Kentucky State University President Dr. M. Christopher Brown II and Director of Athletics Etienne Thomas announced Tuesday that KSU will be adding men's volleyball starting with the 2020-21 school year.
The addition of men's volleyball was announced at a press conference on the KSU campus along with the news that KSU has received a $150,000 gift to Thorobred Athletics to support the new program.
“Men's professional volleyball is the third most popular sport in the world and boys' volleyball is on the rise in the USA,” Brown said. “We are proud today to announce that Kentucky State is leading the way in being the first NCAA DII or DI HBCU (Historically Black College or University) to add men's volleyball. It is smart for us to be in front of trends and especially compelling that the SIAC will be sponsoring men's volleyball conference-wide.”
Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Commissioner Greg Moore announced that a total of six colleges from the SIAC, all HBCUs, will be announcing the addition of men's volleyball. Five more press conferences at five other institutions adding men's volleyball are scheduled through Friday.
A total investment of $1 million is being made ($600,000 from First Point Volleyball Foundation and $400,000 from USA Volleyball) to support six SIAC colleges and the league in starting the sport.
“We are proud to support Kentucky State University as they provide more opportunities for kids to mature and develop through volleyball,” said Wade Garard, CEO of First Point Volleyball Foundation. “We have volleyball donors from all over the country that are making this grant possible. USA Volleyball, AVCA and lots of volleyball families are joining together to provide opportunities to a new generation of boys to enjoy our great game.”
Thomas also introduced DiShondra Goree as the Kentucky State men's volleyball head coach. She will coach both the men's and women's volleyball programs. Goree came to Frankfort in 2016 after five seasons at her alma mater, Shaw University, where she coached the first team in program history to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament.
“What a great opportunity for Kentucky State to jump into what is the fastest-growing team sport in the United States for boys. I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where boys volleyball was prominent and we all knew Lloy Ball and programs like IPFW,” said Goree. “I am thankful to Director Thomas in having faith in me to lead volleyball here at KSU. I look forward to putting a product on the floor that everyone will be proud of.”
Sharon Clark, president-elect of the AVCA, expressed her enthusiasm and support of the SIAC and Kentucky State. Clark had been present at the NCAA Convention when Moore invited Clark and Garard to present to the SIAC Council of Presidents.
“What a historic day,” Clark said. “To see this come to fruition is meaningful for our sport. The volleyball community, including USAV, AVCA and others, has worked hard to provide more opportunities for athletes and coaches of color in volleyball. But this announcement takes thing to a whole new level. We stand ready to assist these programs in any way they can.”
John Speraw, head coach of the U.S. men's national volleyball team and the founder of First Point Volleyball Foundation, also spoke at the announcement.
“We talk at USA Volleyball about the Path to the Podium,” Speraw said. “It is not outlandish to think that a young man playing in the SIAC in 2021 could be an Olympian in 2028 or 2032. Our work at First Point Volleyball Foundation is providing more opportunities for young people and it is also building our pipeline for more success at the international level for Team USA for decades to come.”
First Point Volleyball Foundation and USA Volleyball have both made diversity a strategic priority initiative and Jamie Davis, USA Volleyball's CEO, believes the impact of HBCUs offering men's volleyball will be profound.
“USA Volleyball is proud to be supporting this SIAC initiative to bring men's varsity volleyball programs to six HBCU schools, including Kentucky State University,” he said. As the National Governing Body for volleyball, we strive to increase the diversity and inclusion in our sport.
“I applaud the leadership and vision being shown by President Brown, Commissioner Moore and all six of the schools' presidents and athletic directors which will surely increase the participation of African-American men playing volleyball and lead to new athletic and academic opportunities for young boys. This program will serve as a new Path to the Podium for these men to potentially join our national teams and represent Team USA across the globe.”