Dec. 4, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Following 24 seasons as head volleyball coach at the University of Notre Dame, including more than 500 wins and 18 NCAA Championship appearances, Debbie Brown will not return in that role for the 2015 campaign.
Brown departs with a Notre Dame resume that included 15 regular-season conference titles (11 in the BIG EAST Conference) and five trips to the NCAA Round of 16, including an NCAA quarterfinal berth in 1993. Her Irish squads advanced into the NCAA bracket in 15 consecutive seasons from 1992 through 2006. Her final two Irish squads finished 13-18 in 2013 and 6-23 in 2014.
“Debbie has probably understood what Notre Dame and its student-athlete experience is about as well as any coach on our staff. She has represented the University in exceptional fashion in her time here,” said Notre Dame vice president and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
“However, our expectations regarding competitive performance are also high, and we regrettably have not been able to meet those in recent years. I’d like to thank her for all she has done for the program and, in particular, for all she has done for the student-athletes who have played for her. We will immediately begin a national search to identify a new head coach for our volleyball program.”
“I thank God for the opportunities I’ve had to coach at Notre Dame over the past 24 years,” Brown said. “I’ve been blessed beyond measure through the relationships with my student-athletes and my coaching and support staffs. I will cherish the memories forever. My primary goal has been to provide a great experience for our student-athletes and winning is certainly a part of having a great experience. Unfortunately the wins did not come as needed the past couple years. Great things are in store for the program in the immediate future, and I will forever be its biggest fan and supporter.”
Brown’s Notre Dame tenure included a 519-247 record (.677), as well as a 30-year career mark of 636-330 (.658). She led her teams to 26 consecutive winning seasons from 1985 to 2012, 13 finishes in the top 25 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association national rankings and 22 invitations to the NCAA Championship. Thirteen league tournament titles also are among the accomplishments of Brown-led teams, which won 20 or more matches 18 times in the last 28 seasons. Six times she was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year (she was the league’s first five-time winner of that award), and she also merited that honor four times from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.
Brown saw her Irish players gain AVCA or Volleyball Magazine All-America accolades on 23 occasions, with middle blocker Lauren Brewster becoming the first Notre Dame player to be selected as an AVCA All-American (third team in 2004 and second team in 2005) in program history. In 2005, Brewster became the first player in school history to earn both athletic and academic All-America honors in the same season.
Brown’s players also earned CoSIDA Academic All-America honors three times, while they won the conference player-of-the-year award nine times and were named the top player in the league tournament on 12 occasions. In all, Brown-era Irish players combined for 76 all-conference honors, including 41 first-team selections. During the program’s remarkable run in the BIG EAST, six players earned player-of-the-year honors while 59 (32 first team) received all-BIG EAST scrolls. Regionally, Notre Dame student-athletes garnered all-region or all-district recognition from the AVCA 54 times during Brown’s tenure.
Before coming to Notre Dame, Brown’s six seasons at Arizona State (1983-88) included Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year honors in 1986. She compiled a 117-83 record en route to five NCAA Championship berths while in Tempe. Brown took a leave of absence from Arizona State in 1988 to serve as an assistant coach for the United States National Team before accepting a full-time national team position in 1989. Brown’s duties centered on helping improve the national team’s defense and her efforts played a role in a United States bronze medal finish at the 1990 World Championship in China. She also coached national teams in the 1985 and 1991 Olympic Festivals before accepting the head position at Notre Dame.
Brown grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of El Segundo and became one of the nation’s top prep players. She competed as a 17-year-old for the United States at the 1974 World Championship in Mexico City and a year later played on the adidas team that won the USVBA title. She captained USC to a 72-1 two-year record and national titles in 1976 and 1977, including a 38-0 run in 1977 that, until 1998, was the only unbeaten season in Division I women’s volleyball history. Brown (then Debbie Landreth) twice was named a collegiate All-American and received the Mikasa Award as the nation’s best all-around player in 1976 and 1977.
The 5-foot-8 outside hitter left USC prior to her junior year as she accepted an invitation to train full-time with the U.S. National Team. She co-captained the team to a fifth-place finish at the 1978 World Championships. A year later, she and her teammates qualified for the Olympics in Moscow and were considered serious medal contenders before the United States elected to boycott the games.
After serving as co-captain of the 1980 Olympic team, Brown completed her degree in physical education at Arizona State in 1982. As an undergraduate, she began her coaching career as an assistant with the Sun Devils under Dale Flickinger from 1980-82 before serving in the same capacity at Central Arizona College during the 1982 season. She returned to Arizona State as head coach in 1983.
In May of 1995, USA Volleyball named Brown an “All-Time Great Volleyball Player,” the highest honor given by the organization. She earned USVBA All-America honors eight times and won the USVBA’s Kilgore Sportsmanship Award in 1983. Brown was a six-time USVBA first-team All-American and played for the 1975, 1985 and 1986 USVBA national championship teams.
In 2003, Brown was recognized for her outstanding career by the NCAA with the Silver Anniversary Award. She was selected as an Olympic Torchbearer for the 2002 Winter Olympic Torch Relay when it traveled through the Northern Indiana area. The Notre Dame Monogram Club bestowed upon her an honorary monogram in 1999.