FRANKFORT – Kentucky State University’s President Dr. M. Christopher Brown II and Director of Athletics Etienne Thomas today announced that Kentucky State would be growing its stable of NCAA DII intercollegiate sports by adding men’s volleyball, starting with the 2020-2021 school year. The addition of men’s volleyball was announced at a press conference on the Kentucky State campus along with the news that the University 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. We are proud today to announce that Kentucky State is leading the way in being the first NCAA DII or DIHBCU to add men’s volleyball,” President Brown said. “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.”
SIAC 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 Sept. 3-6. 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.
President Brown came to Frankfort after serving as the executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Southern University and A&M System. President Brown also previously served as president and institutional executive officer at Alcorn State University. He has served in other executive and academic roles at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Alcorn State University, Fisk University, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and the United Negro College Fund.
“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 came to Kentucky State after serving at University of Kansas as a liaison with the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access (IOA) and oversaw diversity, gender equity and inclusion education and training for student-athletes, coaches and staff, as well as student conduct for KU athletics. She was also the sports supervisor for rowing. Prior to Kansas, Thomas worked at North Carolina Central University as the Associate Athletics Director for Internal Operations/Senior Woman Administrator, beginning in July of 2008, before being promoted to Senior Associate Athletics Director for Internal Operations/Senior Woman Administrator in the fall of 2016. Before her time at NCCU, Thomas served as the Director of Compliance at San Jose State University. She added the duties of associate athletics director in July 2006. As a sports supervisor in the Spartans’ 16-sports program.
Thomas also introduced DiShondra Goree as the Kentucky State men’s volleyball head coach. Goree 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 Shaw’s 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 Kentucky State. 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 Commissioner Moore invited Clark and Garard to present to the SIAC Council of Presidents.
“What an historic day. To see this come to fruition is meaningful for our sport. The volleyball community including USAV, AVCA and others have worked hard to provide more opportunities for athletes and coaches of color in volleyball. But this announcement takes thing to a whole new level,” Clark said. “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 press conference and said, “We talk at USA Volleyball about the path to the podium. It is not outlandish to think that a young man playing in the SIAC conference 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. 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,” Davis said.
About the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
The SIAC is a NCAA athletic conference consisting primarily of historically black colleges and universities with headquarters in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The SIAC includes 14 member institutions (Albany State University, Benedict College, Central State University, Clark Atlanta University, Fort Valley State University, Kentucky State University, Lane College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Miles College, Morehouse College, Paine College, Savannah State University, Spring Hill College, and Tuskegee University), which are located within a contiguous six-state footprint (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Ohio). The SIAC sponsors seven men’s and six women’s sports and is a proud member of the NCAA Division II. For more information, visit www.thesiac.com.
About First Point Volleyball Foundation –
Founded in 2016 by John Speraw, Head Coach of the USA Men’s National Team and UCLA men’s volleyball, First Point Volleyball Foundation exists to provide opportunities for young people to mature and develop through volleyball. Specifically focused on growing boys’ and men’s volleyball in the United States, First Point Volleyball Foundation initiates and celebrates first points, whether that is a first point of a new NCAA team, or a new high school team, or a first point of competitive volleyball for a 12year-old. First Point Volleyball has raised $3 million in less than three years and has helped start 16 new collegiate men’s volleyball programs. The Foundation has three strategic initiatives: (1) Growing collegiate opportunities; (2) Growing high school boys’ opportunities; and (3) Extending our Reach Diversity Initiative – expanding volleyball opportunities to boys and men of color. www.firstpointvolleyball.com.
About USA Volleyball
Founded in 1928, USA Volleyball is a non-profit organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) as the National Governing Body for the volleyball disciplines of beach, indoor, sitting, snow and beach ParaVolley in the United States. With more than 370,000 registered members, USA Volleyball conducts national championship events, coaching and referee certification programs, and grassroots development across all disciplines in a lifetime sport in which all can participate. USA Volleyball’s teams have won an Olympic medal in every Olympic Games since 1984, four Paralympic medals since 2004 and numerous World Cup, World Championship and Continental Championship titles. For more information on USA Volleyball, visit www.usavolleyball.org.
About boys’ and men’s volleyball in the United States
Boys’ volleyball is exploding. It is the fastest growing team sport in the United States for high school boys, growing at 22 percent over the last five years. The second fastest growing sport grew by only 10 percent and football decreased 9 percent over the same five-year period. With 63,563 boys playing high school now, it is projected that 100,000 boys will be playing by 2026. Minnesota added 1,000 boys’ volleyball players and 51 high school teams in the last two years alone. Colorado just officially sanctioned boys’ high school volleyball and sanctioning initiatives and pilots are underway in 18 additional states. New men’s volleyball programs have been initiated in 80 universities in the last five years alone – mostly at the DII, DIII, and NAIA levels. In 2018, First Point Volleyball Foundation provided Saint Francis College- Brooklyn (a Division I institution) a $100,000 grant to add men’s volleyball beginning in 2019-2020.