Ed Hargrove, the winningest coach in Cowley sports history, announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2014 softball season.
Hargrove has spent the past 30 years as the head softball coach at Cowley. His 1,101 wins rank first in the nation on the National Junior College Athletic Association wins list of active softball coaches.
Hargrove contemplated retiring at the end of last season but decided to come back for one more shot at a national championship.
"I could do this forever and enjoy it, but it's time to get out and let a younger person have the head job," Hargrove said. "I always have a special connection to each team, so I may never find the ideal time, but I can walk away knowing the program is in good shape."
Hargrove is coming off the most successful season in the history of the program as Cowley finished the 2013 campaign with a record of 55-8 overall and placed third at the NJCAA Division II National Championships. The Lady Tigers captured the Jayhawk Conference Eastern Division title with a record of 24-2 and have won eight of the past 10 Jayhawk East championships. For his efforts, Hargrove was named the 2013 Jayhawk East Coach of the Year. While, he and assistant coach, Jenny Hoyt, were named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association NJCAA Division II National Coaching Staff of the Year.
"I have been very fortunate to have had some very good assistant coaches through the years, especially my current assistant Jenny Hoyt," Hargrove said. "The work she does with our pitchers and outfielders to make us a better team is a huge part of the success we have had and will continue to have."
Hargrove grew up in Arkansas City and has had a connection with the college since he was a young boy. He grew up attending Tiger basketball games and his earliest memories of the school are cheering for the 1952-53 ACJC basketball team, which finished as the national runner-up.
Prior to becoming the head softball coach at Cowley College Hargrove attended Cowley on a football scholarship. Known as an outstanding athlete, Hargrove played football for the Tigers during the 1965 and 1966 seasons and graduated from the school in 1967. He was an all-conference right tackle for the Tiger football team.
He went on to receive a baseball scholarship to Fort Hays State University, where he saw playing time as a starter alternating between first base and third base for the top-20 ranked baseball team.
After graduation, he went on to work 14 years as a Recreational Therapist at the Winfield State Hospital. Looking for a career change, Hargrove was hired at Cowley College in 1983 as the director of financial aid and Board of Trustees clerk.
He became head softball coach in the spring of 1985 and looks back fondly on winning the program's first Region VI title in 1986 as the team rallied to score two runs in the bottom of the 15th inning to beat Johnson County.
Cowley has since achieved 40 or more victories in 15 of the past 16 seasons and has appeared in the national rankings in 16 consecutive seasons.
Early in his career Hargrove attributed a lot of his success to the coaching philosophies of his college baseball coach, Earl Hobbs. As time went on, Hargrove learned the value of recruiting.
"It helps to have better players than the other team, but when teams of similar talent play each other coaching decisions can be crucial in winning and losing," Hargrove said.
Hargrove has been named the Jayhawk Conference Eastern Division Coach of the Year eight times. He won it in 2009 when the Lady Tigers were a perfect 26-0 in the Conference, while also capturing Coach of the Year honors in 2005 (18-0), 2004 (16-2), 2000 (29-3), 1999 (29-3), 1998 (28-4) and 1997 (28-4).
He was inducted into the NJCAA Softball Hall of Fame May 16, 2007 at the NJCAA National Tournament in Normal, IL. Hargrove also received the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission "Outstanding Achievement Award" on June 26, 2007 in recognition of his 800th win and induction into the NJCAA Softball Hall of Fame. Hargrove was inducted into the Cowley Tiger Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.
On February 23, 2013 Hargrove received the Pride of Kansas Award from the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in recognition of his years of dedication and commitment to the youth of Kansas in his role as head coach of one of the most successful softball programs over the past 30 years.
He married his wife, Linda, in 1970. Linda was a standout athlete at Cowley and went on to become the winningest coach (316-112) in the Lady Tiger basketball program's history. She is the only Cowley coach to take basketball and volleyball teams to the national tournament, and compiled a coaching record of 292-115-12 in her 10 seasons as head volleyball coach of the Tigers.
Linda was among the first class of inductees into the Tiger Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000. She was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 in recognition of her 17 years of coaching at Cowley, nine years as the women's basketball coach at Wichita State University and nine years as head coach/general manager in the WNBA with teams in Portland, OR and Washington D.C.
Linda was also inducted into the Southwestern College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992 and the NJCAA Hall of Fame in 1997.
The success Linda had drove Hargrove to succeed.
"I feel like Linda had a lot to do with the success I had at Cowley," Hargrove said. "She has been very supportive, but also her success led me to want to build a program to where I stood alone and could be known as Ed Hargrove the coach, rather than Linda Hargrove's husband."
Along with Linda, Hargrove received tremendous support from his daughter Tara, and her husband, Jeff, son Brian, and his wife, Lisa, as well as grandchildren, Jacob, Brynn, Halle, Grace, and Rylan.
"Their support has made coaching all these years much more enjoyable and fun," Hargrove said.
Hargrove has kept in touch with many of his players through the years and is widely respected for his coaching style.
"I will miss the contact with the players and the relationships with my players and the people at the college," Hargrove said. "I will miss coming to work every day and being around the other coaches and people in the athletic department. "I will also miss guiding the student-athletes to be successful people when they leave here. Many parents have treated me very well through the years and some of them continue to communicate with me even though their daughters have graduated and gone on."
Ed is looking forward to traveling more with Linda, and having the opportunity to watch more of his grandkids athletic events. He also plans on working to improve his golf game.
Along with this, he has the peace of mind of knowing he will be leaving the program on solid footing.
"In 30 years I believe we have built a clean, respected program that is known nationally," Hargrove said. "I feel we have done things the right way."