Crissy Strimple didn’t mask her desire to become Tulsa’s next head softball coach.
A few years ago, her former boss, John Bargfeldt, asked her during an on-campus walk what her long-term plans were in the profession. His idea was to steer the conversation toward her becoming his associate head coach.
Tulsa’s home, Strimple told him. She referred to her family in the city and years of service coaching at the school from 2007. She talked about her playing days in the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
“Honestly — and I hope that this doesn’t come across like I’m trying to take anyone’s position — but this would be my dream job,” Strimple told Bargfeldt.
Last summer, Strimple’s dream came true, as she became the program’s sixth head coach after spending 14 seasons in the TU dugout as a player and coach. When Bargfeldt announced his resignation — he would later become Oklahoma State’s pitching coach — Strimple took over five days later.
Strimple had opportunities to leave Tulsa in the past, including a head coach opportunity and to be an assistant coach at a Power 5 school, but she appears to have been molded for this moment.
Strimple’s love for softball came when she played for “The Jammers” during her youth, from age 5 to 18. The team mainly played slow-pitch softball until she was 12, when the team transitioned into fastpitch.
While at Moore High School, she tore her ACL during her senior season, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Strimple played two seasons at NEO before transferring to TU. Her time at the junior college turned out to be “one of the best things that ever happened to me,” she said.
She played with sophomores and fellow freshmen when she arrived and became a team leader. There was the opportunity to play so many games. And then she learned under NEO coach Eric Iverson, who is a mentor to this day.
“He just does a great job with his program of making you play hard. You want to play hard,” Strimple said. “Even though it wasn’t Division I, I got what college athletics was about while playing for him. I wouldn’t change those two years for anything.”
The third baseman was Tulsa’s offensive player of the year in her two seasons. The 2002 team was the first to finish above .500 and helped set the tone for what has become a tradition-rich program.
After working as director of operations at Arkansas and also spending time at Central Arkansas, she joined the TU staff in 2007. The program won six Conference USA and American Athletic Conference championships and made nine NCAA Tournament appearances during that 12-year span.
“You look at that wall and how many championships Tulsa has been a part of and knowing when we step on the field … even though we are in the Power 6 and Conference USA would call us a mid-major, you have the respect of the softball community and softball nation,” Strimple said.
On Friday, Tulsa faces Tennessee Tech in the season opener.
“I think I’ll have jitters. I’m just excited to get going,” she said. “I can get pretty pumped up and excited, but I also think I can stay even-keeled and not let the moment get too big.
“I want to make sure I put the players in the right position to be successful and prepared for the first game.”