Throughout the history of APSU athletics, there have been numerous players, coaches and staff members that have helped in paving the way for the current generation of student-athletes.
While their impact may be overlooked by many, their legacies should be all but forgotten to current Governors.
The All State now highlights the career of former APSU softball coach and current Athletics Communications Assistant Chris Austin, who’s impact on the university’s athletics program is unmatched.
A Clarksville native, Austin graduated from nearby Clarksville High School before attending APSU in the late 1970s. His original plan for college was to get a history degree, teaching certificate and coach at the high school level, but his path was anything but what he could have expected.
After two years, Austin decided to take a gap year to save up to finish his degree; however, that year turned into about 15.
During those 15 years, he worked as an independent contractor, a sports writer for The Leaf-Chronicle, a baseball and softball umpire and much more. While he was not actively attending classes, he also still helped in the Sports Information office at APSU.
In the early ’90s, a state-wide budget crunch forced the university to cut back on salaries. This led to a coaching vacancy in the softball program after former head coach Cheri Kempf (1988-1991) stepped down from the program.
With the position now open, APSU Athletics Director Tim Weiser (1987-1993) turned to Austin, who only had experience coaching at the high school level, to lead the university’s softball program that had been around for just over half a decade.
It would make for a great story if the APSU softball program, who went 14-25 the year prior, immediately turned a corner in Austin’s first year, but this was not the case. However, a foundation was laid.
“The first year I had the team, we were so young,” he said. “I started seven freshmen, a junior who had only had one year of fast-pitch experience and a sophomore. We were basically a junior college team playing a Division I schedule. We took a lot of lumps early as shown in the record, but by the end of the year we went from getting beat soundly every game to actually being competitive.”
Following a 10-win season, one of the greatest student-athletes in the history of APSU Athletics, Andrea Miller, signed with Austin and the Govs.
Miller, a three-sport athlete during her collegiate career, was a four-time first-team All-OVC shortstop and the 1995 OVC Player of the Year — the only player to earn the award in program history. She still has her name painted all over the record books for her work on the field and on the hardwood for the APSU volleyball, softball and women’s basketball teams.
The offseason also saw steady progression from members of the team including APSU Hall of Fame member, Angela Thompson.
“She developed a rise ball between her freshman and sophomore year and rode that rise ball into the hall of fame,” Austin said.
In her sophomore campaign, Thompson had a 24-6 record and 0.78 ERA from the circle. She picked up 57 victories during her four years for the Govs. All three marks still rank first all-time for APSU softball.
After going 10-36 in his first year at the helm of the softball program, Austin and the Governors went 28-22 the following year. The +18-win differential ranked third-best across the NCAA that year.
Austin coached APSU softball for seven years, tallying 134 wins during that span. No other coach in the program’s 36-year history has come close, with Tara McCoy (1998-2003) in second at 93.
Many of his team’s wins came without him having an assistant coach and with just three scholarships available.
It was not until his final year as the Governors’ head coach that the program was able to hire a full-time assistant. The two years prior, Austin had a part-time assistant with no prior knowledge of the sport.
Today, Austin is still a vital part of APSU softball: as the athletics communication’s liaison, he covers his former team that is now coached by Kassie Stanfill.
From a desk, a dugout or the press box, Chris Austin has been – and continues to be — a vital part in the growth of APSU softball and athletics as a whole.