The University of Nebraska Athletic Department is proud to announce that former NU head volleyball coach Terry Pettit is the recipient of the 2009 Dr. Barbara Hibner Trailblazer Award. Pettit will be presented with the award at the Nebraska vs. Texas volleyball match this Saturday, Sept. 26 at 1 p.m., and will be acknowledged for this achievement at the football game against Louisiana-Lafayette that evening at 6 p.m.
The Trailblazer Award was first given in 2000 to honor outstanding support and generous contributions to women’s athletics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 2007, it was renamed the Dr. Barbara Hibner Trailblazer Award in honor of Dr. Barbara Hibner, a longtime member of the Nebraska Athletic Department and inaugural recipient of the award, who passed away on March 7, 2007.
Past winners of the award, in addition to Hibner, include the Raimondi family in 2001, Ione Bowlin in 2002, the Betty Geis family in 2003, Carol Frost in 2004, Pinnacle Sports Productions in 2005, Dr. Joanne Owens Nauslar in 2006, current head softball coach Rhonda Revelle in 2007 and the Stephen Rohman family in 2008.
“The most important thing to me about the Trailblazer Award is that it has Dr. Barbara Hibner's name on it,” Pettit said. “She fought in the trenches for women at a time when there was not the public support that there is today. She had the courage to lobby, negotiate and at times annoy people in power so that women could become pole vaulters, basketball players and gymnasts. Those same battles led to other significant opportunities as physicians, entrepreneurs and leaders in our community.
“The best way for us to honor her spirit is to ask ourselves what biases, based on ignorance, we are clinging to today that will strike our great grandchildren as odd. I am pleased to receive this award because it allows me to stand with Dr. Hibner and many other courageous people at the University of Nebraska who have witnessed for equal opportunity and coached us toward a more enlightened culture.”
Pettit served as the head coach of the Nebraska volleyball program for 23 years before announcing his retirement following the 1999 season, creating a legacy of success and a foundation for the future of the sport. He was just the second volleyball coach in NU history, as the sport was not sponsored by the athletic department prior to 1975. Under Pettit’s direction, Nebraska won a conference championship in his first year, his first of 21 conference titles in his 23 seasons at Nebraska.
“Coach Pettit is the godfather of Nebraska volleyball,” current NU Head Volleyball Coach John Cook said. “He has always had the insight and wisdom to look ahead and to see what we can do to push the envelope. One thing I have taken from Coach Pettit is the ability to see the big picture and look beyond the box, as he calls it. Nebraska volleyball is what it is today because of Terry Pettit.”
A two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year, Pettit won 743 career matches (694 in Division I) and has an amazing .820 winning percentage. When he finished his coaching career, he ranked fifth nationally in winning percentage and sixth in total wins. In 1996, the United States Olympic Committee honored Pettit with its inaugural Elite Coach-of-the-Year award. He was also the 2004 recipient of the USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coach Award. Pettit will be inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame this December in Tampa, Fla.
Overall, Pettit’s teams made 18 consecutive NCAA Tournaments appearances, reaching 12 regional finals and advancing to the National Semifinals on six occasions. The Huskers reached the national championship match three times under his direction, including the school’s first national title in volleyball in 1995 when the Huskers defeated Texas. Pettit’s teams finished the season ranked in the AVCA Top 10 for 15 consecutive seasons.
Pettit’s success in conference play is as impressive as his national accomplishments. During his tenure, Nebraska lost only 15 conference matches in 23 years, and went undefeated in league play 14 times. From 1983 through 1987, Nebraska was 52-0 in league action. For his accomplishments, Pettit was honored as the Big Eight/Big 12 Coach of the Year on nine occasions (1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1998).
Many of Pettit’s players went on to enjoy tremendous athletic success. Eighteen Huskers earned a total of 34 AVCA All-America certificates under his tutelage, including three each to Janet Kruse (1989-91), Stephanie Thater (1990-92), Allison Weston (1993-95), Lisa Reitsma (1995-97) and Fiona Nepo (1996-98).
In addition, Pettit produced seven U.S. National Team members, one Morgan Trophy Award winner, two Honda-Broderick Volleyball Award winners, two Big Eight Conference Athletes of the Year and 11 Big Eight/Big 12 Volleyball Players of the Year.
Pettit also helped his teams achieve incredible honors in the classroom. Between 1983 and 1999, Nebraska amassed 96 Academic all-conference awards, 19 GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, and four GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-Americans-of-the-Year. Janet Kruse and Virginia Stahr were both two-time Academic All-Americans of the Year, won the NCAA Top Six/Eight Award and earned postgraduate scholarships, while Billie Winsett was named the NCAA Woman of the Year.
“Coach Pettit’s work with the volleyball program was definitely that of a trailblazer,” Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne said. “He helped shape one of the most highly respected programs in women’s athletics, both in terms of athletic and academic success. We are appreciative of his tireless efforts and outstanding achievements with Nebraska Volleyball.”
Pettit also helped secure Nebraska as a destination for the NCAA Regional Tournaments. Working closely with NU’s athletic administration, he was instrumental in bringing the tournament to Lincoln nine times between 1982 and 1999.
Since finishing his Husker career, Pettit has continued to remain active in the coaching and volleyball communities. He served on the NCAA Volleyball Rules Committee from 2001 to 2003, and has been a columnist for Coaching Volleyball magazine, an award-winning technical journal published by the AVCA. He founded the Summit on Extraordinary Coaching in 2006, serving as the director for two years, and wrote a book on coaching, Talent and the Secret Life of Teams, in 2008.
Pettit has earned several honors since his retirement from coaching. In 2000, he was named the Lincoln Journal Star’s Star of the Year and received the Nebraskaland Foundation Pioneer Award. The following year, he was named the Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow.
Currently he serves as a mentor coach through the Director of Leadership Academies at the University of Denver and Colorado State University. He also works as a speaker and facilitator of workshops about coaching, leadership and team building.
A native of Crown Point, Ind., Pettit graduated in 1968 from Manchester (Ind.) College with a bachelor of science degree in English. He then earned a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Arkansas in 1974. He took over the Husker program after a three-year stint at Louisburg Junior College in North Carolina, where he coached volleyball and taught English Literature. He is married to the former Anne Denneler, and they have two daughters, Katherine and Emma Jane.