Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No sentimental sendoff for volleyball legend Al Scates

[this report includes a video link, below]

WESTWOOD, CA—A true legend gets ready for the final home matches of his 50-year career. The weekend’s checklist seems pretty obvious:
  • Dozens of alumni fly in from everywhere? Check 
  • The university prepares tear-jerking tributes? Check 
  • Fans pack the arena? Check 
  • A weekend full of sappy sentimentality? Not quite.
UCLA men's head coach Al Scates
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

UCLA men’s volleyball coach Al Scates, whose tenure and success may never be surpassed, managed to avoid a saccharine exit when his team tangled both Friday and Saturday with visiting BYU.

How sour was it? Here was BYU head coach Chris McGown, speaking to the BYU school newspaper after the Cougars split the weekend series with the Bruins:

“The way Scates went about arguing his point was completely contrary to not only league rules but also sportsmanship and ethics.”

Harsh words to direct at a fellow coach who has won 21 national championships.

UCLA triple block vs. BYU
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
McGown—son of another volleyball coaching legend, Carl McGown—was talking about the conclusion of Friday’s match. Which actually concluded Saturday. Which was a BYU win. Then a tie. Then a BYU loss. Then a tie. Then a BYU win.

Got it?

“I’ve never seen a sporting event with such a bizarre ending in my life,” said Karch Kiraly, in the stands to root on his old Bruins’ coach.

In Friday’s fifth set, with BYU serving at 16-15, redshirt freshman Josue Rivera served a ball to the back line. The line judge called it long; the up ref overruled. Ace serve, end of match, BYU joyous.

But Scates was not done. He challenged the call, and not gently. After twenty long minutes, BYU was stunned (to say the least) to be called back out of the locker room. The score was set at 16-16, and play continued. A few minutes later, the Bruins prevailed 20-18.

According to McGown, both he and his players were so upset with the outcome, no one could sleep after Friday’s match.

Saturday evening, many dozens of disappointed fans were turned away from the Wooden Center as the weekend’s second match was sold out. Inside, both the Cougars and Bruins were still seething.

During the day, BYU officials had filed a complaint. Three hours before Saturday’s match, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation decreed that the score of Friday’s fifth set would once again be reset to 16-16, to be concluded before the start of Saturday’s match. The conference called in veteran referee Rick Olmstead to officiate the match; Olmstead had spent the day in Malibu officiating five hours of women’s sand volleyball between USC and Pepperdine.

UCLA had first serve for the continuation of Friday’s match. BYU—on the strength of a kill and a block— quickly won 18-16. McGown chest-bumped his assistant coach, as two BYU players performed backflips in front of the partisan crowd. [see Volleyblog Seattle video]

The scheduled Saturday match began 15 minutes later; UCLA won in a rout. McGown blamed his team’s sleepless night; UCLA players credited the desire to send their coach out with a win.

Most BYU players did not stick around for the post-match ceremonies honoring Scates and his wife. If they had, they would have witnessed five decades of Olympians, All-Americans and national champions join their coach all posing for what should long be an iconic photo of men’s volleyball history.

50 years of UCLA men's volleyball alumni pose after coach Al Scates' final home regular-season match
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

The biggest crowds and the best jobs in American collegiate volleyball are in the women’s game. But watching the passion and power of the men’s game was a reminder of what a big deal this could become throughout the Northwest, Arizona and the Rockies. Among Pac-12 schools, only USC, UCLA and Stanford sponsor men’s volleyball teams. Fans in the rest of the conference should be making the kind of noise heard in Westwood this weekend to insist the men’s game is played everywhere.

Do you agree? Let us know.


  1. Wow, BYU seems like a real classy program.

  2. Anonymous

    Al Scates is the one who lacks class or ethics.

  3. From: http://www.offtheblockblog.com/2012/04/ucla-tweet-servegate-call-overturned-again-byu-ucla-to-replay-overtime-tongint/

    That call resulted in large protest from UCLA as coach Al Scates left the bench and walked across the court argue with the officials. In addition, UCLA players refused to leave the court or line-up to shake hands with the BYU players in protest of the call.

    From: http://universe.byu.edu/index.php/2012/04/08/dramatic-weekend-for-mens-volleyball/

    In commentary from: Nikolas Buser Assistant Volleyball Coach at VBC Val de Travers

    Sure, I don’t know the history as well as you guys because I haven’t been part of it. But still… Insulting other people on facebook? Come on!
    I’ve read a lot and talked with several people about this “servegate”. To me, saying it was just someone’s fault is too easy. There was an unfortunate series of mistakes plus the fact that it was Al Scates’ second last home match and so on… I think the ref would have never ever decided the same way with any other coach.

    So how is this BYU being classless?


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