2024 First Point Collegiate Challenge

What To Know About USC Men's Volleyball

What To Know About USC Men's Volleyball

You’d be hard-pressed to find any sport and region as intertwined as men’s volleyball and Southern California. Learn about the Trojans and their history.

Jan 9, 2024 by Briar Napier
What To Know About USC Men's Volleyball

You’d be hard-pressed to find any sport and region to be as intertwined as men’s volleyball and Southern California.

USC, unquestionably, has utilized its home’s rich heritage in the sport and used it for glory on the game’s biggest and brightest stages.

A giant of college men’s volleyball, it has been some time since the Trojans were atop the sport as national champions, but USC never is taken lightly for a reason.

The program’s lineage and history stack up and command respect, and those who don’t pay homage often are left to understand quickly to not do that again.

The Men of Troy are volleyball royalty. Can they reclaim the throne as kings of college men’s volleyball?

Here’s a look at all there is to know about one of college men’s volleyball’s most decorated programs, USC:

What Is The History Of USC Men’s Volleyball?

Southern California is the spiritual home of men’s volleyball, and unsurprisingly, the region’s largest university of the same name is a household name in the sport. 

The Trojans, since forming a varsity squad from the first season the NCAA began sponsoring men’s volleyball in 1970, have made the national championship match 12 times – more than any other program besides arch nemesis UCLA – while numerous former players have gone on to be medal-winning Olympians or have decorated professional careers, or both, after leaving campus. 

Multiple coaches can be credited with directing the Trojans to national prominence, but perhaps none are more responsible for the program’s growth than the late Ernie Hix, who retired in 1981 after 146 victories in eight years (including two national championships) and being an influential figure in helping make the men’s volleyball program at USC a scholarship sport, beginning in 1977.

How Many National Championships Has USC Men’s Volleyball Won?

The Men of Troy have captured four official national titles (1977, 1980, 1988, 1990), ranking them behind Golden State rivals UCLA (20) and Pepperdine (five), while being level in the count with in-state foe UC Irvine. 

Hix steered UCLA to its first two titles, with Bob Yoder and Jim McLaughlin being the coaches for the Trojans’ next two, respectively. 

Though USC definitely is decorated in the sport and has earned the right to be called one of its blue bloods, it also has a reputation of coming up just short. USC has eight runner-up finishes in the national final, more than any other school in NCAA college men’s volleyball history. 

The Trojans have finished second twice this century (2009 and 2012), losing to John Speraw – who now coaches UCLA – and his UC Irvine squad, both times. 

If you want to get technical, USC, depending on your classification for a “national title,” could have as many as six in men’s volleyball, if you count the Trojans’ 1949 and 1950 USVBA Collegiate National Championships, though those were not under the jurisdiction of the athletic department or the NCAA. 

Who Coaches USC Men’s Volleyball?

One of the greatest players in the history of college men’s volleyball – and in the history of the decorated UCLA program – now ironically leads one of his alma mater’s biggest rivals. 

Jeff Nygaard, who became the first player in history to win the AVCA National Player of the Year award in consecutive seasons while starring for the Bruins in 1994 and 1995, is in his ninth season leading the Trojans. He previously served there as an assistant under two-time AVCA Coach of the Year Bill Ferguson. 

The former middle blocker’s tenure with the Trojans has been a bit of a mixed bag; Nygaard holds a head coaching record of 89-114 while playing in the most brutal men’s volleyball league in the country (more about that in a bit).

USC has shown hints of playing up to its potential as a national power once again, however, going 22-7 overall in 2022 and narrowly missing out on the NCAA Tournament. 

The Trojans are coming off a 10-16 campaign in 2023, including a first-round elimination from their conference tournament.

Where Does USC Men’s Volleyball Play?

Most of the time, USC plays its home matches under the bright lights of the Galen Center, the on-campus facility and home venue of the Trojans’ basketball and volleyball teams since its opening in 2006. 

The venue’s capacity is a shade over 10,000, and high-profile matches against in-state opposition and/or elite competition (particularly UCLA) can bring in four-figure numbers for attendance. 

When the Galen Center is unavailable, the Trojans will play at the smaller, but connected, Galen Center Pavilion, which often is used as a practice facility.

In What League Does USC Men’s Volleyball Play?

One of the few sports at USC that will not be affected by the Trojans’ move from the Pac-12 Conference to the Big Ten Conference later this year, men’s volleyball has, and will continue to be (for the foreseeable future), a member of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, a league that competes in Olympic sports that aren’t directly sponsored by a school’s main conference. 

The seven-team league features in-state foes Stanford, Pepperdine and UCLA, plus other west-based teams, such as BYU and Grand Canyon, and the league is notoriously brutal.

USC has the same amount of MPSF titles as it does official and claimed national championships combined – six. 

USC Men’s Volleyball Notable Alumni

Thirty-four first-team All-Americans, 21 Olympians, four AVCA Players of the Year. 

The Trojans have an alumni list of which most programs in college men’s volleyball could only dream. 

You also can tell a lot of Olympic men’s volleyball history through former USC players; for example, the U.S. national men’s volleyball team’s first gold-medal performance at an Olympics came on home soil at the 1984 Los Angeles games, and it was heavily due to a trio of former Trojans – legendary figures Steve Timmons, Dusty Dvorak and Pat Powers – who honed their craft a short distance away from the Olympic volleyball venue that year in Long Beach. 

As for USC’s fearsome foursome of national players of the year, middle blocker Bryan Ivie won the inaugural honor from the AVCA following his senior season in 1991, a year after he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament in leading the Trojans to the national title. 

The others who have won the honor at USC – Donald Suxho (2000), Murphy Troy (2011) and Tony Ciarelli (2012) – all etched their names into the program’s folklore with legendary careers of their own.

A Look At 2024 For USC Men’s Volleyball

Some of the Trojans’ toughest nonconference matchups of the 2024 season will take place at the First Point Volleyball Foundation’s Collegiate Challenge, held over two days (Jan. 19-20) at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, and the event will be stream live, and exclusively, on FloVolleyball.

FloVolleyball also will stream the MPSF Men’s Volleyball Championship later in the year (April 17-20), as teams battle for an automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Collegiate Volleyball Championship. USC will look to clinch a return to the field for the 16th time in program history.

First Point Collegiate Challenge Schedule

All Times Central

Jan. 19

  • 1:30 p.m. – No. 12 USC vs. No. 11 Ball State
  • 4 p.m. – No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 7 Ohio State
  • 6:30 p.m. – No. 9 Stanford vs. No. 3 Penn State

Jan. 20

  • 1:30 p.m. – No. 12 USC vs No. 7 Ohio State
  • 4 p.m. – No. 9 Stanford vs No. 11 Ball State
  • 6:30 p.m. – No. 1 UCLA vs No. 3 Penn State

How To Watch The First Point Collegiate Challenge

Watch First Point Collegiate Challenge and men's volleyball on FloVolleyball and the FloSports app.

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