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Kelly Ford Retires After Illustrious Coaching Career

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Kelly Ford, the third all-time head coach in the Titans 45-year softball history, has announced her retirement after 31 collegiate seasons. Ford collected 410 wins over 12 seasons as Cal State Fullerton’s head softball coach and 865 combined wins as head coach at Mt. San Antonio College and Cal State Fullerton. 

“I think I’ve had the best job in the world, being out there on the field every day with incredible student-athletes has been a blast and an honor,” Ford said. “I appreciate the administration, especially Director of Athletics Jim Donovan, for the support they have given me and this program over the last 12 years. Knowing the importance and impact both Judi Garman and Michelle Gromacki created around this program, I made it my goal to make them proud and honor the greatness they started.” 

This legacy included 60 wins against Power 5 programs, six Big West titles, seven NCAA tournament appearances, five Big West Coach of the Year honors, two NFCA Gold Glove recipients, one NFCA Gold Shoe honoree, three All-American awards, eight conference players of the year, six conference pitchers of the year and three defensive players of the year. 

“I’m so very, very grateful and thankful for Coach Ford’s leadership of Titans Softball for the past 12 years,” said Donovan. “Her program’s accomplishments — seven NCAA post-season appearances — have built onto the elite legacies of Titans Softball legends Judi Garman and Michelle Gromacki.”

Shortly after her hire, current Titans Softball associate head coach Jorge Araujo joined Ford’s coaching staff. 

“Through everything I have accomplished, Jorge has been right next to me. He is an outstanding coach and an even better friend,” Ford said. “I will miss our hikes, jokes and hilarious conversations and writing those winning lineups together. I am indebted to all players who have proudly worn the Titans uniform and to the coaches who I’ve had the privilege of coaching alongside.”

“I have never encountered a more hard-working individual than Coach Ford. Her relentless work ethic and determination always set her apart, inspiring those around her to strive for excellence,” Araujo said. “I am grateful for the 12 years spent alongside her on and off the field. Her impact on the Titans program and those around her is undeniable. Above all, I cherish the friendship that has blossomed, knowing that I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside a true leader and create a friendship that transcends the game of softball.” 

During her tenure, two Cal State Fullerton players earned NFCA All-American honors, 20 different players earned NFCA All-Region honors, with Desiree Ybarra (2012-16), Missy Taukeiaho (2014-16), Lexi Gonzalez (2014-17), Julia Valenzuela (2017-21), Hannah Becerra (2021-24) and Megan Delgadillo (2020-24) earning multiple All-Region awards. Under her coaching, 48 players produced 91 All-Big West Conference awards, with Becerra and Daisy Munoz (2019-23) being four-time selections. 

Ford garnered nine years of experience as an assistant coach at the Division I level, adding time spent at Cal State Northridge with a year (1993) at her alma mater, Oklahoma. Before returning to Fullerton, Ford served 11 seasons (2002-12) as the head coach at Mt. SAC in Walnut where she guided the softball program to four California State Championships (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009), seven South Coast Conference Championships (2003-08, 2011) and earned South Coach Conference Coach of the Year honors five times. Ford’s 11-year career at the community college ended with a staggering 455-102-1 (.816) record. Coach Ford was voted into the California Community College Softball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2014. 

Off the field, Ford spent years serving as a representative from the West Region on multiple National Fastpitch Coaches Association committees, including the All-American and Regional Ranking committees. 

Her tenure with the Titans ends with another winning season, 39-19 overall. The Titans returned the Big West Championship title to Anderson Family Field on May 11 after defeating the defending champions Long Beach State 10-4. They finished conference play with a 22-5 record and stood 11-1 at home against conference opponents. 

After 12 years, Ford earned a 230-118 record when playing at Anderson Family Field and held a 190-65 winning record in The Big West. She has posted a winning record with every coaching stint she has held, walking away with a combined coaching record of 865-342-2 across her 23 years split as head coach of the Mt. SAC and Cal State Fullerton softball programs. 

“After 31 total years of coaching, 12 unforgettably successful years of leading this Titans Softball program, and a trip to the NCAA Regional Finals after being crowned the 2024 Big West champs, I knew it was now time to dedicate all my energy to my daughter Sarah,” Ford said. “I have been so fortunate to have found my passion in coaching. Not many people get to say they truly love their job, but I do. I will miss my Titan family deeply and will be cheering you on from afar. Once a Titan, always a Titan.” 

A national search for the next Titans Softball head coach will begin immediately. Sara Perry, CFO, senior woman administrator and Titan Softball sports supervisor, will co-chair the search committee with Donovan. 

“On behalf of the entire university and all of our fans and supporters, I congratulate Coach Ford on an absolutely outstanding career,” Donovan said. “We have been unbelievably fortunate to have Kelly, and I wish Kelly and Sarah all the very best as they move back home to their family in the Pacific Northwest.” 

Coach Ford has agreed to participate in a retirement fundraising event to endow a Titans Softball scholarship in her name. Tentatively, this fundraising event will happen in early September. More details will follow via social media and our Titans Athletics website. Please plan to attend and help us celebrate Coach Ford’s career and help us endow a Titans Softball scholarship in her honor. 

Athletics Communications