Chris Hawkins is in his 24th season as the head coach of the USC Upstate softball program.
To say that Hawkins is synonymous with the softball program and the athletic department is an understatement. He has taken the softball program to heights never seen before and has set numerous firsts for all teams in the department. He coached the 2013 softball team to the program’s and department’s first-ever ASUN Tournament Championship and automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. He coached the 2013 squad to the program’s and department’s first-ever Top 25 national ranking in a major Top 25 poll. He also became the first Upstate coach to lead a team to a No. 1 statistical ranking in the NCAA, coaching the team to the nation’s top defense to end the 2013 season. He earned even more accomplishments in 2014, leading the Spartans to a Division I era record for wins en route to earning ASUN Coach of the Year honors. In 2015, Upstate broke 64 team or school individual records, and finished in the top five nationally in home runs, slugging percentage, team batting average and fielding percentage.
The 2017 ASUN Coach of the Year, Hawkins has led Upstate to five consecutive NCAA Division I Tournament appearances (2013-17), four straight appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament (2004-07), the 2008 Regular Season ASUN Championship in the Spartans first season playing on the NCAA Division I level and in the ASUN, the 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 ASUN Tournament Championship, and the 2014, 2015 and 2017 ASUN Regular Season title. He has coached 11 of Upstate’s twelve 40-win seasons in the history of the program. In all, he has coached seven All-Americans, ten Conference Player or Pitcher of the Year selections, seven Conference Freshman of the Year recipients and 73 All-Conference selections. In addition, he is one of the all-time greats to ever play baseball at the university and was inducted into the USC Upstate Athletics Hall of Fame in February of 2003.
The winningest coach in the history of the softball program with 859 victories, Hawkins reached the 800-win milestone with a 3-0 victory over Western Carolina on April 6, 2016. He has compiled an 855-344-1 record, all spent at Upstate. His 859 career victories are the most of any coach in the history of the Upstate Athletics Department. In honoring his exemplary career and for serving as an ambassador for the university, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award during the 2014 December Commencement.
Hawkins has reached the height of his coaching career the last five seasons, leading the Spartans to five straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. He did so in 2013 as the ASUN Tournament champions armed with the league’s automatic berth, while playing into the tournament as an at-large selection in 2014. In 2015, Upstate won both the ASUN Regular Season and Tournament Championships. The 2016 squad captured the ASUN Tournament Championship while in 2017 the program secured both the ASUN Regular Season and Tournament championships.
Presently, Hawkins ranks 15th among the winningest active coaches in NCAA Division I by winning percentage and 23rd by victories.
The 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons were a culmination in a steady buildup of the program since moving to Division in 2007-08. He led the team to a 34-15 record in 2008, rattling off 11 wins in the final 12 conference games to vault into a tie for the ASUN Regular Season Championship in the program’s first year playing on the Division I level. Morgan Childers was named the ASUN Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, marking the only time in conference history a player has earned the two awards in the season. Three Spartans earned All-Conference honors and four players were named to the league’s All-Freshman Team. Childers was also an NFCA Second Team All-Region selection. Upstate would have been the No. 1 seed in the ASUN Tournament had it been eligible to participate in the tournament during its transitional period.
Prior to Upstate’s move to Division 1 in 2007-08, Hawkins built a program that competed at the highest level of NCAA Division II. He guided the Spartans to four straight appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament from 2004-07, finishing the 2007 season with a school record 47 wins and a 47-15 record. He also had five All-Conference selections in the Peach Belt and the league’s Co-Player of the Year in Vanesa Flores. He led the Spartans to a 41-18-1 record in 2006.
Hawkins coached what was arguably the best season in the Division II history of the program in 2005 as Upstate claimed a 46-15 record and advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Spartans made it to the championship game of the South Atlantic Regional before falling to eventual national runner-up Kennesaw State. Under his guidance, Krista Altom earned First Team All-America honors, four players were named All-Region and to the Regional All-Tournament Team, and two players earned All-Conference honors.
In the final eight seasons playing on the Division II level, the Spartans had 15 players named to the Peach Belt All-Conference Team, 13 players named to the All-South Region squad, and three All-Americans.
Hawkins began his coaching career as an assistant at Upstate under Mark Cooke during the 1989 softball season. He played fast pitch softball and coordinated several fast pitch softball camps across South Carolina. He played fast pitch softball during the summers for Ehrhardt Motor Company for 11 years. The team competed in tournaments across the Southeast and in the summers of 1995-97, won the state men’s fast pitch open division championship and finished eighth in the nation.
Hawkins, who graduated from USC Upstate in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, was a member of Upstate’s first varsity baseball team in 1986. He led the NJCAA in strikeouts with 144 in 75.1 innings while at Anderson (S.C.) College in 1985. His career collegiate pitching record at Western Carolina (N.C.) University, Anderson and Upstate was 30-9 with 11 saves. Hawkins was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1985 and again by the Houston Astros in 1987; he played in the Astros system in 1988.
He was active as a coach of summer travel ball. Hawkins coached for the Carolina Crush (Orange), Palmetto Power and Carolina Elite organizations, leading various teams to state championships and top 10 finishes in national tournaments.
As interim volleyball coach in 1994, Hawkins led Upstate to a 38-4 record and a second consecutive Peach Belt Conference title.
A native of Seneca, S.C., Hawkins and his wife, Anje, live in Moore with their sons; Kyle, Brooks and Ryan.