It hasn’t even been a month since Oregon made an out-of-the-blue change to its volleyball program by parting ways with record-setting coach Jim Moore after 12 seasons of unprecedented success.
On Tuesday new coach Matt Ulmer called the last four weeks challenging, but not overwhelming.
“This is what I love to do, and I’ve been given the opportunity to do it,” Ulmer said. “I think you always dream about being a head coach when you’re an assistant coach for awhile and this is my chance.”
Ulmer has been with the program for three seasons, the first two as an assistant and lead recruiter, and then in 2016 he was promoted to associate head coach and given the additional duties of coaching the defense.
Now he’s been put in charge of the program Moore spent more than a decade building from Pac-12 doormat to one of the best teams in the conference with 10 NCAA Tournament appearances in 12 years, including a spot in the national championship match in 2012.
Ulmer signed a one-year contract to coach the team through the remainder of the current beach season and then the 2017 indoor season next fall. He met with local media for the first time Tuesday on the court at Matthew Knight Arena, offering little insight into the departure of Moore and his wife, longtime assistant Stacy Metro.
Moore, who went 246-132 after taking over in 2005, officially resigned from his position March 15 after acknowledging that “his coaching style may have been viewed negatively by some student-athletes” according to an athletic department statement.
Metro was reassigned within the athletic department.
“I love being a Duck, I love working with the young women on this team, my family and I love living in Eugene and being a part of this community,” Ulmer said.
“I’d like to say thank you to (athletic director) Rob Mullens and (deputy athletic director/senior women’s administrator) Lisa Peterson for giving me the opportunity to do what I love where I love. I’m excited to build upon the successes that this program has had.”
A member of Oregon’s sports information staff said legal wording in his contract prevented Ulmer from discussing Moore or what led to the coaching change after the Ducks went 21-10 in 2016 and had their season end in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Ulmer did say no one approached him about taking the head coaching job until Oregon offered it to him in March, and he also had no conversations with the administration about a potential regime change before the coaching transition.
When asked if there was any point during his previous three season where he felt a change in leadership was necessary, Ulmer said, “I think I just do my job and so I’m here to support whoever I’m working with and that’s the University of Oregon, the administration and the people around me. I think I’ve always just done my job to the best of my ability and I’ll continue to be here for the girls.”
Moore’s departure didn’t sit well with many former players, 17 of whom co-signed a letter sent to university president Michael Schill in support of Moore. The former players included Sonja Newcombe, Liz Brenner, Martenne Bettendorf and at least one member of every team between 2005-2015. No member of the 2016 team signed the letter and no member of the 2017 team has been made available to The Register-Guard for interviews despite several requests.
Ulmer said he’ll work to keep the former players in the fold.
“I’ve had great relationships with the alumni I’ve met over the past three years and I’ve worked to continue to build those relationships with them and I’m excited to continue to do that,” he said. “… They’re very supportive of me and they’re supportive of the program. They’re Ducks for life and they’re excited to remain that way.”
As for the current players, Ulmer said “they’re excited” about moving forward.
“I think anytime there’s change, there’s going to be a transition period,” Ulmer said. “So I think they’ve been dealing with that.”