Coach Connie Tilley
Tilley nets 900th collegiate win
Plenty has changed in women’s intercollegiate athletics since Connie Tilley arrived at St. Norbert in 1977, but one thing has remained constant: successful teams with her at the helm.
On Feb. 8, during her 35th year in De Pere, Tilley picked up her 900th coaching victory spread over three sports. Her women’s basketball team claimed a 60-36 win at Beloit College, meaning the milestone was reached in Tilley’s hometown.
Entering the 2012 Midwest Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament, Tilley has fashioned a 573-262 record in the sport. Her 35 years coaching women’s basketball at St. Norbert is surpassed only by two people who have coached longer at a single institution of higher learning – Elizabethtown’s Yvonne Kauffman (42 years) and Tennessee’s iconic Pat Summitt (38 years).
Tilley also spent nine years coaching volleyball, going 130-76 from 1977 to 1985, and 13 seasons coaching softball, finishing 199-120 from 1983 to 1995. As of Feb. 22, Tilley’s collegiate coaching record stands at 902-458 with 21 conference titles in 57 sports seasons. Only four of her teams have finished a season below .500.
Throughout her first decade as a coach, Tilley often saw student-athletes participate in two or even three sports. She says: “When I came in 1977, I was fortunate to have people like Becky (Coenen) Rottier ’81 and Liz Kleba ’81 here. They were very good athletes, and we were really good in our first few years. We were really fortunate to have athletes like that playing all three sports.”
Things are different now, Tilley says. “As time has gone on through the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, athletes have specialized in one sport, not multiple sports.”
Likewise, coaching more than one sport as Tilley used to do is all but impossible today. She says: “It was the hardest when the sports overlapped seasons with two practices a day. It was hard on me but even more on the student-athletes.”
Recruiting has also changed during Tilley’s decades as a coach. She notes that in the early years, not many schools recruited female athletes; rather, colleges sported women’s teams from their field of female students. Now recruiting is common practice.
If Tilley’s past success is any indication of the future, she just might hit another coaching milestone. With the women’s basketball team currently averaging 22 wins per season, Tilley would reach her 1,000th career win sometime during the 2016-17 season – which would be her 40th year as coach.