brings a solid fast-pitch background to the Florida program, using his knowledge as both a player and coach. He compiled a 70-13 record as coach of Boulder City High School in Boulder City, Nev., from 1982-85. In his first season at Boulder City, Ray guided a team that had won only one game the previous two seasons to 17-3 record and the Class AA state championship. Boulder City also won state titles his final two seasons, posting a 20-1 record in 1984 and a 24-1 mark in 1985.
A 1974 graduate of Idaho State University, Ray lettered as a second baseman in baseball plus as a wide receiver and place kicker in football. He was a 1972 District 7 All-America selection at second base. At West Valley Junior College in Campbell, Calif. (now Saratoga), Ray earned two letters in football and one letter in baseball before transferring to ISU. He led California JCs in football scoring in 1969.
Ray played in five World Tournaments in competitive fastpitch as a middle infielder for the Las Vegas Aces and Las Vegas Cowboys teams. He was a member of the fifth-place team at the 1980 World Tournament.
Ray and his wife, Dawn, have a daughter, Bree, 7, and two sons, Derek, 22, and Taylor, 6.
A Ray of Light: A Look at Ray’s Three-Year Tenure
- 1998 SEC Coach of the Year
- Coached the 1998 Player of the Year and Uf’s First Louisville Slugger All-American, Chelsey Sakizzi
- 5 All-SEC Players Totaling 7 Award
- 4 Players Earning 5 SEC Academic Honor Roll Accolade
- 2 SEC All-Tournament Players Totaling 3 Awards
- 2 NCAA Tournament All-Region Players
- Coached UF to its first national ranking in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll (No. 25 March 17, 1998)
- Received UF’s highest national ranking of No. 23 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll May 6, 1998
- Won UF’s First SEC Championship in 1998
- Clinched UF’s first SEC Eastern Division Title and received the program’s first NCAA Bid in 1998
- The 1997 Inaugural Team advanced to the SEC Tournament Championship game
Ray’s Year-by-Year Progress
|1999||34-29/13-15 SEC||.540/.464||SEC Tournament Championship||Not Ranked|
|1998||47-22/23-5 SEC||.681/.821||NCAA Region 6||25th USA Today|
|1997||42-25/16-8 SEC||.627/.667||SEC Tournament Championship||Not Ranked|