Jana McGinnis has developed a softball program at Jacksonville State University that is second to none. She places integrity, success and tradition at the heart of each player and doesn't stop there.
In McGinnis’ 26th season at the helm of the Gamecocks, their head-first dive into the Ohio Valley Conference resulted in a quick rise to the top and they’ve stayed there. In fact, in their 15 seasons in the OVC, the Gamecocks have won over 70 percent of their games, including almost 80 percent of their conference matchups.
JSU has won either the regular season or tournament championship in 10 of its 15 seasons in the OVC and has won both in the same season three times, including back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017.
McGinnis is the most decorated coach in OVC history, having been named the OVC Coach of the Year a conference-record six times, including in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
The 2018 Gamecocks won their third-straight OVC Tournament crown and advanced to the championship of the NCAA Tallahassee Regional, eliminating Auburn before falling to evantual National Champion Florida State. The 2017 team lost just one league game en route to winning the regular season before sweeping through the OVC Tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Tallahassee Regional.
The 2016 season may have been her best, with McGinnis’ Gamecocks winning the OVC Regular Season Crown with a perfect 26-0 record. The best regular season by any team in OVC history was followed with the OVC Tournament title and a trip to the NCAA Regionals, where Jax State finished as runner-up to National Runner-Up Auburn.
That 2016 team won 43 games, McGinnis’ 10th40-win season at JSU and featured the OVC’s Player of the Year in Ella Denes and the OVC Pitcher of the Year in Whitney Gillespie. McGinnis claimed her fifth OVC Coach of the Year honor. She earned her 800th career win in the season’s final weekend and saw JSU earn votes in the NFCA Coaches Top 25 Poll at season’s end.
Her Gamecocks won the 2014 OVC Regular Season title and posted the ninth 40-win season in her tenure. The 40-15 recard also pushed McGinnis over the 700 wins mark for her career and saw her garner another OVC Coach of the Year honor.
After a season that saw them finish as the No. 6 seed in the 2013 OVC Tournament, the Gamecocks did what they’ve done consistently in the postseason - win. They rolled through the Conference Tournament and into the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional, Jax State’s sixth NCAA Appearance and the fifth in a six-season run.
Over the past several years, McGinnis has seen the hard work she and longtime assistant Julie Boland pay off on the national level. In 2008, she took the program one step higher on the national scene after rolling into the NCAA Regionals, where the Gamecocks earned two wins over Florida State before falling to Alabama in the regional title game on ESPN2.
They climbed another rung of the ladder in 2009, ousting James Madison, Nebraska and Tennessee to claim the NCAA Knoxville Regional crown and advance to the NCAA’s Tuscaloosa Super Regional. The most decorated season in JSU’s Division I athletics history was a milestone year not only for JSU, but also the Ohio Valley Conference. It was the OVC’s first regional crown and the deepest any team in the league’s history has advanced into the national tournament.
After a second-place finish in the OVC in 2011, JSU’s seventh-straight campaign in which it finished in the league’s top two, the Gamecocks claimed their fourth-straight trip to the NCAA’s by winning the OVC Tourney in Charleston, Ill. They eliminated Illinois-Chicago before falling to host Louisville in the semifinals of the Louisville Regional.
In 2010, the Gamecocks swept through the OVC Tournament in Martin, Tenn., to advance to the NCAA Atlanta Regional, JSU’s third-straight NCAA appearance.
She has now been named the OVC’s Coach of the Year six times (2005, 2008, 2009, 2014, 2016, 2017) to go along with her 1996 Trans America Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honor.
During her tenure at JSU, McGinnis has accumulated an overall record of 883-482 (.646). Her accomplishments are plentiful, including the 2009 OVC regular season title and the school’s first at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, as well as its first trip to the Super Regionals. Her 2009 squad also made its first appearance in the national polls, finishing the year ranked as high as No. 21 nationally.
She also boasts OVC regular season crowns in 2005, 2008, 2014, 2016 and 2017, as well as OVC Tourney Championships and automatic NCAA appearances in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Her Gamecocks won the Atlantic Sun Tournament Title and a berth in the NCAA Regional Tournament in 1996. In her early years, she guided JSU to back-to-back A-Sun Western Division Conference titles in 1996 and 1997. She, with the help of Boland, has led the Gamecocks to 23 consecutive trips to the Conference Tournament and 11 40-win seasons, including a streak of four-straight from 2003-2006.
In just 15 seasons in the OVC, JSU has won 275 of its 361 (.762) conference games and 10 league titles while placing 85 players on the all-conference squads. Her players have been dominant against their peers. Daniela Pappano was named the 2006 OVC Player of the Year, while JSU also swept the 2005 Player and Pitcher of the Year honors, thanks to outstanding efforts from outfielder Maigin Alexander and pitcher Carly Kellam. Pitcher Ashley Eliasson was named the league’s Freshman of the Year in 2008 before the 2009 campaign saw Nikki Prier and Karla Pittman earn the OVC’s Player and Pitcher of the Year awards, respectively. In 2011, pitcher Tiffany Harbin became the first Gamecock to earn OVC Freshman of the Year honors and she then won OVC Pitcher of the Year honors in 2014, giving the Gamecocks another sweep with Sara Borders claiming Player of the Year.
JSU swept the OVC’s top honors in 2016, when Whitney Gillespie was the OVC Pitcher of the Year and Ella Denes the OVC Player of the Year.
Since 2002, the Gamecocks have attracted regional attention, having been ranked in the South Region poll several times.
McGinnis has coached 134 All-Conference and All-Freshman team members and nine Players of the Year, including Ann Shelton in the A-Sun in 1996.
McGinnis is no stranger to winning, outside and between the lines. A 1991 graduate of JSU, McGinnis was a two-time All-Gulf South Conference guard in basketball. She helped the Gamecocks to a 98-22 record during her four-year playing career, and, in 1991, she played a key role leading JSU to a GSC Championship and the NCAA Division II South Region title.
McGinnis still holds the JSU career record for assists with 603, as well as the single-season record with 204. Following her playing career, she and her twin sister Dana Austin, formerly the JSU women's basketball head coach, became the only players in JSU women's basketball history to have their numbers retired.
After her "bright" career as a player, McGinnis began her career in coaching as a graduate assistant under women's basketball coach Tony Mabry during the 1991-92 season.
The following year, she accepted her first head coaching job as the girls basketball coach at Cherokee County High School, where she led the Lady Warriors to the '93 Class 4A state championship.