Tuesday was a dark day for women’s college volleyball. It got worse as the day went on.
First the Big Ten announced it was postponing all fall sports, which, of course, includes volleyball. Then the Pac-12 followed suit. They joined 12 other conferences that had already taken that path, but these were the first two from the Power 5 and included six of the 10 teams that have NCAA titles.
While that brought the number of NCAA Division I teams out of action for the fall to 150, another shoe dropped in Hawai’i, where the volleyball-crazy school combined its women’s indoor and beach programs. That included the exit of head beach coach Jeff Hall, who has been at the helm since 2015 and taken the Sandbows to the national-championship tournament all five of his seasons.
(Note: Since this story posted Wednesday morning, the Big South announced it would move to the spring, bringing the total to 160).
Hawai’i said it was “a financial decision resulting from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to Hawai’i, which is a member of the Big West, one of the conferences that has postponed to the fall, “Women’s indoor volleyball head coach Robyn Ah Mow will oversee both programs. Indoor associate coach Angelica Ljungqvist will replace beach volleyball head coach Jeff Hall and will also assume the title of head beach volleyball coach.”
UH said that Ljungqvist will take over immediately, while beach volleyball assistant coach Evan Silberstein will remain with the program.
“I am very saddened by the news and I feel for Jeff and his family,” Ah Mow said in a news release. “These are unprecedented times. We will come together, embrace the challenge, and continue to build on the great work that Jeff has developed with the beach program.”
“My heart goes out to Jeff,” Ljungqvist said. “This is not something I expected to happen, but I’m humbled to take on this new responsibility. I’ll pour all my energy into making the best of this situation, especially for our student-athletes, and try to make this a seamless transition.”
Meanwhile, there was plenty of reaction (we have a sampling below) to the moves by the Big Ten and Pac-12, although later Tuesday the Big 12 announced that it, too, would continue on a path with the SEC and ACC and try to conduct football and, presumably, the other fall sports.
Not surprisingly, the AVCA put the brakes on its annual convention that coincides with the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship, scheduled this December in Omaha.
AVCA Convention registration and hotel room block opening scheduled for Aug. 12 has been delayed until a decision is made regarding the NCAA DI Women’s Volleyball Championship. AVCA will notify members of the new registration launch date and convention format when available. pic.twitter.com/2y8vXkiIoB
— AVCA (@AVCAVolleyball) August 12, 2020
The NCAA said last week that if more than half of the eligible teams in one sport postpone their seasons there will be no NCAA championship. In volleyball, that means 167 teams, meaning just 19 more — the equivalent of two conferences — have to also postpone their fall seasons.
Among the conferences that are still are on for the fall are the American Athletic, ASUN, Big East, Big Sky, Big South, Conference USA (although one of its members has postponed), Horizon, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Southern, Southland, Sun Belt, West Coast, and Western Athletic.
Nebraska coach John Cook told the Omaha Journal Star on Tuesday, “The Big Ten coaches have put together a spring schedule and spring plan of how to work around everything and make it all work, the dates and the times and how to do it.
“That was given to the Big Ten office (Tuesday) at 3 o’clock, to say, ‘Hey with volleyball, we’re ready to go in the spring and here is the plan and we got all of the answers for the questions.’ We’ll let the Big Ten administrators look at it and see what they think and work through it, and then see what the rest of the country thinks.”
Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield told the Madison State Journal ““We’re a little bit bummed. Had we progressed in the fall I think our team would’ve been fine and ready for it. Moving to the spring, I think we’ll be fine and ready for it. They want a full season. The team’s approach is whatever gives us the best chance of having a full season and getting into a tournament where they can play is what they want.”
Sheffield said his team was already in the gym when the announcement came down and still practiced. Now they’ll take some time off.
“I’m pretty optimistic that we’ll be able to get a spring season in,” Sheffield told the State Journal. “That’s a long way off. I understand there will be some teams that are not going to be able to find a way to make spring. I don’t anticipate there will be 340 teams playing in the spring, but if things around the country start trending better I’m optimistic we can have quite a few teams and a meaningful season and meaningful postseason.
“I think we’re going to see all the Big Ten coaches rallying around trying to put together something in the spring. The coaches I’ve talked to have said their administrations have been totally supportive of that. I know our administration here is 100 percent behind trying to make this thing happen in the spring. That’s where the optimism comes from.”
Nebraska and Wisconsin were clearly two of the favorites for a national championship had the Big Ten conducted a season. So was Utah, which was a strong favorite to win the Pac-12. Beth Launiere, the dean of Pac-12 coaches, said this on Twitter:
Statement from @CoachLauniere pic.twitter.com/5Y9q0ilX4C
— Utah Volleyball (@UtahVolleyball) August 11, 2020
The second-longest-tenured Pac-12 coach, Arizona’s Dave Rubio:
We will persevere through this together!
Bear Down. pic.twitter.com/PDsEnQAyVK
— Arizona Volleyball (@ArizonaVBall) August 11, 2020
Illinois coach Chris Tamas:
Sad day. Although it’s not a decision we hoped for, we still get a choice. We get to choose how we react and how we will continually strive to learn from every circumstance that comes our way. Just another opportunity to learn and still be a great team through all of this 💪🔶🔷
— Chris Tamas (@coachtamas) August 11, 2020
From the dean of all NCAA coaches, Penn State’s Russ Rose, who recently told us he was in favor of a fall season:
Maryland coach Adam Hughes:
A Statement from Head Coach Adam Hughes. pic.twitter.com/H9NRO5d1iZ
— Maryland Volleyball (@TerpsVolleyball) August 11, 2020
Here is the list of NCAA Division I teams that have postponed to the spring:
America East — 7
Atlantic 10 — 10
Big Ten — 14
Big West — 9
Colonial — 9 (which includes 4 teams that had held out but have also postponed to spring)
Conference USA — 1 (the league has not announced, but Old Dominion has gone to the spring
Ivy — 8
Metro Atlantic — 10
MEAC — 11
Mid-American — 12
Mountain West — 11
Northeast — 8
Pac-12 — 12
Patriot — 7 (Army and Navy have both said they will play this fall, if only against each other)
Summit — 9
SWAC — 10
Just 10 schools have won the NCAA championship and eight of them won’t be playing this fall. There are two in the Big West (Hawai’i and Long Beach State), two are in the Big Ten (Penn State and Nebraska), and four are in the Pac-12 (USC, Stanford, UCLA, and Washington).
And, probably speaking for us all, veteran Colorado State coach Tom Hilbert, whose team competes in the Mountain West:
There is nothing more beautiful that athletes competing for fun. The season may be postponed but the game lives on. pic.twitter.com/JAmkBUdI22
— Tom Hilbert (@CoachHilbert) August 12, 2020
Regarding UH’s decision to fire Jeff Hall. In a sport of this caliber at the highest level you would think a decision such as this would be based on experience prior to financial cuts.