UH Men’s V-ball Set For Success

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - April 22, 2009
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In his 17 years at the University of Hawaii, Mike Wilton took the fledgling volleyball program started by his colleague, Dave Shoji, and built it into a college power with an unofficial national championship.

Some will tell you having the long-sought-after title ripped from his hands was the beginning of the end for Wilton. Professionally heart-broken, he further turned toward religion and found peace. The two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association Coach of the Year with 628 career wins is headed back to his spiritual home in Utah to assist the BYU women’s team and to continue his work with the LDS church. After three consecutive losing campaigns, the only sub-.500 seasons in his 30-year coaching career, it was time for him to move on.

Likewise with the program in decline, the university needed a clean break to begin the rebuilding process. With Wilton in the final year of his deal, UH got the tidy separation it needed. No lawyers, no posturing, no lengthy negotiations. Just as it should be.


Unlike the most recent hires and fires, which were dogged with delays and indecision, UH now has the chance to conduct a professional employment search that will aid the program’s growth and not force it into a period of stagnation or degradation. The trick, as with any hiring process, is finding an employee who has more to offer than a slick presentation and whitewashed resume.

According to those close to the process, there won’t be any shortage of top-quality candidates itching to rebuild a program that led the nation in attendance for 14 consecutive seasons. These same folks say a return to the upper echelon of collegiate volleyball is expected to be a short trip and not an enduring voyage of frustrating discovery.

One reason to be optimistic is that unlike many of the university’s other sports, location, facilities and available talent are not detriments. The allowed four and a half scholarships mean almost no free rides and, with the proper recruiting, an equal division of talent. Dorm life at UH is not the best, but the Stan Sheriff Center is a nice venue and returning crowds will be a big sell.

Whereas men’s basketball must rely on a roster of imports, volleyball has always been able to count on area talent. Local fans love local players. Combine this with a higher winning percentage and UH could not only find itself back atop the national rankings, but once again become a revenue generator for the school.

Another simple reason to expect a climb up the charts is the fact that men’s volleyball is a niche sport ripe for takeover. It’s fencing and ice hockey with fewer broken teeth, silly outfits or the wildly inappropriate fanatical commentary offered at the expense of family members during each contest between Sparty and their hated Wolverine rivals. Also, one doesn’t have to look any further than the AVCArankings to see that men’s college volleyball is the weak, asthmatic kid on the playground. Even with UH wrapping up one of its worst seasons in history, the team can still boast a No. 14 national ranking. Talk about upward mobility. Outside of the top seven teams that include all the names one expects to hear when water cooler discussion turns to national title hopes, the rest of the top 15 - the sport lacks enough teams to have a top 25 - can do no better than a combined 116-108 record. Take out No. 12 Lewis and their 20 wins and things look even more positive for future Warrior domination.

Even though UH has seen its attendance wane for six consecutive seasons, all is not bleak. Men’s volleyball has been a recent money-maker for the university and could once again raise the noise level at Stan Sheriff Center with the return of its customary level of fans. A few wins, some size along the front line and one-priced open seating could just do the trick.

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