Athletics director Beth Goetz has a big goal for the Ball State men’s volleyball team — win a national championship.
The decision she makes in the upcoming weeks will help determine the chances of one of the most storied college men’s volleyball programs achieving those championship aspirations.
Goetz is in the beginning stages of a nationwide search for the program’s next head coach following the retirement of Joel Walton at the end of the season.
Ball State, a founding member of the MIVA, has won 21 MIVA regular season championships and has made the NCAA Tournament 15 times with it last reaching the event in 2002. In addition, the next person hired will be the fourth head coach in the program’s 61-year history.
Check out Goetz’s recent interview with Off the Block editor Vinnie Lopes as she discusses the coaching search.
Vinnie Lopes: What are some of the qualities you are looking for in the next coach of this program?
Beth Goetz: First and foremost, we are certainly grateful to Joel Walton for the services and the mentoring and impact he’s had on our institution as an athlete and a coach. But, we are excited as well as look forward to what the next journey is going to look like for Ball State men’s volleyball. Always the first and most important thing is to hire someone that is going to be a great mentor and role model for our young men, and who’s going to help prepare them certainly during their time here at Ball State but prepare them for what’s going to come next and be leaders in our community and in their career of choice. We really feel strongly that our history here with volleyball and in our community that this is one of the premier jobs in the country. We can compete not only for MIVA championships but for national championships. And we want to find someone that is hungry to do that, to bring that mentality to the gym each and every day, and is going to recruit student-athletes who are equally as passionate about that but who are also a great fit for the academic programs we have at Ball State.
VL: You’ve had an opportunity to talk with and know the current student-athletes on the Ball State men’s volleyball team. How do you feel the culture is with the team that the new coach will inherit?
BG: We’ve got an exceptional group of young men. Every chance I’ve had to engage with them I’m always quick to tell them how proud we are of the way this group represents Ball State on and off the court. They are incredible students. They’re passionate about their sport, and they want to compete at the highest level. So, I think they are hungry for that and excited to see what new leadership will bring to their program and look forward to the next steps in their careers.
VL: You mentioned Ball State’s history. You have a lot of passionate former players and alumni who care about Ball State’s men’s volleyball. This by no means isn’t your first coaching search, but how do you balance all that feedback and input you get from alumni?
BG: It is wonderful to have some many people care about the future of the program. It’s what you want to have happen. This isn’t a four-year stop in your life. You’re a part of the Ball State family, and everything that happens in that program is going to reflect who they are and what they contributed while they were here and certainly how they continue to support and follow [the team] long after they graduate. I’m really grateful. It’s a wonderful opportunity to engage with our alum and I’m appreciative. It’s just so neat, particularly in this sport. We’ve got so many alumni that are engaged in some way in the volleyball community.
VL: Do you feel the next coach needs to be a Ball State alumni or is the mindset cast a wide net and hire the best candidate whether they are an alumni or not?
BG: I think you hire the best fit for the program at the right time. Certainly, it’s special when you have an opportunity to have an alum leading your program. But I think [finding the right candidate] is really important, and really important to the alum I’ve spoken to and important to our student athletes. It’s really an open search for us.
VL: You look at this men’s volleyball program. Lots of history. Recently, though, just haven’t been able to get over that MIVA hump and make it back to the NCAA Tournament. What do you feel the next coach is going to need to do to be able to take the program to the next step?
BG: There is sometimes different perspectives, different training methods, different thoughts in recruiting. While we’ve had great success, we want to take that next step. I know they are hungry to do that, and I think someone will need to come in and put their own fingerprints on the program. … When you play in the league like we do, you get a great chance to see the best of the best throughout the season. They’ll really have to elevate it. The margin in winning at that elite level sometimes is the difference of 1 percent, and there are probably a handful of areas that we just need to get 1 percent better in across the board. I’m really excited about what someone may bring to the forefront for us.
VL: Fully transparency, I’m a Ball State alum, and Ball State has a special place in my heart. For people who are applying what should they know about Ball State and what makes it so special?
BG: One of the things in my relatively short tenure here that’s been incredible to experience, from top to bottom there really is a sense of community. We are an institution that was founded on a set of shared values. They are not talking points on a website. They are things that we are committed to as an institution. And it’s how we engage with each other, and how we engage with the community. Our students have not only incredible relationships with our athletic staff but with our faculty. You really get a great feeling when you are here at Ball State that everyone is invested in your success. Because of that, you’ve got a great opportunity to join a team that’s going to want to help you achieve all your goals across the board and a chance to chase a national championship. And you just can’t say that in every sport, in every school and in every community, but we can in men’s volleyball and it’s certainly what we want to do.