Action Follows Internal Inquiry Into Program Complaints
Pair On Paid Suspension Pending Outcome Of Internal Inquiry Into Program Complaints
Tryouts will be held at the ECU Softball Stadium
Kelsi Briggs Commits To East Carolina
Sophomore With 4.00 GPA, One Of Just Three Underclassmen Selected
Tracey Kee is a pillar of stability for the East Carolina softball program.
She begins her 26th year with the Pirates in 2012, having spent four seasons as a standout player (1987-90) and six as an assistant coach (1991-96) before taking over the helm in 1997.
The two-time reigning National Fastpitch Coaches Association Mideast Region Coaching Staff-of-the-Year honoree has built East Carolina into a model program for student-athletes as her teams have been recognized not only for their continued success on the field, but also for their outstanding academic achievements and community involvement.
Victories have been in no short supply for the Pirates under Kee, who has led the program to consecutive Conference USA Tournament championships and back-to-back NCAA Tournament regional final appearances. In 2011, East Carolina became the first C-USA program to win two-straight tournament titles since DePaul from 2002-05. The crown also marked the first time ECU softball has won consecutive tournament titles in any conference since the fastpitch program began in 1984.
Since the start of the 2009 campaign, no Conference USA program has won more games than East Carolina's 125. ECU captured 41 victories in 2011 to become only the fourth squad in C-USA history to win 40 or more games in three-straight seasons. Kee's clubs have reached the 40-victory plateau in seven of the past eight, and 12 of her 15, seasons. Four times her teams have tallied 50 or more triumphs, including the 2000 group she directed to a school-record 60 victories. Personally, she reached the 650-win threshold as a head coach in 2011.
Kee's 1997 team set the benchmark for future success as it won 49 games and she was named the Big South Coach-of-the-Year. Two seasons later, in 1999, East Carolina won 50 games and made its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, playing in the Tucson Regional that included nationally ranked Maryland and Arizona.
At the end of the 1999 campaign, ECU standout Isonette Polonius received Third Team Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-America recognition after being a second-team member in 1998. Polonius, a 2009 East Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, was the first All-America selection in program history, a two-time Academic All-America honoree and the 1999 GTE Academic All-America-of-the-Year.
The Pirates outgrew the Big South and became a Southern Athletic Softball Alliance (SASA) member for the 2000 and 2001 seasons. SASA comprised five Atlantic Coast Conference teams and ECU. In 2001, the Pirates again eclipsed the 50-victory mark with 51. In just four seasons as a head coach, Kee became the third-fastest in Division I to reach the 200-win plateau.
SASA did not have a postseason tournament, so ECU took part in the East Coast Athletic Conference Tournament and won its titles in 2000 and 2001. During the SASA years, Kee coached ECU's other two-time All-America selection in Keisha Shepperson, who received the honor in 2000 and 2001.
A move to Conference USA followed in 2002. In the 10 seasons since joining the league, East Carolina has tallied 10 or more conference wins every year but one. The last seven years have seen the Pirates finish no lower than fifth during the regular season. ECU won its first C-USA titles in 2010, claiming both the regular season and tournament titles before repeating as tournament champions in 2011. The 2007 squad also played in the league championship title game, falling to Houston 1-0.
Just four years after the Pirates joined C-USA, in 2005, Kee was named the league's coach-of-the-year for orchestrating a seven-game turnaround from the previous season and guiding ECU to a 17-7 C-USA record.
In 2008, East Carolina made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a member of C-USA as it received an at-large bid. The team defeated Mississippi Valley State at the NCAA Regional in Baton Rouge, La., giving the program its first NCAA Tournament victory.
The success continued a year later as the Pirates set the program record for most Conference USA wins in a season with 19 and league three-game series sweeps with four. Kee was named the C-USA Coach-of-the-Year for her team's efforts.
The 2010 campaign produced the first C-USA regular season and tournament championships and Kee repeated as the league's coach-of-the-year. The Pirates received C-USA's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, and traveled to the Austin Regional. There, the team lost to BYU in the opening round before shutting out Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Iona 3-0 and host, No. 7 national seed and 12th ranked Texas 1-0. East Carolina fell to BYU in its first regional championship appearance.
Following the loss of seven seniors from the 2010 squad, Kee's coaching ability was on full display in 2011 as the team featured 10 freshmen. Still, the Pirates repeated as Conference USA Tournament champions and regional finalists. Since the 2004 league championship, no title winner has had more than five rookies. Four of ECU's first-year players made the C-USA All-Freshman Team, tied for the most selections in a year in league history.
With the NCAA Tournament automatic bid, East Carolina headed to the College Park Regional and won its NCAA opener for the first time, downing host Maryland 5-1. Following its win over the Terrapins, ECU fell to Baylor 2-0. The Pirates then defeated the Terrapins again, this time by a 2-0 score, to advance to the regional final versus the Bears, who handed East Carolina a 1-0 setback. The Pirates started eight freshmen in the regional final against Baylor, the most for any program in a regional finale since the NCAA Tournament went to the regional-super regional-Women's College World Series format in 2005.
In addition to the team success, numerous players have earned all-conference and all-region selections under Kee's guidance. During her time in the Big South, she led 11 all-conference players, two rookie-of-the-year selections, the league's tournament MVP, Denise Reagan, in 1999 and the two-time league player-of-the-year in Polonius (1998 and 1999).
Since joining Conference USA, the accolades have continued as Kee's players have picked up 12 first-team selections and 15 second-team honors. Additionally, 14 student-athletes have been named to the all-rookie team with two named the league's freshman-of-the-year. In 2009, Kee guided Toni Paisley to Conference USA Female Athlete-of-the-Year honors, becoming the first Pirate in any sport to claim the conference's athlete-of-the-year award and just the second softball selection in league history. Kee also helped Paisley to three-straight C-USA Pitcher-of-the-Year awards from 2009-11 and to Louisville Slugger/NFCA Third-Team All-America honors in 2010. Six players have also received all-region recognition under Kee since joining C-USA.
The talented individuals have led to a Kee hallmark - fundamentally sound teams. NCAA statistics show the Pirates have finished third or higher in the country in fielding percentage four of the last five years, including a nation-best .980 mark in 2010.
Off the field, Kee takes pride in the fact that her teams excel academically. Since 2005, her squads have finished in the top 50 among all Division I softball programs in grade-point average each year but two. In 2007, her team compiled the 20th-highest average in the country while the 2009 squad placed 40th. The Pirates have also claimed three of the last four Conference USA Sport Academic Awards for softball by having the league's highest GPA.
Her players also spend countless hours participating in community service activities such as The American Cancer Society's annual Relay for Life, the ECU Thanksgiving canned food drive, the Reindeer Dash for Cash 5K and 10-mile races, clinics for area youth teams and numerous other community projects. Pirate softball players embody the ideal student-athlete and the values instilled in them are passed from one team to the next.
Before her coaching career, Kee was a standout student-athlete for ECU from 1987-90. The Richmond, Va., native was a four-year starter at catcher or third base, two-time captain, outstanding defensive player and recipient of the Texas Gulf Outstanding Female Scholar-Athlete Award. She graduated cum laude in May of 1990 with a bachelor's degree in physical education and, in 1995, earned her master's degree from ECU in exercise and sport science with a concentration in athletic administration. She also dedicated five years to teaching physical education at St. Peter's Catholic School in Greenville.
Kee finally hung up her cleats in the summer of 1996 after garnering three USSSA All-World accolades in slow-pitch. In January of 2009, she was inducted into the Saint Gertrude High School athletic Hall of Fame in Richmond. Kee is the daughter of Jean Alford and has three sisters, two of whom played softball at East Carolina.