March 25, 2008
IOWA CITY - As far as Sharon Dingman, the University of Iowa's new head coach for women's volleyball, is concerned, she has come full circle.
"I started my career wearing black and gold," Dingman said, referencing her days as a student-athlete at Purdue. "And, now, I'm in black and gold again and couldn't be happier and more excited."
Dingman was all smiles Tuesday when she was officially introduced to the University of Iowa community by UI Director of Athletics Gary Barta.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to be here. Iowa City and the University of Iowa is a very welcoming place. It's a great place with values that I appreciate and agree with," she said.
Dingman inherits a program that has struggled to be competitive in one of the nation's toughest and deepest volleyball conferences, the Big Ten. She said the plan is incremental growth and success, big time success.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to be here. Iowa City and the University of Iowa is a very welcoming place. It's a great place with values that I appreciate and agree with."
Sharon Dingman, Iowa's new head volleyball coach
"I know it can happen and I feel confident it will because I feel a real commitment to success in the sport of volleyball by this department and this institution," she said.
"We're going to have to outwork people, our players on the floor and the coaches on the floor and recruiting trail. But we'll get it done."
Dingman said one of her first challenges will be to change the expectations of the student-athletes. She said she knows they want to win - "That was obvious when I watched them practice," she said - but the challenge is to change the thought process from "wanting to" to "expecting to."
"I know they're a little nervous right now," said Dingman, the eighth head coach in the sport of volleyball at the UI. "I'm a little nervous. But I'll tell them tomorrow when we meet that I feel the same excitement that they felt when they became Hawkeyes and together we'll move the program forward."
Dingman said the promise of a new practice facility was important in her decision to leave Illinois State after eight years of success that included seven winning seasons and a total of 147 victories. But it was far from the most important factor.
"The changes in facilities are going to happen, they are on the horizon...and that's important," she said. "However, what's in place is just as important if not more so. We have a tremendous university in a state that loves volleyball that just sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament.
"Our goal is to make it three or, maybe, one, with the University of Iowa pushing the others out of the picture."
Dingman noted that academic success will always be a priority. Her track record supports that assertion: Eleven of her student-athletes at Illinois State were named to the Missouri Valley Conference's scholar-athlete squad during her eight seasons at ISU and, in 2004, four volleyball student-athletes earned perfect 4.0 grade point averages and the team recorded a 3.32 GPA. The following year her team won the academic award for the highest GPA in the ISU Athletics Department.
When introducing Dingman, Barta noted that "she knows our values, knows our strengths and knows our weaknesses."
"I'm excited about having Sharon on board and very excited about the future of Iowa volleyball," he said before acknowledging the work of Mary Curtis, the UI's associate director of athletics who oversees the volleyball program on a day-to-day basis.
Barta also thanked the work of the search committee and the input of those friends and fans and volleyball enthusiasts and experts both on the UI campus and off.
"We took our time and secured input from across the state and across the country. Obviously, we are absolutely delighted with the outcome."