Don Shondell, the man who brought NCAA men’s volleyball to the Midwest, has passed away.
The Hall of Famer, inaugural Ball State coach and founder of the MIVA was 92 years old when he passed away Tuesday after being diagnosed earlier this month with the coronavirus.
“Don Shondell was a friend to Ball State, an icon in our Muncie community, and a pioneer in the sport of volleyball,” Ball State University President Geoffrey S. Mearns said in a statement. “Through his extraordinary contributions to our university and the sport, his unmatched legacy lives on in so many of our current and past student athletes. We are deeply indebted to Dr. Shondell for the impact he made on so many lives – as a coach, teacher, and friend to us all.”
Shondell remains the second-winningest coach in NCAA men’s volleyball history accumulating 769 career wins from 1964 to 1998. Along with the victories, the coach guided Ball State to 19 MIVA regular season championships, 12 MIVA Tournament championships and 13 NCAA Tournament semifinal appearances.
Among Shondell’s top seasons occurred in 1995 when Ball State upset No. 1 UCLA during the regular season and in the postseason advanced to the NCAA Tournament semifinals as the MIVA champions. It also ended the year ranked No. 5 in the national coaches poll — its highest ranking to close out a season in program history.
Shondell early in his career was one of the primary reasons for the growth of college men’s volleyball in the Midwest.
The former Ball State student returned to alma mater in 1959 as a member of the physical education department and started a men’s volleyball club team for the 1960 season.
When this club team was formed, men’s volleyball was not a NCAA sport and there was no formal affiliation among men’s volleyball programs in the Midwest. Shondell changed that the following year with the formation of the MIVA, which remains the oldest active conference in NCAA men’s volleyball.
The existence of the MIVA and Shondell’s constant effort to promote the sport in Indiana and bordering states led to an expansion of college men’s volleyball programs gaining varsity status at their schools. In addition, Shondell in 1964 overcame opposition within the Ball State athletics department to have men’s volleyball recognized as a varsity sport.
Shondell later in the 1960s spearhead efforts with Hall of Fame UCLA coach Al Scates to make men’s volleyball a NCAA sanctioned sport starting in 1970.
Along with his involvement at the college level, Shondell served as the president of USA Volleyball from 1979-80.
The coach was inducted into the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1983 — one of his first of many lifetime honors. He also was the inaugural recipient of the Mikasa Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1996 and an inaugural class inductee into both the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2003 and the MIVA Hall of Fame in 2017.
Shondell retired from coaching 1998 but during his retirement remained a fixture in the stands at Ball State men’s volleyball home matches. The university in 2018 named its new volleyball and basketball training facility in honor of Shondell.
“Dr. Shondell’s impact on the Ball State Athletics Department was transformational in every role he served,” athletics director Beth Goetz said in a statement. “His amazing legacy will never be forgotten, and we are forever grateful that current student-athletes, alumni and future Cardinals will experience that impact every time they walk into the Dr. Don Shondell Practice Center for generations to come.”
Shondell is survived by his four children, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Many have continued the family tradition of coaching volleyball, including sons Dave Shondell, Steve Shondell and John Shondell.
Steve Shondell won 21 girls’ volleyball high school state championships and then as the Ball State women’s volleyball head coach guided the Cardinals to a NCAA Tournament appearance. Don Shondell is the head coach of the Purdue women’s volleyball team, and John Shondell is the associate head coach with the Boilermakers.