Grand Rapids, Mich. - West Michigan Pro Volleyball (WMPVB) on Monday introduced Cathy George as the team’s head coach and director of volleyball operations. She has signed a multi-year contract with the Pro Volleyball Federation franchise.
The winningest coach in the history of Michigan State University’s volleyball program, George led the Spartans for 17 seasons (2005-21) and totaled 35 years as a collegiate head coach, including 11 seasons (1994-2004) at Western Michigan University. Upon her retirement from MSU in January 2022, her 667 career wins (667-457, .593) ranked 15th among active Division I coaches and third in the Big Ten.
At Michigan State, George amassed a 302-233 record (.564) record, qualified for the NCAA tournament 10 times, and reached the NCAA Elite Eight in 2017, when her team’s final ranking of No. 8 in the AVCA national poll was the program’s highest since the 1996 season. The Spartans made seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments from 2011-17 – the second-longest streak in school history – winning at least one game in each tournament and earning the second and third NCAA Sweet 16 berths of George’s tenure.
George became the first woman to coach in the NCAA D1 Final Four when she took her University of Texas-Arlington program to the national semifinals in 1989. She has made 15 NCAA tournament appearances, coached 26 AVCA All-Americans, and garnered a slew of coaching honors. George was a three-time Southland Conference Coach of the Year recipient (1989, 1990, 1992), the 2000 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, the 1988 NCAA D2 National Coach of the Year, and a two-time North Central Conference Coach of the Year (1987, 1988).
“This opportunity is a great fit for me. I’m really happy about working for DP Fox Sports and the Pro Volleyball Federation,” said George. “Scott [Gorsline] and I met soon after the West Michigan Pro Volleyball franchise was announced in December and began talking about my potential involvement. It grew from there and everything fell into place.
“The DP Fox Sports organization has been amazing. I met so many different people last week and could tell there’s a strong culture throughout the company. I trust in this group of people and believe in what they are doing for the sport of volleyball. I always have loved volleyball; I loved playing it, coaching it, I have loved being with players and helping them grow, and I really love when teams come together and operate as one. To experience the connectedness that makes a team great is so special, and I miss all those things, no doubt about it,” she continued.
“The opportunity to work with a league within the United States is a wonderful thing. I’ve had so many players who have chosen not to go overseas for various reasons and were really conflicted about those decisions. To have move so far away to pursue your dream of being a professional volleyball player was hard for some of them. I’m excited that they now get to pursue their dream right here. I’ve always been dedicated to the growth of volleyball in Michigan. I never thought of my job as just coaching a college team, but as a vehicle to grow the sport and the community, to invest in the people around you, and to help coaches and players learn and grow. This opportunity presents all these things again, and I look forward to getting started,” George added.
Prior to her time at MSU, George spent 11 seasons at Western Michigan University from 1994-2004, highlighted by a 2000 campaign in which she earned MAC Coach of the Year honors as the Broncos captured the MAC title and made the NCAA Tournament. WMU made back-to-back MAC Tournament title match appearances in 1999 and 2000, and she concluded her Broncos tenure with a 185-139 mark (0.571).
Throughout her time in the state of Michigan, George’s teams have garnered strong fan support. Michigan State ranked in the top 25 in Division I attendance during each of her 17 seasons at the helm (excluding COVID restrictions during spring 2021), while Western Michigan led the MAC in total attendance in eight of her 11 seasons.
George began her D1 coaching career at UT-Arlington in 1989, reaching the Final Four in her first season at the helm and winning three Southland Conference titles (1989, 1990 and 1992) in five years. She finished with an overall ledger of 93-74 (.557), including 37-4 (.902) in conference play.
George got her start as a collegiate head coach at the NCAA D2 level at North Dakota State University, serving from 1987-88. She won the NCAA D2 Coach of the Year award in her second and final season with the Bison after going 43-3 (.935), and she finished her two seasons with an 87-11 (.888) mark.
“We are thrilled to have secured a volleyball coach of the highest caliber for our team,” said Scott Gorsline, executive vice president – family investments for DP Fox, the parent company of WMPVB. “Having been a head coach at the Division I level in Michigan for 28 years, Cathy is among the most highly qualified, accomplished, and respected volleyball coaches in the state, and she’s well-known to volleyball people both here and around the country.
“She spent 17 seasons in the nation’s premier volleyball conference, making 10 NCAA Tournament appearances with Michigan State alone, and it says a lot to us that she had long tenures at her previous two positions. Cathy is very passionate about the sport and Pro Volleyball Federation, and she’s expressed a strong desire to embed herself into this community, not just coaching the team but becoming engaged with everyone from youth volleyball organizations to corporate partners. To cap it off she’s just a good person, and she’s the perfect choice to lead our team,” added Gorsline.
George began her coaching career as a graduate assistant at Central Michigan University in 1986. In addition to her collegiate experience, she enjoyed two stints with USA Volleyball, leading the USA A2 Red team to the USA Adult Open Championship in 2008 and serving as an assistant coach at the 1999 World University Games.
A native of the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn, Ill., and a 1985 graduate of Illinois State University, George was a four-year letterwinner in volleyball and helped the Redbirds claim three consecutive Missouri Valley Conference titles and NCAA Tournament appearances. A team captain and outside attacker, the three-time All-MVC selection was inducted into the Illinois State Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 26, 2019.
George, who earned her master’s degree in education from Central Michigan University in 1987, resides in Okemos, Mich., with her husband Jerry. The couple has two sons, T.J. and Conner, who are both MSU graduates.
ABOUT WEST MICHIGAN PRO VOLLEYBALL
Founded in December 2022 as the first Pro Volleyball Federation franchise and Grand Rapids’ first major-league women’s sports team, West Michigan Pro Volleyball will make its debut at Van Andel Arena in February 2024. The team is operated by DP Fox Sports & Entertainment and owned by Dan DeVos, who is also co-owner and CEO of the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins. Following a recent “Name the Team” contest, the franchise will announce its name and logo later this spring. Visit wmprovolleyball.com.
ABOUT PRO VOLLEYBALL FEDERATION
Pro Volleyball Federation is REAL pro volleyball and the premier women’s professional volleyball league in North America. Pro Volleyball Federation will begin play in February 2024 with world class players and coaches, including some of America’s greatest volleyball players and elite players from around the world. Our entire focus is on ensuring that our level and quality of play, our treatment of players, the quality of our event presentations, and our day-to-day fan experience is world class and the very best offered in North America. For more information, visit ProVolleyball.com