Could college softball's top pitcher be getting closer to coming to OU? Patty Gasso is optimistic

Stanford's NiJaree Canady (24) throws a pitch during the Women's College World Series game between the Oklahoma State Cowgirls and Stanford at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Friday, May, 31, 2024.
Stanford's NiJaree Canady (24) throws a pitch during the Women's College World Series game between the Oklahoma State Cowgirls and Stanford at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Friday, May, 31, 2024. / SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY

NiJaree Canady is the best pitcher in college softball. She has led Stanford to the Women's College World Series in each of the past two seasons.

When Canady announced earlier this month that she was entering the transfer portal with two seasons of eligibility remaining, it sent a firestorm throughout the Division I softball landscape. There isn't a team in the country that wouldn't welcome the two-time All-American with open arms.

It just so happens that Patty Gasso's Oklahoma Sooners, who just finished off their fourth consecutive national championship, season are in great need of pitching help for the 2025 season.

It would seem that Oklahoma's championship pedigree and recent college softball domination and Canady's superlative pitching talents in the circle would be a natural mutual fit. A win-win for both parties. If only it were that simple.

Immediately after the news broke of Canady entering the transfer portal, Oklahoma jumped to the front of the pack as the favorite to land the biggest prize in the softball transfer pool. But there are plenty of other major programs who are able and willing to make a strong pitch (pun intended) to persuade the best pitcher in the game at the moment to finish out her college career with them.

News about possible landing sports for Canady has been limited since she formally entered the transfer portal in mid-June. Even the rumor mill has been relatively quiet on the subject. Most experts, however, expected it to be an extended process.

It's not just about the natural talent she brings on the field. That part is obvious. But there are other considerations that factor into the process for both parties (Canady as well as suitors for are interested in acquiring her commitment). Canady's role, expectations and long-term goals must be mutually agreeable, the OU head coach says.

The schools that are actively pursuing the two-time All-American must also be able to meet her academic needs are fully met and that the educational environment is in place for that to happen.

Of course, family and personal preferences also play a primary role in any negotiations of this kind. The fact that Canady's hometown, Topeka, Kansas, is approximately four and a half hours by car from Norman makes it relatively convenient for family members to see her play. Much more so than it is to Palo Alto, California, or to games in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where Stanford will play next season.

And you have have to factor in what role NIL (name, image, likeness) money will have in the final decision process. A student-athlete of Canady's talents is likely to spark an NIL bidding war.

Although Canady has not made any public comment or given any indication of schools she might be considering as a landing spot, In the past few days, several prominent programs have been mentioned as likely sitting at the forefront of her target list. Oklahoma is, in fact, one of the schools along with Texas and Florida State. The Washington Huskies, a former Pac-12 foe, now members of the Big Ten, have also been floated as a potential new collegiate softball home.

While Oklahoma's championship pedigree is an obvious allure, it is also true that Gasso is losing 10 seniors from the roster, which could be a negative factor in Canady's mind if she is seeking a more ready championship contender. The Sooners definitely, though, have a pitching need and a scholarship to give.

Texas is a team loaded with talent just like the Sooners and built for a return the Women's College World Series. The one factor that could work against the Longhorns is a deep and established pitching staff that was one of the best in the country this past season. How would the National Collegiate Player of the Year fit into that situation?

Florida State's attraction to Canady could be Seminole head coach Lonni Alameda, who is a two-time National Player of the Year and is one of the best in the country in coaching and developing pitchers.

College softball experts don't expect a decision by Canady to come anytime soon. The process could play out into the fall. OU's Gasso remains optimistic of Oklahoma's chances to add Canady to the roster. The benefits of doing so speak for themselves. The challenge of landing the former Stanford star is making sure everything is in place to enable her to continue to enjoy growth and success not only on the diamond, but in the classroom and in her personal and future professional life.