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Jenny Allard, a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame, departed Harvard after a nearly three-decade tenure to become the new head softball coach at the University of Pittsburgh.
Before she joined the college coaching ranks, Allard was a star player for the University of Michigan, beginning her career at third base before transitioning to pitcher midway through her time with the Wolverines. She was a four-time selection to the All-Big Ten Team, and in 1989, she won the Big Ten Player of the Year after posting a 0.75 ERA as a pitcher while notching a .351 batting average from the plate.
Harvard hired Allard as head coach in 1995 after she spent two years as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa. With the Hawkeyes, Allard worked under head coach Gayle Blevins, who ranks second in Division I softball history with 1,245 career victories, and Iowa recorded two 30-win campaigns and an NCAA tournament appearance during Allard’s tenure.
Allard’s impact on the field in Cambridge was immediate. In her first season in 1995, the rookie head coach led the Crimson to a 10-win improvement over the previous season and a second-place finish in the Ivy League. Harvard finished in second place for another two seasons before breaking through for an Ivy League title and NCAA tournament bid in 1998. The Crimson won another two Ivy League titles in 2000 and 2001, and Allard finished the first ten years of her Harvard career with 244 wins, dwarfing the Crimson’s total during its first 14 years of play.
In Allard’s second decade in the Harvard dugout, the Crimson posted eight seasons with winning records, including three seasons with 30 or more victories that culminated in Ivy League titles and trips to the NCAA tournament. Harvard’s 2011 team set a program record with 36 wins, and the 2012 squad nearly matched that total while advancing to the NCAA regional finals for the first time in school history.
Since 2015, the Crimson has posted a winning record in every season (excluding the 2020 season that was canceled before completion), while winning Ivy League regular season and postseason titles in 2019 and 2023. During her nearly 30 years in the dugout at Soldiers’ Field, Allard coached over 200 All-Ivy team selections, seven Ivy League Players of the Year, eight Ivy League Pitchers of the Year, seven Ivy Rookies of the Year, and three All-Americans.
“It was definitely a surprise for us,” noted rising sophomore Riley Flynn of Harvard softball regarding Allard’s departure from Cambridge. “Everybody who has played for Harvard softball or is playing right now just loves Coach [Allard].”
Allard’s time as a pitcher for Michigan served as an important part of her campaign as coach. For Flynn — the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player in the Ivy League Tournament — Allard’s experience in collegiate softball has made for an integral part of her Harvard career on the mound thus far.
Flynn noted that Coach Allard, “facilitated our softball skills and helped us on the field,” but also “just made us better people.”
“I think anybody that has played for her at Harvard softball, going back decades, I think they'll say the same thing,” she added.
Her coach’s move to the Keystone State leaves a void in the Harvard softball program, which Allard has been with for 28 seasons. Though still in the question is who will be at the helm of the Crimson next season, the team will look for another Ivy League Tournament title. On May 13, then-No. 2 Harvard captured the sought-after championship over its rival Princeton in a gritty 3-2 game shortly after a 6-0 loss to the Tigers.
However, more important to the Crimson is finding a coach who will form wholesome players — both on the field and in the classroom.
“In a coach, we're just looking for someone that has the same values as we do,” Flynn reflected. “I think the Ivy League is a different league than some of the other ones where we have to put more focus on academics and which coach did so well.”
“We're looking for a coach that's going to really help us grow as people and players and leaders,” Flynn said.
—Staff writer Mairead B. Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @baker_mairead.
—Staff writer Aaron B. Shuchman can be reached at email@example.com.
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