State of the Program: Volleyball

By Patrick Vint on April 12, 2018 at 12:40 pm
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Iowa Volleyball

2017-18 record: 18-15
Big Ten record: 7-13 (T-10th)
Postseason: None

Five-year record: 74-87 (26-74)
Last Big Ten regular season title: Never

2017 APR score: 980

Head coach: Bond Shymansky (4 seasons)
Record at Iowa: 63-66 (24-56)
Contract: Extended in August 2017 through 2022

Iowa volleyball has always been a lost program.  The team plays in unquestionably the country's most competitive volleyball conference, with perennial powerhouses Penn State and Nebraska at the top of the pecking order and a host of other teams capable of making the postseason; eight Big Ten teams were in the NCAA Tournament this year.  And even before the Big Ten was a beast, Iowa still wasn't very good.  In the last 25 years, Iowa has posted a winning conference record twice, and its total conference record over that period is a horrendous 101-399.

Enter Bond Shymansky, an Iowa grad who previously had been ACC Coach of the Year at Georgia Tech and successful in a five-year run at Marquette.  Shymansky's teams have posted winning records in the last two seasons, the first of those two prompting a contract extension from Gary Barta.

Win?

I mean, it's Iowa Volleyball.  Before a 19-13 overall record in 2016 and 18-15 record last year, the Hawkeyes hadn't had back-to-back winning seasons since 1989-90.  In each of Shymansky's four seasons, Iowa has beaten a ranked opponent.  Is an 18-15 record and sub-.500 mark in the Big Ten "winning"?  Probably not in the traditional sense of where Iowa expects its athletics to be, but by the historical standard of Iowa Volleyball, it's an awfully good start.

Graduate?

Iowa posted a 980 APR in the most recent report and has a multi-year APR of 995, well among the top half of volleyball programs nationally.  No arguments here.

Do it Right?

This might be the one spot where there's a concern.  While there may be little to argue with Shymansky's results and trendline, there have been some concerns over his means and methods.  As with all dirty laundry about Iowa Athletics, this all came to light during the Jane Meyer trial:

Several parents complained about University of Iowa Head Volleyball Coach Bond Shymansky, saying he was “excessively punitive,” “manipulative and unprofessional,” treated players “without respect” and took pride in “making people want to quit,” according to court testimony....

These parents, whose daughter had been put on a performance contract after getting a legal citation after a night at the bars, said Shymansky made no effort to get to know parents, did not have an open team banquet and was hard on the players, Curtis said. The parents said others also were concerned, but afraid Shymansky would retaliate against their daughters if they complained.

In June 2015, another parent came forward with complaints about Shymansky, Curtis said.

“Didn’t he suggest he (Shymansky) was treating his daughter like a dog?” Newkirk asked.

“Those were his words,” Curtis said.

Not having a team banquet or interacting with parents aren't capital offenses.  Frankly, it's generally fine to be "hard" on players, as well.  But "treating [a player] like a dog"?  That might get you into some questionable territory.  There hasn't been any disclosed problems in recent years, and much of this can probably be chalked up to a change in coaching regime.  But the record on this front isn't exactly flawless.

Summary

For whatever reason, this program has never really worked, but Iowa has identified a (1) dedicated alumnus, who (2) wants to coach in the Big Ten, and (3) has a resume that could get him far better jobs than Iowa.  Under his guidance, the program has reached success which, while modest to anyone taking a cursory look at the record, it has not seen in decades.  Obviously, this is a trendline play, and settling for an extended string middling records and bottom-half conference finishes would be a disappointment.  But even that disappointment would be a drastic improvement over Iowa Volleyball's historic ineptitude.

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