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Legendary Arizona Wildcats softball coach Mike Candrea retires, Caitlin Lowe named replacement

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Jenny Dalton-Hill: Mike Candrea 'stays in your life forever' (1:36)

Former Arizona softball player Jenny Dalton-Hill becomes emotional telling a story about coach Mike Candrea from her freshman season. (1:36)

Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea officially announced his retirement Monday, after establishing himself as the winningest softball coach of all time during his legendary Wildcats' career.

Candrea, 65, not only built the Arizona program, he helped grow the sport itself. While with the Wildcats, Candrea won eight national championships, made 24 Women's College World Series appearances, won 10 conference championships and coached 53 All-Americans -- all while winning 1,674 games.

The school announced later on Monday that Caitlin Lowe had been promoted to replace Candrea. Lowe has spent the past nine seasons working on Candrea's staff following a decorated career as Arizona's centerfielder. Lowe was a four-time All-American from 2004-07 and a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.

Speculation grew over the course of the season that this would be Candrea's final one at Arizona. After the Wildcats lost in the WCWS on Saturday, Candrea said he would make a decision "on my own terms," but he became emotional when he described his overall impact he has had on all the student-athletes he has coached.

In a statement released through Arizona on Monday, Candrea said, "It has been an honor to represent the University of Arizona for 36 years. I am indebted to every player, coach and member of my support staff that has made the Arizona softball experience one that I will cherish forever. When I arrived in 1985, I wanted to build a culture of excellence and compete consistently at the highest levels of Division I softball. Most of all, our goal was to prepare our student-athletes for life after softball and build relationships that would last a lifetime."

In addition to his career as a collegiate coach, Candrea coached the USA Softball team to gold in the 2004 Olympics and silver in the 2008 Olympics. He also has the fourth-most wins of any coach in any NCAA sport.

Candrea will continue on with the Arizona athletic department, serving in an advisory role as well as assisting with coaching development.

"While his impact on the game is widely recognized, his legacy is in the lives of the thousands of Wildcats who he coached," Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke said in a statement. "Mike's career embodied true excellence in all facets of leading a softball program -- winning on the field, student-athlete success in the classroom and developing them for life after graduation. He established a championship culture within Arizona athletics that permeates throughout our department, and represented our state with honor and distinction."