Saturday, 30 September 2023

International Volleyball

Oregon’s Ulmer, Washington’s Gabriel on leaving Pac-12 for B1G volleyball

Oregon's Ulmer, Washington's Gabriel on leaving Pac-12 for B1G volleyball

Washington libero Lauren Bays, who will be a junior, digs against Washington State last season/Stephen Burns photo

Even if you’re the head coach of a Division I volleyball program, you find out about conference realignment news the same way as everyone else — through social media.

That’s how veteran Oregon head coach Matt Ulmer and first-year Washington head coach Leslie Gabrial learned that their programs would join the Big Ten next year.

“Twitter is where you learn everything,” Ulmer said. “At least in my experience, you don’t know until it’s done.”

The news for both coaches of the programs leaving the Pac-12 was a surprise that dropped on Friday — just four days before they opened up fall practice. However, they aren’t concerned with all the logistics and details of the move for now.


Gabriel said she was glad to hear the official news from their athletic director and put all the speculation and uncertainty to rest. Since UCLA and USC announced they were leaving for the Big Ten a year ago, rumors flew around about whether the Pac-12 would add new schools or if any current members would also depart.

“For me, once you heard it, it was like, ‘OK, good. This is our direction now,’” she said. “We can put all those questions to rest, and you’re ready for the season.”

Gabriel hasn’t spent much time thinking about the possibilities of what lies ahead because she was busy preparing for the first practices of the fall on Tuesday. She said she looks forward to seeing her former boss, Keegan Cook, who left the Huskies in the offseason to take over at Minnesota.

However, she is disappointed to see the Pac-12 fall apart after all the conference realignment moves. She’s been associated with the league her entire life after growing up outside Seattle. The former Leslie Tuiasosopo also played for the Huskies from 1995-98 and has been on the coaching staff at Washington since 2001.

“I have a lot of pride in our conference and a lot of great memories,” she said. “This is a great conference. I’ve had a lot of great coaches and a lot of great players come through and a lot of great rivalries with different teams. To know that this is the last year for them, I’m very fortunate that we do have it too to compete in and one last time.”

Ulmer said he will miss the relationships he’s formed with the other league personnel during his time at Oregon. He said college athletics won’t be the same…

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