Texas A&M University-Commerce Athletic Director Ryan Ivey today announced the hiring of Richie Bruister as the head coach of the Lions' first-ever softball program, which gets underway in the spring of 2015.
"We are excited to welcome Richie and his family to A&M-Commerce," Ivey said. "His credentials, success and knowledge of the North Texas region and the Lone Star Conference make him a great fit to begin our program."
"This is an exciting time for Lion Athletics," said University President Dr. Dan Jones. "For the first time in our university's 125-year history, we will be providing an opportunity for talented young women from throughout the region to combine their passion for softball with their desire for a world-class educational experience. Now, there is no better place to do both than Texas A&M University-Commerce."
An experienced coach with a strong emphasis on both academic and athletic performance, Bruister brings with him an impressive resume with a great deal of experience with both the Lone Star Conference and the North Texas area. He has won nearly 350 games in his 10 seasons as a head coach, winning nearly 65 percent of his games in the dugout.
For the past five seasons, Bruister served as the head coach of Texas Woman's University, establishing the Pioneers' program into one of the best not just in the region, but in all of Division II. He compiled a career record of 183-97 (.654) in his five years in Denton, including four straight appearances in the LSC Championship appearances and three trips to the NCAA tournament.
This past season, Bruister led TWU to its best season in program history, notching 51 victories en route to sweeping both the LSC regular season and tournament titles. Ranked first in the NCAA South Central Region, the Pioneers went undefeated in four home tournament games, advancing to the NCAA Division II Softball National Championship for the first time in program history.
Texas Woman's was ranked as high as sixth in the nation in 2013 as Bruister was named Coach of the Year by both the Lone Star Conference and the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
During his time in Denton, Bruister oversaw a program which produced 33 All-LSC honors, 12 All-South Central Region selections with five All-Americans. Bruister also elevated the academic performance of his student-athletes. The 2011 squad placed an impressive third in the NFCA Division II Academic Top Ten Teams with a team GPA of 3.502. The Pioneers surpassed that in 2012 with a 3.510, best ever in the program's history.
Bruister came to Texas Woman's after a successful five-year run as the head softball coach at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas from 2004-08. The Lady Reddies compiled a 163-93 (.637) record with Bruister in the dugout after posting a 46-143 mark in the five seasons prior to his arrival. Bruister won more than 30 games in three of his five years at HSU, including the 2008 campaign when the Lady Reddies went 39-18 to tie the school record for most wins in a season.
Bruister's coaching abilities at HSU helped produce 12 All-Gulf South Conference (GSC) first team performers, eight All-GSC second team members, two All-South Central Region first team selections, and two All-South Central Region second team players. Bruister also has his own Gulf South Conference hardware, as he took home the GSC Softball Coach of the Year trophy in 2004 after guiding the Lady Reddies to a sterling 34-13 record in his first season as a collegiate head coach.
Before his tenure at Henderson State, Bruister worked for three seasons (2001-03) as the Assistant Softball Coach at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi. He got his start in coaching with student assistant coaching stints at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Mississippi, and Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi.
Bruister received his Associate's Degree from Hinds in 1997 and then went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in 1999 and his Master of Science degree in 2000 from Mississippi State. He and his wife, Kim, have three children: Cole, Anna Claire and Logan.
Bruister comes to Commerce with a challenging task ahead of him as he is charged with building the Lions' softball program from the ground up. He will begin recruiting immediately as softball student-athletes can begin enrolling at A&M-Commerce this fall. Those players will receive a redshirt season as they begin conditioning and skill exercises.
The Lions will then participate in organized fall workouts and tournaments in the fall of 2014, leading up to the program's inaugural season in the spring of 2015. Stay tuned to LionAthletics.com, as well as A&M-Commerce's Facebook and Twitter social media platforms for all the latest news regarding the Lion softball program, as well as the other 11 A&M-Commerce intercollegiate programs.