Oct. 27, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame head coach Debbie Brown will be inducted into the Colorado Springs (Colo.) Sports Hall of Fame Wednesday evening along with fellow teammates of the 1980 United States Olympic women's volleyball team. Seven of the 14 original team members will be present for the ceremony.
"This is going to be a very special evening for a number of reason," Brown said. "Being back in Colorado means so much to us because when the team arrived for the first time, many of us were very young and had to leave our families, friends and schools. The city of Colorado Springs adopted us and took us under its wing, so this feels like a homecoming of sorts. It is where we did so much of our training and where we bonded on and off the court, and those bonds are still very strong today. This team is like none other I have ever been a part of."
Brown and the star-crossed team lived and trained in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center in preparation for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. In addition, this was the first "national team in residence" experiment in Olympic sport in the United States, with all team members, coaches and staff moving to Colorado Springs to live together and train on a full-time basis after finishing fifth at the 1978 World Championships.
Its dream did not come to complete fruition, however, due to the Unite States' boycott of the Moscow Olympics, but a handful of players remained to win a silver medal at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, losing to China in the gold medal game.
Coached by Dr. Arie Selinger thirty years ago, the team of Janet Baier, Carolyn Becker, Rita Crockett, Patty Dowdell, Laurie Flachmeier, Debbie Green, Flo Hyman, Laurel Brassey, Debbie (Landreth) Brown, Diane McCormick, Terry Place and Sue Woodstra was considered a favorite to win the volleyball gold medal in Moscow.
After graduating from El Segundo High School, Brown captained the University of Southern California to a 72-1 two-year record and national titles in both 1976 and 1977, including a 38-0 run in 1977 that, until 1998, was the only unbeaten season in Division I women's volleyball history. Her 1977 squad is still considered one of the all-time greatest at any level of volleyball. Brown twice was named a collegiate All-American and received the Mikasa Award as the "nation's best all-around player" in 1976 and 1977.
USC paid tribute to Brown during the 2008 season by naming her a program "All-Time Great", an honor shared with Woodstra, her Trojan teammate. A permanent banner with Brown's name and jersey number now hangs from the rafters of USC's Galen Center.
The 5-foot-8 outside hitter left USC prior to her junior year, accepting an invitation to train full-time with the U.S. National Team. She co-captained the team to its fifth-place finish at the 1978 World Championships. A year later, she and her teammates qualified for the Olympics in Moscow. Four of Brown's former United States teammates went on to become college head coaches.
After serving as a program consultant since 1986, Brown took a leave of absence in 1988 to serve as an assistant coach for the United States National Team before accepting a full-time national team position in1989. Brown's duties centered on helping improve the national team's defense and her efforts played a role in a United States bronze medal finish at the1990 World Championship in China. She also coached national teams in the 1985 and 1991 Olympic Festivals.
In May of 1995, USA Volleyball named Brown an "All-Time Great Volleyball Player," the highest honor given by the organization. Brown and fellow honoree Karch Kiraly, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and beach volleyball legend, were recognized at the U.S. Open Championships in Springfield, Mass., and had their photos and records added to the Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke, Mass. Established in 1954, the "All-Time Great" designation honors players with Olympic, national team or All-America honors, U.S. Open Championships, and overall dominance during a particular era. Among the 51 previous winners before Brown were Hyman, Woodstra, Green, Crockett, and Laurel Brassey - all former teammates.
Brown earned USVBA All-America honors eight times and won the USVBA's Kilgore Sportsmanship Award in 1983. A six-time USVBA first team All-American, Brown was a member of the USVBA Board of Directors and the U.S. Olympic Committee's Athlete Advisory Council. She served a two-year term (1995-96) as president of the American Volleyball Coaches Association and was a member of its All-America selection committee.
Brown played for the 1975, 1985 and 1986 USVBA national championship teams. In 1992, she joined several of her former Olympic squad teammates to capture the USVBA senior division national title in Reno, Nev. Recognizing Brown's effort and success, the Notre Dame Monogram Club bestowed upon her an honorary monogram at the annual club banquet in 1999.
Her international experience and travels has afforded her the opportunity to coach and play in 22 countries across the world. In honor of her work, Brown was selected as an Olympic torchbearer for the 2002 Winter Olympic Torch Relay when it traveled through the northern Indiana area.
In 2003, Brown was recognized for her outstanding career by the NCAA with the Silver Anniversary Award, which annually recognizes six distinguished student-athletes for accomplishments since concluding their collegiate playing days 25 years earlier.
Now in her 20th campaign as Notre Dame head coach, Brown earned her 450th win with the Irish earlier this season and has led the program to nine BIG EAST Championships titles since joining the league in 1995. Most recently, Brown was named both BIG EAST and AVCA Northeast Region Coach of the Year in 2009.