A three-time Southland Conference Coach of the Year, Rae Rippetoe-Blair will begin her 14th season at UTSA this fall.
During her 13 seasons at the helm, the Ardmore, Okla., native has guided the Roadrunners to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances (2008-09), back-to-back Southland Tournament Championships in 2008-09, a pair of Southland Regular Season Titles (2003 & '09) and consecutive 20-win seasons in 2007-08 and '08-09, including a school-record 24 in 2008-09.
Since her hiring in 2000, she helped transform the Roadrunners into one of the top programs in the Southland. Rippetoe-Blair led UTSA to 11 Southland Tournament appearances, including four trips to the conference finals (2003/’06/’08/’09). She was named the league’s coach of the decade for the 2000s after recording 176 wins, including 126 Southland triumphs.
During the 2004-05 season, she became the winningest basketball coach in UTSA history. She currently has 216 victories (only women’s coach at UTSA with more than 150) and her .557 winning percentage is second-best in school annals.
Rippetoe-Blair has mentored several outstanding student-athletes during her time at UTSA, including 2008-09 Southland Player and Defensive Player of the Year Monica Gibbs, who is currently playing overseas (Amicale Steesel). She has coached four Southland Newcomers of the Year (Nikki Hendrix 2002/Dewella Holiday 2003/Vivian Ewalefo 2006/Onika Anderson 2008), two Southland Freshmen of the Year (Richelle Parks 2005/Monica Gibbs 2006), 25 All-Southland selections (seven first-teamers), two Southland Student-Athletes of the Year (Nicole Dunson 2005/Ryba Pawlaczyk 2009), four Southland All-Academic selections and a pair of CoSIDA Academic All-District honorees.
Rippetoe-Blair has an overall record of 323-217 (59.8 percent) in 18 seasons as a head coach. The Roadrunners have averaged 16.6 wins per season during her tenure.
Last season, the Roadrunners jumped out to a 4-1 start and finished with a 16-14 mark for their fifth winning record in the last six campaigns. After being picked to finish ninth by the league’s coaches and eighth in the media preseason polls, UTSA ended with a 10-8 record in Western Athletic Conference play to place fourth. Kamra King picked up third-team all-conference honors after leading the Birds in scoring for the second consecutive season. As a team, UTSA led the circuit in scoring defense (57.7 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (.379). That effort was aided by King’s 63 steals and 39 swats from Whitney Wright, who set the program’s all-time blocks record.
In 2011-12, Rippetoe-Blair became the first coach in program history to amass 200 wins, while earning her 300th overall. Both milestones were achieved in front of the home crowd with wins against future Conference USA foe Florida International (300th overall) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (200th at UTSA). Under her tutelage, King led the team in points and was the conference’s top-scoring freshman. Sophomore Judy Jones was second on the team in scoring and was named honorable mention all-conference.
In 2010-11, the Roadrunners posted 16 victories, including an 11-5 Southland mark to win the conference’s West Division for the second time in the last three years. With preseason All-Southland guards Whitney York and Judy Jones out for the season, UTSA leaned heavily on its five seniors, who responded with another record-breaking year.
Amber Gregg became the school’s most prolific 3-point shooter and finished her career with 200 to rank in the league’s top 10. Known for her outside shooting, it was Alysse Davis’ defense that earned her a spot in the UTSA record book with single-season (78) and career (98) marks for blocks. Rippetoe-Blair led the program to its 11th consecutive Southland Tournament appearance and entered as the No. 4 seed. On the strength of a career-high 33 points from Ashleigh Franklin that included a single-game tournament record 15 free throws, UTSA defeated Sam Houston State before falling to regular season and eventual tournament champion McNeese State in the semifinals. Gregg (second team) and Franklin (third team) each earned all-conference honors, while Franklin also made the all-tournament team. For the second consecutive season, the Roadrunners ended the year atop the league three defensive categories — field goal percentage defense (36.7 percent), blocks (138) and defensive rebounds (839).
In 2009-10, a run for a third consecutive conference championship and a trip back to the NCAA Tournament was going to be a challenge for Rippetoe-Blair. The departure of three starters (Anderson/Gibbs/Pawlaczyk) that contributed more than 70 percent of the offense and returning one starter (junior Amber Gregg) saw UTSA in the mist of a rebuilding year. However, the Roadrunners produced a 16-14 overall record and a third-place showing in the West Division standings with a 10-6 mark. The Roadrunners made their way to a 10th consecutive postseason appearance as a No. 4 seed. Despite an up-and-down season, Rippetoe-Blair saw the resurgence of York, who missed most of the 2008-09 year due to injury, and the emergence of Jones and Franklin. York and Jones enjoyed successful campaigns and their efforts did not go unnoticed as they were tabbed second-team All-Southland, while Franklin collected third-team all-league honors. The Roadrunners ended the year atop the circuit in three defensive categories — scoring defense (61.8 ppg), lowest field goal percentage (37.2 percent) and 3-point field goal percentage (28.8 percent).
After dropping six of its first eight games of the 2008-09 season, UTSA ended the year strong with the Southland Regular Season and Tournament Championships and punched its second ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The Roadrunners also set a school-record with 24 wins and posted a 14-2 conference mark, tying UT Arlington for first-place in the league, while Rippetoe-Blair picked up Southland Coach of the Year honors for the third time. She was also recognized as the 2009 TABC Coach of the Year. Meanwhile, three Roadrunners collected all-conference honors led by Gibbs, who was named Southland Player of the Year and the circuit’s Defensive Player of the Year. The Roadrunners entered the league’s tournament as the No. 2 seed and began defense of their postseason championship with a 71-52 win against No. 7 seed McNeese State in the quarterfinals. UTSA then escaped with a 58-47 win versus sixth-seeded Northwestern State in the semifinals before knocking off top seed UT Arlington, 74-63 to earn the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Roadrunners saw their season come to an end with an 87-82 overtime loss against second-seeded Baylor in first-round action, but it was the first time in tournament history that a No. 15 seed took a second-seeded team into overtime.
The 2007-08 season was a year to remember for the Roadrunners, as they won their first-ever Southland Tournament and made their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. UTSA won 23 games, which marked the first 20-win season since 1983-84. The Roadrunners ended the season with a 23-10 overall mark and a 12-4 league record, which was good enough for second place in the conference standings. UTSA began tournament play as the third seed and made quick work of its first-round opponent Northwestern State, 80-56. The Roadrunners then got past UT Arlington in the semifinals, 77-67, and rounded out the tournament with a 65-56 win against No. 4 seed Lamar in the championship game. The Roadrunners’ season came to an end against No. 2-seed Texas A&M in first-round action of the NCAA Tournament.
In 2006-07, Rippetoe-Blair collected her 100th UTSA career victory on Nov. 24 with a 77-67 win against Eastern Washington. UTSA finished its conference season in a three-way tie for fourth place at 9-7 and earned the No. 5 seed at the 2007 Southland Tournament. The Roadrunners pulled an upset win against Southeastern Louisiana in the first round before falling to top-seeded UT Arlington in the semifinals.
During the 2005-06 season, Rippetoe-Blair and the Roadrunners enjoyed a successful year with an 18-12 mark and a trip back to the Southland Tournament finals. UTSA finished third in the league with an 11-5 record and she recorded her 200th career win on Feb. 2 at Nicholls.
In her fifth season in 2003-04, Rippetoe-Blair mentored the Roadrunners to a 16-12 record along with 10 wins in Southland play. UTSA boasted the league’s top defense after holding its opponents to just 57.8 points per game.
Rippetoe-Blair’s fourth season saw UTSA register a 15-14 overall record and a 10-6 mark in league play.
In her third season, Rippetoe-Blair led UTSA to its first regular season Southland Championship with a 17-3 league ledger and an overall mark of 18-11. She was honored as the Southland Coach of the Year and it was richly deserved after turning around a team that began the season 0-8, and upon entering Southland play, won 17 of 19 games, including a 13-game winning streak, 17 conference wins and 11 home court wins, all school records.
In 2000-01, Rippetoe-Blair received Southland Coach of the Year honors following a 13-7 league campaign.
UTSA was ranked in the top six nationally in scoring defense in 2002-03 and was second in the nation in her first two seasons (2000-01 & '01-02).
While the immediate impact Rippetoe-Blair had on UTSA’s program might be a surprise, the success should not. A proven winner as a head coach at NAIA Phillips University and as an assistant at Oklahoma State, she has enjoyed continued success.
Rippetoe-Blair turned around a Phillips program with a 104-51 mark during her five seasons in Enid, Okla. She was named the Sooner Athletic Conference’s 1989-90 Coach of the Year after a 29-7 record.
Prior to UTSA, Rippetoe-Blair was an assistant coach at her alma mater, Oklahoma State, for eight seasons. As a player, she left her mark on the Cowgirls program, ranking in the top 20 in five categories.
As an assistant coach, she helped build Oklahoma State as one of the top teams in the Big Eight Conference and made valuable contacts among high school coaches. Her pipeline to Oklahoma has brought Gibbs, Hendrix, Lacy Mingee and Katie Sandefur to San Antonio.
Rippetoe-Blair started her coaching career in 1985 as an assistant coach at Southern Nazarene in Bethany, Okla. She was there for two seasons before moving to Phillips.
After two rebuilding seasons at Phillips, Rippetoe-Blair coached three consecutive 20-win teams. Phillips went 29-7 in 1989-90 and she earned conference coach of the year honors. In 1990-91, Phillips was 23-8 and it posted a 20-9 in her final season before returning to Oklahoma State.
As an Ardmore (Okla.) High School athlete, she ran on the 1980 state champion mile relay team, played on the 1980 Oklahoma-Texas All-Star softball team and was an all-state pick in basketball and track & field. She was the team’s MVP in softball and was named the outstanding female Athlete of the Year.
She and her husband, Craig, reside in Boerne.