As we are wont to do, we asked legendary Penn State coach Russ Rose what three things he would do if he were the czar of all volleyball.
The concept didn’t go completely as planned, and ended up being a debate about recruiting ethics and scheduling, but he didn’t hesitate with No. 1.
“I’d go back to traditional scoring,” Rose said.
For the younger generation, who has never known volleyball without rally scoring and a libero, in the old days you could only score when you were serving. The game was both thought out and played very differently.
“And then I think recruiting is going younger and faster than I think is healthy for both parties,” said Rose, who is in his 38th year at Penn State, where he was won seven NCAA titles.
“Well, I teach a class on coaching ethics. And you can’t legislate ethics. Some people are going to play up to the gray line, and some people are well beyond it.
“We’re in a competitive environment and everybody goes into it looking at what’s important to them.”
So what change would Division I’s winningest coach make? Not be allowed to watch or offer players before 15?
“You can’t stop the occasional outlier situation,” Rose said. “The perfect example would be the Rolfzens (senior All-Americans Kadie and Amber) when they were young. They’re Nebraska kids and my assumption is they went to camps and this is what they dreamed of, so it makes all the sense in the world for kids like that.
“But there was a time when volleyball coaches used to look at football and basketball coaches and kind of comment to the ethical things they were doing and say, ‘I’m glad I coach women’s volleyball.’ And now those people who thought that they’re all retired.
“There are a few of us from that old era who understand that, but it’s a new landscape and this is the way the game is being played.”
But he still hadn’t told us what he would do.
“It doesn’t make any difference,” Rose countered. “It’s like the rally scoring. It’s never going to change. This isn’t going to change, either. It’s always rotating.
“If I was the czar I would give it to somebody else because it’s going to cut into my cigar and sun time.”
OK, then what would be No. 3?
After a long pause …
“The third thing is people focusing on betting the game and not worrying about their RPI,” he said. “People send out things all the time about scheduling that they only want certain RPI teams.
“I’m in a geographical area where there’s nobody with a good RPI and I think I have a responsibility to try to help and play anybody. If it hurts my RPI it hurts my RPI. I think it’s a good thing for some of these teams who never have a chance to play in a big gym with their names on the board. It’s a big deal to them.”
This year, for example, Penn State — currently ranked 15th in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll and No. 23 in the NCAA RPI — was visited by Georgia Southern, Rhode Island, Howard and Clemson and played against Siena, Hofstra and Syracuse in Syracuse.
“Well, it’s hard to get people to come here,” Rose said. “And some of the people you schedule you’d think would be good because they were good last year and then they have some challenges.
“I’ve had years when my team is one of the top two or three in the country in RPI. It happened …
“I think now with being a top four seed you can host (the NCAA regionals) I see people tactically scheduling and doing things. I understand that, because everyone would rather host than play on the road, but nobody’s hosting the national championships, so at some point your team has to be able to play on the road.
“Even if it’s a neutral site, you have to be able to deal with the outside factors necessary to win.”