When Dr. Mary Roby was leading the Arizona Wildcats search for a softball coach in the summer of 1985, it was the athletic department’s intent to hire a woman.
But nearly everybody she talked to told her that she should hire Mike Candrea.
Like with most things she did as she oversaw the rise of women’s athletics at Arizona — from a campus rec sport, to the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, to the NCAA and the Pac-10 — she made the right call.
She interviewed only one person for the job — Candrea — and promptly recommended to athletic director Cedric Dempsey that he be hired. Four years after that, Roby hired swimming coach Frank Busch from Cincinnati.
How’s that for an enduring legacy?
Roby, who retired from the university in 1989, died Monday night in Tucson after a battle with cancer. She was 85.
“She gave me a great opportunity at a time when there were not a lot of male coaches being hired. She had the gumption to give me a chance,” Candrea said Tuesday.
“I look at her, and I look at a pioneer in women’s athletics. She was a very huge part of the growth of college athletics for the female athlete. I think she set the foundation for what we are today. We will dearly miss her.”