A household name within the Cheney and Spokane communities, Wade Benson announced he will step down as head coach of the Eastern Washington University volleyball program on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, citing fatigue of extensive travel and the demands associated with the position. He will serve as a non-traveling assistant coach for the remainder of the 2015 season, focusing on the program's daily training sessions.
The announcement brings to an end a sterling career that spans three decades and includes four Big Sky Conference titles and two Big Sky Coach of the Year awards. Benson concludes his coaching career with a record of 254-142 after stops at three institutions, including two different tenures at EWU.
Benson was the head coach at Eastern from 2000-06, compiling an impressive record of 154-55 (.737) - the best winning percentage of any coach in school history. His Big Sky Conference record during that time of 78-24 (.765) still ranks among the top four in conference history.
Benson led the Eagles to six-consecutive 20-win seasons, three Big Sky regular-season titles and one tournament title in 2001. The Eagles played in the Big Sky Championship match each of his seven years at the helm. After earning the automatic bid to the NCAA National Championship in 2001, Benson’s team upset Oregon State, 3-2, in the first round to advance to the second round of the tournament, which is still the best postseason run by any Big Sky team in history.
In 2002, Benson directed the Eagles to a 29-2 overall record, which remains as the best single-season record of any Big Sky team throughout history. That year, the Eagles also made the USA Today/AVCA Division I Top 25 poll for the first time, and earned a ranking as high as No. 15 in the nation, which marked another all-time league record.
Benson's teams at Eastern Washington also experienced success in the classroom and in attendance at Reese Court. Five of Benson’s squads received the AVCA Team Academic Award, while his players were honored 59 times on the Big Sky All-Academic list from 2000-2006. In addition, Eastern averaged more than 1,000 fans per match in each of his seven seasons and ranked in the top 30 nationally in attendance. He earned an impressive 60-9 home record while at EWU.
Most recently, he coached Allie Schumacher to All-Big Sky honors in 2013 and saw nine student-athletes earn Big Sky All-Academic accolades. Benson took an indefinite leave of absence during the 2014 season following a battle with throat cancer. Associate head coach Michael King led the team to a 9-20 mark as the team's interim head coach.
Benson left Eastern following the 2006 season for an assistant coaching position at Auburn. After one year with the Tigers, he was promoted to head coach. In just three seasons at the helm, Benson took Auburn from a 6-25 team in 2008 to a national-tournament contender in 2010 with 21-13 record. Those 21 overall wins were the most the team had since 1998, while his 11 victories in Southeastern Conference play tied a school record. That same year, the Tigers earned an at-large bid to the 2010 NCAA National Championship - Auburn’s first appearance in school history. The team went on to win its first-round matchup against Missouri State, 3-0.
After his first full year of recruiting at Auburn, Benson pulled in the nation’s No. 26 recruiting class for 2009, according to PrepVolleyball.com. The nine-member class also ranked third in the SEC. Among the class was outside hitter Sarah Bullock, who was named to the SEC All-Freshmen Team.
Benson had a total of four players named to the All-SEC team from 2008-2010. While at Eastern, he had 16 different players named to the All-Big Sky team, including 12 first-team selections and two Big Sky MVPs. The 2002 MVP, Janelle Ruen, also earned AVCA All-Pacific Honorable Mention accolades.
Benson left Auburn following the 2010 season, and moved with his family to Miramar Beach, Fla. Along with small business endeavors outside of volleyball, Benson coached club volleyball and gave private lessons. He also served as a volleyball consultant, conducting seminars and clinics at various four-year universities and junior colleges around the country.
Prior to his coaching positions at the Division I level at Eastern and Auburn, Benson was the head coach at Western Oregon for one year, where he put together a 42-7 overall record in 1995. His team won the Cascade Collegiate Conference regular-season and tournament titles, and went on to finish third in the 1995 NAIA National Championship.
Aside from his time as a head coach, Benson also has eight years of experience as an assistant. He served under Judy Lovre at Western Oregon for three years, before joining the Eastern Washington staff, where he was an assistant for four years under current SWA, Pamela Parks.
Together, Parks and Benson led the Eagles to three-straight seasons of 22+ wins (1997-99), as well as two Big Sky tournament titles in 1998 and 1999. The Eagles placed third or higher in the Big Sky regular-season standings in each of his 11 seasons as a member of the EWU coaching staff.
During those 11 years in the Spokane area, Benson also served as the club director and head coach of the Spokane Splash Volleyball Club, while also working as camp director of the Northern Exposure Volleyball Camp in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Benson and his wife, Jill, have a son, Brady Jaymz, and a daughter, Bailey Marie. The family resides in Cheney. Jill was an All-American volleyball player at Sacramento State from 1994-96 and is a member of the athletic department's Hall of Fame.
Benson's Complete Collegiate Coaching File
|1992||Western Oregon||Asst. Coach||49-9||.845||7-0||1.000||1st *||NAIA Semifinals|
|1993||Western Oregon||Asst. Coach||43-7||.860||6-0||1.000||1st *||NAIA Quarterfinals|
|1994||Western Oregon||Asst. Coach||39-14||.736||6-1||.857||2nd||NAIA Final|
|1995||Western Oregon||Head Coach||42-7||.857||11-1||.917||1st *||NAIA Semifinals|
|1996||Eastern Washington||Asst. Coach||16-12||.571||9-7||.563||3rd||Big Sky Quarterfinals|
|1997||Eastern Washington||Asst. Coach||22-6||.786||13-3||.813||1st||Big Sky Semifinals|
|1998||Eastern Washington||Asst. Coach||24-6||.800||13-3||.813||2nd *||NCAA First Round|
|1999||Eastern Washington||Asst. Coach||24-8||.750||12-4||.750||3rd *||NCAA First Round|
|2000||Eastern Washington||Head Coach||19-11||.833||11-5||.688||3rd||Big Sky Final|
|2001||Eastern Washington||Head Coach||21-6||.778||9-5||.643||3rd *||NCAA Second Round|
|2002||Eastern Washington||Head Coach||29-2||.935||13-1||.929||1st||Big Sky Final|
|2003||Eastern Washington||Head Coach||22-8||.733||13-1||.929||1st||Big Sky Final|
|2004||Eastern Washington||Head Coach||20-10||.667||12-2||.857||1st||Big Sky Final|
|2005||Eastern Washington||Head Coach||23-9||.719||10-4||.714||2nd||Big Sky Final|
|2006||Eastern Washington||Head Coach||20-9||.690||10-6||.625||3rd||Big Sky Final|
|2010||Auburn||Head Coach||21-13||.618||11-9||.550||3rd||NCAA Second Round|
|2013||Eastern Washington||Head Coach||10-21||.323||7-13||.350||8th||-|
|2014 ^||Eastern Washington||Head Coach||9-20||.310||5-11||.313||5th - N||-|
|TOTAL (12 seasons)||Head Coach||249-136||.647||116-72||.617|
|TOTAL (20 seasons)||Overall||477-218||.686||185-107||.634|
|* - Indicates won conference tournament title|
|^ - Took leave of absence; results not reflected in overall record|