University of North Dakota Athletics Director Brian Faison announced on July 21, 2011, that former Eastern Michigan University assistant coach Eric Oakley was named head coach of the North Dakota softball program.
In his first year with UND, Oakley led UND to an 18-29 record, including winning 10 of 12 games from March 25-April 21, while having a program record seven players named to the all-conference team.
Oakley coached Kenna Olsen to a 60-point increase in batting average and the schools fifth-best average in program history as she finished the year at .403. He also led Brittany Baker, Caralyn Chewning and Amanda Johnson to program top-10 finishes in single-season home runs.
Oakley spent the previous five seasons as an assistant coach at EMU, including the past two as the program’s top assistant and recruiting coordinator. He helped lead the Eagles to an NCAA Tournament appearance and a Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament championship in 2007. He also served as EMU’s interim head coach in 2010.
EMU went 26-18 in his last season, recording the second-best winning percentage (.591) in program history.
In his last season with EMU, his second as the program’s pitching coach, Oakley mentored a pitching staff that placed second in the MAC in earned run average (2.78) and boasted five MAC-West Pitchers of the Week. The team’s overall ERA fell significantly from 4.57 in 2010 to 3.04 in 2011.
During Oakley’s five-year tenure, EMU consistently placed among the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) top 20 grade point averages, including a third-place national finish in 2007. The softball program also received the NCAA Public Recognition Award in 2011 for an Academic Progress Rate (APR) that landed in the top 10 percent of its sport.
"I’m honored to be joining the UND softball program at such an exciting time," said Oakley at the time of his hiring. "I believe this team, as well as the entire athletic department, is on the brink of unprecedented success. It thrills me to be able to work with these student-athletes as they strive for success, both on and off the field."
After graduating from EMU in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Oakley’s softball coaching career included several successful stints at the high school level from 1999 to 2005. He also served as head coach of the Motor City Madness Elite Travel Softball program in Detroit from 1999 to 2004, guiding more than 25 future collegiate players.
In 2006, Oakley was named head varsity softball coach at Lahser High School in Bloomfield, Mich., and in his only season led the team to its best league record (10-2) in the previous five years, as well as a district runner-up finish.