Entering her 16th season at Kent State and 29th season as a college head coach, Karen Linder has built a national reputation for the Golden Flash program that has only gotten better in recent years. In her last six seasons, Linder has led the Golden Flashes to five Mid-American Conference East Division titles with a combined 92-31 mark in conference play. During that time KSU has won three MAC regular season titles (2007, 2008, 2010) and two MAC Tournament championships (2006, 2008) leading to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances.
Linder has coached 26 seasons of fastpitch softball, boasting a 681-550-1 career record. During that span, she has recruited and coached 10 Academic All-Americans, six All-Americans, two NCAA postgraduate scholarship winners and has won 11 conference titles. In 16 years at Kent State, Linder has earned three MAC Coach of the Year honors (2004. 2008, 2010), posted a 444-380 (.561) overall record, a 226-137 (.630) MAC mark and seven 30-win seasons. The Flashes have earned MAC Tournament appearances in eight straight years under Linder, the longest current streak of any MAC program.
After becoming the winningest coach in Kent State history during the 2007 season, Linder's 2008 team reached a whole new set of program milestones. The '08 squad's 46 wins were the most by a MAC team since league play began in 1983 and the most in school history. At 20-2, the Flashes posted their best conference winning percentage (.909) in program history and went on to become the first MAC team since 2002 to win both a regular season and tournament title in the same year. Linder earned career win number 600 and win number 350 at Kent State that season. She hit the 350-win plateau at the NCAA Tournament, when the Golden Flashes eliminated Wright State and Notre Dame in the same day. In 2008, Linder also won her second MAC Coach of the Year honor.
The daughter of the late Dick Fishbaugh, who coached baseball at Otterbein for 33 seasons, Linder's most unique accomplishment came in 2010 when she matched and passed her father's career victory total of 617. Together, they are the only father and daughter in NCAA history to each win 600 games as head coaches.
Notable numbers during Linder's tenure at Kent State include one All-American, 14 All-Mid-East Region selections, 22 Academic All-District IV honorees, 48 Academic All-MAC picks, 42 All-MAC players, 16 MAC All-Tournament Team members, four MAC Pitchers of the Year, two MAC Tournament MVPs and one MAC Player of the Year. The Flashes have won seven MAC East crowns since the conference was split into divisions in 1998. Since then, KSU has also earned a pair of second place finishes in the East.
Only the fifth head coach in Kent State's 36-year history, Linder was appointed to her position on Aug. 7, 1996, succeeding Sue Lilley Nevar. Prior to coming to Kent State, Linder was the head softball coach at Division II Ashland University for 11 seasons.
"We want all of our team members to continually strive for excellence on and off the field," Linder said of her objectives. "Academic and athletic excellence is our number-one goal."
Academic Excellence was more than just achieved in 2009 when the Golden Flashes finished the academic year with a 3.43 team grade point average, the seventh highest in the nation.
Each of her last four teams at Ashland won more than 30 games and were nationally ranked, both academically and athletically. Her overall record with the Eagles was 253-200-1 (.558), including a 124-55 mark (.693) during the last four seasons.
In 1996, Ashland won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in the Eagles' first year in the league and placed second in the NCAA Division II regional. The 1996 squad climbed as high as seventh in the national poll.
Linder's teams also won a conference title in 1990 when Ashland was a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. She also served as head basketball coach at Ashland from 1985-93 and was a physical education instructor.
From 1982-1985, she was the head coach for softball (slowpitch) and women's basketball at Union College in Barboursville, Kentucky. Her coaching career began at Eastern Kentucky as a graduate assistant.
During her tenure at KSU, Linder has served on the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American Selection Committee, the NCAA Regional Ranking Committee and the MAC Executive Softball Committee. She currently serves as the Mid-American Conference representative for the NFCA Top 25.
A native of Columbus, Linder earned her bachelor's degree in education from Otterbein College in 1980 and her master's degree in physical education from Eastern Kentucky University in 1982. Inducted into Otterbein's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009, she co-captained the Cardinals' softball and volleyball teams. She and her husband, Tom, reside in Tallmadge and have two sons, Thomas and Tucker.