Texas Longhorns athletics is best known for football. But spiking a volleyball is what it's best at.
The Longhorns women’s volleyball team is hosting No. 1 ranked Penn State and No. 2 Stanford this weekend, as they set out to defend their national title. Longhorns head coach Jerritt Elliott sees this weekend’s matchups, which also feature eighth-ranked Florida, as an opportunity to garner local attention.
“It’s going to be very high level of volleyball. It’s going to be potentially four Final Four teams that have a chance at winning a national championship,” Elliott says. “People are starting to understand it’s a pretty fun sport to watch when they come to our gym, and it’s the reason why we’ve sold out already for Saturday and have few tickets remaining for Sunday.”
Elliott has won 79 percent of his games during his 13-year tenure as the Horns head coach. Comparatively, Mack Brown, the head coach of the football team, has won 78 percent of his games over 16 years. The major difference between the two public employees’ successes is salary. This year Brown is scheduled to make over $5 million, whereas Elliott will make $195,000.
This is not uncommon for football programs compared to their less watched, less televised counterparts. Football is the driving force behind ticket sales and profits for most college athletic programs.
Elliott doesn’t see the volleyball program’s comparative lack of attention, despite a string of incredible success, as a bad thing.
“Mack Brown has been a big part of this program and its success, and the reality is we need football to be great,” Elliott says. “Mack has done that, and he’s allowed these opportunities for our young women by what they’re able to bring in revenue.”
Over the last five years, the Longhorns volleyball team has made the NCAA Final Four in all but one year. However, the Longhorns haven’t cracked the top five in average home attendance in any of these seasons. They have averaged 2,654 attendees during this stretch, which represents a gymnasium that is just over two-thirds full.
Elliott, who won his first national coach of the year award in 2012, sees this room to grow as an attainable achievement.
“I’m not going to be happy until we get to the point where this program is sold out night in and night out, and we’re getting closer,” Elliott says. “The numbers have shown that we’re able to increase that, as long as I can keep recruiting right and producing quality teams and educating the city of Austin. That’s my goal.”