By Vaughn Wilson
FAMU head softball coach Veronica Wiggins will put down her clipboard at the conclusion of the 2020 softball season. In doing so, she leaves a legacy unlike any other. The records, the accolades, and the championships will pale in comparison to what she will leave the game with…respect.
In talking to peers, respect was used continually to describe the woman who was the middle child of a nine-child family. She was the first female, meaning she had to toughen up quickly and take charge as not to be dominated by her brothers.
That grit is what drove Wiggins in every aspect of her life. “I was like the mother in our house in Miami,” Wiggins said. At an early age she developed the ability to lead. Driven by her brother Willie Whiting, who loved the game of baseball, Wiggins picked up the skills and translated them to softball where she was a stellar player herself. But, her play was just the beginning of a love affair with the game of softball.
Wiggins initially came to Tallahassee not seeking a college education, but friends convinced her that if she came there were good state jobs available. After attaining her associates degree from Miami Dade Community College, she was not interested in furthering her education. While working her state job, she met some college students from FAMU. They convinced her to take one class at FAMU and then she was hooked.
Mentors like Edwina Martin, Sarah Hill Yates, Robert Mungen and Bobby Lang latched on to her, and the rest is history. She has been a proud “Rattler” ever since.
“When I got to this school it was something special. There was a feeling of home in being around students who were here to improve their lives and the awesome teachers and administration that knew what we needed to get our education. What really got me was how the teachers cared about us. That is what made us have pride in FAMU,” Wiggins said.
Playing slow pitch softball her whole life, Wiggins was a part of FAMU’s transition to fast pitch. It was not an easy transition for any of the colleges in the state of Florida. It took a unified lobbying and petition effort from the state’s coaches to convince state legislators that the change was necessary, as fast pitch was steamrolling in popularity and the whole country was moving in that direction. Wiggins was called to testify at the Florida Legislature for funding to help the women’s sport.
“When we first started playing fast pitch, we recruited slow pitch players. All they could do was bunt and run and play defense. Eventually we would get the roster fully-staffed in fast pitch players,” Wiggins said.
In 1992, FAMU Director of Athletics Nelson Townsend would offer her the reigns of the softball program and the rest is history. Over 700 wins, 12 conference championships and nine NCAA appearances later, she’s still on top of her game. She’s managed to keep her approach fresh and adapt to the ever-changing world of softball.
In 2017, she became the first HBCU coach to win 700 games. Currently, she has won 771. The margin in HBCU softball is tremendous. B-CU coach Laura Watten has 723 wins overall, but nine of those seasons were at the University of Maryland, only 443 of her wins are among HBCUs, coaching at Bethune-Cookman University.
Never one to allow the spotlight on herself, Wiggins has a profound humility that is infectious. Having served time on the NCAA Rules Committee and Selection Committee, she is no stranger to coaches from all levels of NCAA competition. After this season she will walk away from the field, however, her impact on women’s sports is not restricted to FAMU. Her contribution to the improvement of women’s sports is for the world to enjoy.