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IOWA CITY — Jim Barnes “did my homework” when the Iowa volleyball head coaching job opened, he said.
Some of the recent results wouldn’t exactly garner an “A” or even a passing grade. The Hawkeyes officially have one winning season since 2001. There would’ve been one more had it not been for an NCAA violation.
Yet Barnes, Iowa’s new head volleyball coach, is confident he can turn Iowa into a consistent Top 25 program.
“It has in place the things that you need to be a perennial Top 25 program,” Barnes said Tuesday in his introductory news conference.
The athletics department is giving him a long leash to do just that, agreeing to a seven-year contract — a sharp contrast from firing former coach Vicki Brown after less than three seasons.
“We wanted to do it the right way,” Iowa athletics director Gary Barta told The Gazette. “I don’t want him to cut corners. He doesn’t want to cut corners.”
While Barnes plans to “recruit coast-to-coast,” he’s putting a focus on keeping Iowa’s hotbed of volleyball talent in the state.
Two athletes from Iowa started in the 2021 national championship match, including Nebraska’s kills leader Madi Kubik (West Des Moines Valley).
Barnes understands “we can’t get all of them” when neighboring Big Ten schools can offer routine NCAA Tournament runs. He said some will want to “stay within the state and help us continue to build” the program.
“Maybe you can put your face on Mount Rushmore of getting this program to the top,” Barnes said, instead of being “one of the many” stars on another Big Ten team.
His recruiting strategy includes targeting athletes in the transfer portal, which — along with re-recruiting the current roster — is part of the reason why his phone is “barely charged right now” and “burning up.”
“There’s a lot of great players in there,” Barnes said. “It can help you change things quickly. … We will certainly use it to our advantage to attract talent here.”
Barnes had winning seasons in four of his six years at Tulane, but the Green Wave did not earn an NCAA Tournament bid in any of those seasons.
His results at Baylor — his previous stint in a Power Five conference — were mixed.
He presided over the Bears’ win over No. 9 UCLA in the second round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament, the highest-ranked win in program history at the time. But Barnes struggled to consistently win at the Big 12 level.
In Barnes’ 11 seasons in Waco, he produced one with a winning conference record. He did not exceed a .300 Big 12 Conference winning percentage until his fifth season.
Barnes believes Iowa has better volleyball resources than Baylor had when he took the Bears to the NCAA Tournament twice in 11 years.
“I think Iowa has way more upside and ability to get there and ability to really get there,” Barnes said.
Baylor has earned winning Big 12 records and NCAA Tournament appearances in six of the seven seasons since canning Barnes.
Iowa’s hiring of Barnes came more than a month after the Hawkeyes jettisoned Brown, the only Black head coach on campus, before the end of the 2021 season.
Brown, who compiled a 17-56 record, had the shortest stint as an Iowa head volleyball coach since 1990.
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