The University of Minnesota dropped a surprise announcement in a press release Sunday evening when they made it official that Minnesota Gophers volleyball head coach Hugh McCutcheon would be stepping down after the 2022 season. McCutcheon is in his 11th season as the head coach of the Gophers volleyball team and has helped Minnesota be one of the most successful teams in the nation for a majority of that time.
The press release stated that this would be McCutcheon’s final season as the head coach of the Gophers, but not that he was retiring from coaching. Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle provided a quote in the statement that muddles the water even further:
“Hugh is a respected leader in volleyball, the coaching profession and in our department,” said Director of Athletics Mark Coyle. “We understand and support his decision to step away at the end of the season and we thank him for his tremendous contributions to our program, University and state.
“I know Hugh appreciates the support from our amazing fans and understands the questions that people might have, but his sole focus right now is on the team and the rest of the season. Out of respect for our program and our student-athletes, he will defer any questions about this decision until the end of the season.”
The Gophers announced that Associate Head Coach Matt Houk will serve as the interim head coach of the Gophers effective the end of the 2022 season and that a national search will be conducted at the end of the season for Minnesota’s next head coach. With the consistent success the Gophers have had over McCutcheon’s tenure, the Minnesota job should be quite attractive and Mark Coyle should have no trouble finding a very high level field of possible candidates who have interest in the position.
What makes the timing of this announcement very interesting is that fact that on December 17, 2021 the Gophers announced that McCutcheon signed a contract extension that would keep him in charge of the Minnesota program through the 2025 season. He had a quote in the press release announcing the extension stating: “I’m grateful to President Gabel, [Director of Athletics] Mark Coyle and [Deputy Athletics Director/SWA] Julie Manning for their continued trust and support,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. ”It’s a privilege to coach here and we will continue to represent this program, our university and the state of Minnesota to the best of our ability.”
McCutcheon previously coached both the US Men and US Women’s Olympic Teams and is the only coach in USA Volleyball history to coach both teams to Olympic medals. The US men won gold in 2008 and the women silver in 2012. Is a potential return to international coaching possible?
McCutcheon may just want to spend more time with his family. He and his MN native wife Wiz Bachman have two children who are 11 and 9, so maybe he just needs to be a dad?
We most likely will not fully have an answer until the end of Minnesota’s 2022 season which will not be until December.
His current Gopher squad continues to have a roller coaster season with a 10-6 overall record and a 5-3 record in Big Ten play which places them in 5th place 40% of the way through the conference schedule. Minnesota heads to Iowa on Wednesday before hosting another top-10 team when Purdue comes to the Pav Saturday night.