Glenn Nelson, whose 1,100 Princeton volleyball victories were trumped only by his unique coaching style and personality off the court, will be one of three people inducted into the EIVA Hall of Fame this spring.
Nelson, who coached Princeton through both its club days and for 13 years as a varsity program, will join Ivan Contreras (Penn State) and Wayne Stalick (George Mason) in the second class of the EIVA Hall of Fame. They represent the deep history of the EIVA, founded as the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball League (ECVL) in 1971.
Nelson became the first coach to send both a men's and women's team to the NCAA tournament in the same academic year (1997-98); that season, the Princeton men knocked off two nationally ranked teams to win its only EIVA championship.
Nelson was a paragon of consistency throughout his career with both programs; he won more than 500 games with each, and his 579 victories with the Princeton women’s volleyball team is more than any coach at the University has ever recorded with one team.
"I am proudest of the fact that we were able to preserve the men's program over the years," Nelson said. "That is a credit to our players, fans, alumni and administration. There were a lot of Eastern programs that once played varsity men's volleyball that don't play anymore. I think it's great that we're still playing varsity volleyball at Princeton."
Nelson guided Princeton to a national ranking of No. 11 during the 1998 season, which ended with a loss to top-ranked Pepperdine in the NCAA Championships. The Tigers haven't been ranked nationally since the end of that season, though the current teams is one spot outside the Top 15 in the most current rankings.
“Glenn Nelson shaped what volleyball is for both the men’s and the women’s teams here at Princeton," Princeton men's head coach Sam Shweisky said. "Thirty years of tradition and hundreds of loyal alums speak to the thousands of hours he gave to the Princeton Athletics program and the volleyball teams. Loved by those who played for him and respected by those who coached against him, Glenn is a character all his own.
"Glenn helped cultivate a tradition of winning at Princeton and we owe every win, every award, and every accolade since the day he retired to him," Shweisky added. "We stand now on the foundation that was built by Coach Nelson, and we will forever be indebted to him. Thank you, Glenn.”Nelson's top protegé is still a major figure in Princeton volleyball. Sabrina King, a former Player of the Year and longtime assistant coach for Nelson, is the current head coach for the Princeton women's team.
"Glenn has been a coach, mentor and friend to me for the last 16 years," King said. "Throughout those years, I have always been amazed at his ability to get the best out of his players and enable them to compete hard. At Princeton we are not always the tallest or most physical athletes, but Coach created a culture of competition. He is undoubtedly the most competitive person I know.
"His coaching style could be described as a delicate balance of raging maniac and cool kid indifference," King added. "Whichever hat he wore, however, his best pupils knew he truly cared deeply, despite the actual words shouted from his mouth or uttered cynically under his breath. His love for his players and the Princeton program have often been revealed in quiet moments off the court, and that approval could make your day, your month, your career."
Nelson retired after the 2008-09 academic year.
"Glenn is one of the all-time greatest coaches in the history of Princeton University,” Director of Athletics Gary Walters said upon Nelson's retirement. “He is the face of Princeton volleyball, and it's hard to imagine looking on the bench in the future and not seeing him there. On behalf of the university and the athletic department, I want to thank him for everything he's done here."
"Coach built a tradition of success, including being the only head coach to ever take both his men’s and women’s volleyball teams to the NCAA tournament in the same year, which was my freshman year," King said. "And he did it all without a single scholarship. Congratulations Glenn, my heart is full."
To read a profile of Nelson following Princeton's 2007 Ivy League championship season, including quotes from Pete Carril, Dean Cain and Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik, click here.