EAST LANSING, Mich. -- One phone call changed everything for Andrea Harrison.
After a two-time, All-America softball career at UCLA, Harrison coached softball for two years at Norman High School in Oklahoma at age 23.
It was her first coaching gig, an exciting new start doing something she loved. It was a job where she could use her knowledge from winning a national championship as a sophomore at UCLA and help teach young people how to succeed.
Shortly after she started coaching, Harrison received a call that threw her plans in a loop.
Her then-boyfriend, J.T. Gasso, was an assistant softball coach at Purdue and the plan was to move to Indiana and join him.
“The day before J.T. gave me the call that we were going to look at Michigan State, I had just got a call from a high school principal,” Harrison, 24, said. “I had a Skype interview of getting a head coaching job and a teaching position in Indiana.”
Instead, Gasso asked Michigan State coach Jacquie Joseph if Harrison could join the staff as a volunteer.
“I kind of threw it out to coach Joseph and she was like, ‘Oh, yeah!’” Gasso, 26, said. “Two-time All-American, national champion, who wouldn’t want that as a volunteer?”
Harrison played outfield her first two seasons. She was a first-team All-America as a utility player her junior year in 2011, and a second-team All-America as a senior first baseman
Gasso was a graduate assistant at Oklahoma in 2013 when the Sooners won the NCAA title. He grew up in Norman, Oklahoma after moving from Long Beach, California when he was seven. His mother, Patty Gasso, is Oklahoma’s legendary head coach, and has won over 1,000 games in 24 seasons.
Joseph was happy to bring both onto the coaching staff, given their championship experience.
“They’ve both been in environments of nothing but championships,” Joseph said.
“…So you’re talking about Oklahoma and UCLA. Those are two highly, highly decorated programs with high character coaches running the programs.”
Harrison said they work very well together, because they teach a lot of the same concepts. This opportunity allowed them to teach them together much sooner than expected.
“Him and I had always talked about coaching together,” Harrison said. “Whenever that opportunity came, we would go for it. It came earlier than we thought, it’s just been everything we thought and more.”
The two met at a UCLA softball camp in 2010. Gasso worked the camp while Harrison played, and the two started dating shortly after. With Gasso being in Indiana and Harrison in Oklahoma, they had been in a long distance relationship the last few years.
“It’s just a lot of leaps of faith,” Harrison said of their long-distance relationship. “Everything will happen the right way we want it too, we just had to be patient.”
Harrison called the decision a “no-brainer” citing the comfort and trust of the Michigan State coaching staff.
“It’s been a little bit of a transition,” Harrison said. “I know I’m around a good coaching staff that’s loyal and you can trust them. It’s just a really comfortable place to get your first start.”
Gasso proposed Dec. 6, 2014 while they were in Las Vegas for a coaches’ convention. He asked Harrison to jump off the Stratosphere Hotel together, telling her this “was the last leap of faith we would take in our relationship,”.
The two jumped, and Gasso proposed when they landed. Harrison said yes. Now, they are together, doing what they love.
“It’s now just the first time we’ve been in the same place at the same time,” Harrison said.
They are getting married on Dec. 12, 2015 in Long Beach. Harrison said it has been hard to do much planning mid-season, and that they will have a busy summer ahead.
But right now, she’s enjoying teaching the same group of seniors who were freshman when she played them as a senior at UCLA.
“Michigan State’s been great,” Harrison said. “Just to see the students and community really come together, it’s just been really great for us.”