Volleyball getting bumped from QU sports?

Doug Manners

The future of the Quinnipiac volleyball program is uncertain. Scholarships for volleyball are on hold and Quinnipiac is examining different options for how to use Burt Kahn Court, where the volleyball team plays its home games, after the basketball teams move to the new TD Banknorth Sports Center in January.

A decision has been made that volleyball will not be played at the new sports center due to budgetary reasons. If the gymnasium in its entirety is used for another purpose next year, such as office space for student organizations, it would signal the end of volleyball as a varsity sport at Quinnipiac.

“We’re doing everything we can to retain volleyball as a quality sport at Quinnipiac,” Quinnipiac Athletic Director Jack McDonald said. “But at the same token, if the program and (gymnasium) is gone because it’s more important to have all student activities use the building than 15 volleyball people, those are some tough decisions.”

McDonald pointed out that a significant number of groups use the gymnasium besides varsity basketball and volleyball. A study on the use of the gymnasium last spring showed that intramurals had a 42 percent usage rate, compared to 40 percent for varsity basketball. The gymnasium is also used by residential life, admissions, cheerleading and for May Weekend.

“Our intent is not to have anybody lose space or lose a program, but because of the nature of Quinnipiac’s growth and transition, you evaluate everything,” McDonald said.

Last October, the Northeast Conference Athletic Directors and Presidents discussed elevating all conference members to a certain amount of scholarships in volleyball, similar to the set up for sports such as soccer, baseball and softball.

“After discussions regarding the sport, the presidents came to the determination that they wanted to discontinue volleyball as a primary sport in the conference and reassign it to a sport of emphasis,” said Ron Ratner, Associate Commissioner of the NEC.

As a result, there are no financial aid or scholarship minimums for volleyball. It’s an institutional decision. Quinnipiac has discontinued volleyball scholarships for the time being.

“The fact that the gymnasium is being discussed as possibility of being something else, we have to be careful what we decide to do,” McDonald said.

The players learned of the NEC’s decision in early December, a few weeks after the season had ended.

“It’s rough,” senior middle blocker Stephanie Conde said. “I came to school to play volleyball, and I know there are other players here who came to this school for volleyball and not academics.”

The volleyball team has had three coaches in less than a year, which McDonald said has a bit to do with the clouded future of the program. The first full-time coach in program history, Ryan Woodcock, left after the fall semester last year. He was replaced by interim coach Bonnie Fineman, who helped with practices and individual training during the spring semester.

Sue Medley, who has coached at Cornell and the University of Maine, was recently hired part-time to coach the volleyball team this season.

Student support for the volleyball team has been poor. Of the 12 varsity sports for which Quinnipiac keeps attendance records, volleyball had the lowest home attendance during the 2005-06 academic year with an average of 83.

“Basically, our biggest fan support is our parents,” Conde said. “There’s a lack of student knowledge that we’re around.”

The volleyball team plays its first home game Oct. 11 against Providence.

McDonald said he can’t guarantee that Quinnipiac will have a varsity volleyball team next year, just as he can’t make any guarantees about the future of any teams. But since the gymnasium could be used to relieve the space crunch at Quinnipiac, the volleyball team is in jeopardy of losing its home.

“You just don’t know what’s going to happen with any of our sports,” McDonald said. “But because of the gymnasium and the basketball teams moving out, there’s a lot of discussion.”