published Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Beth Keylon-Randolph new coach at ECU

  • photo
    Chattanooga State softball coach Beth Keylon-Randolph encourages her team during the state/region tournament championship.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

The proverbial other shoe finally dropped Tuesday.

Four days after Beth Keylon-Randolph resigned at Chattanooga State Community College to become the softball coach at East Carolina University -- a job that unofficially had been hers for a couple of weeks -- the Greenville, N.C., school finished contract details and announced her hiring Tuesday.

She officially did not have a job offer from ECU until resigning after 11 years as the Lady Tigers' coach, but her successor at Chattanooga State -- Blythe Golden -- was announced Friday while Keylon-Randolph awaited some contract-wording revisions.

She and her family made the long drive Monday to Greenville.

"This opportunity is something I've been preparing for my entire life," said the 40-year-old former Hixson High School and Tennessee Tech pitching and batting star who went 602-118 with the Lady Tigers, culminating in the 2012 junior college national championship. "Now it won't be just two years of young women's lives but the whole four years I can have an affect on."

She had turned down four head-coaching offers from four-year schools in the past.

"Coach Keylon-Randolph's national championship last season is impressive," ECU athletic director Terry Holland said in the school's announcement, "but even more noteworthy is the fact that her teams have consistently ranked in the Top Ten for over a decade."

Besides her husband, Scott Randolph, and sons Cole and Trey, Keylon-Randolph also will have the familiarity in Greenville of her Chattanooga State assistant coach and athletic director, Steve Jaecks. ECU hired him Tuesday also.

Kim Smith, a former Chattanooga State basketball coach and athletic director still on the faculty at the community college, will be its interim AD through the end of the school year. Even while teaching physical education classes, she served for a while as an academic adviser for the athletic department.

"Kim has a great background and can just step into the role," Chattanooga State president Jim Catanzaro said. "She was an excellent athlete and played intercollegiately, and she loves athletics."

ECU's athletic department includes two former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball coaches, Mack McCarthy and Jeff Lebo. Lebo is the Pirates' coach and McCarthy is a former coach and now an assistant athletic director. He headed the search for a softball coach after Tracy Kee was fired last month after 15 years in the job. Associate head coach Natalie Kozlowski was dismissed along with Kee.

Keylon-Randolph specifically praised McCarthy, Holland and another assistant AD, J.J. McLamb, for their graciousness and professionalism during the process.

"They were very welcoming," she said. "Greenville is like a smaller version of Chattanooga, and ECU's facilities are amazing. They have spared no expense.

"And Conference USA is a tremendous conference for softball: Four teams went to NCAA regionals last year. ECU wasn't one of them, but they won the conference tournament back to back in '10 and '11."

In the official announcement of her hiring, she said, "The expectation of Pirate softball is high, and I love stepping into that type of challenge. My goal as a mentor is to provide the motivation and atmosphere that will produce the finest young women athletes that are number one in academics, number one on the field and outstanding citizens."

Keylon-Randolph and Jaecks had individual meetings with the ECU players Tuesday and said they went well.

Leaving her Chattanooga State players was the hardest part about taking the new job, Keylon-Randolph said Friday.

"It's one of the toughest things I've ever had to do," she said. "I am invested in them and I'm attached to them. I have two boys at home; these are my girls."

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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