Friday, September 8, 2023


 Back when Debbie Humphreys began her coaching career at Stephen F. Austin all of us had to actually pay attention to which area code we were calling each time we picked up the phone. Today’s players have no concept of this, but we had “in area” calls, “long distance” calls and all those phone numbers with area code 800 that were considered “toll free”.  No matter where you were located, you could call a business or some form of organization that was out of your area with no additional long distance rates if they had an “800” area code.

 Debbie Humphreys has coached from the portable phone era to the call waiting period of home phone usage to the flip phone and now smart phone era. One number keeps getting dialed: 1-800-LEGACY.  Humphreys really didn’t need her 800th win to cement her place in NCAA Volleyball coaching history.  That cement has long dried and championship upon championship built over the top of it.  Coming into 2023, SFA has appeared in the NCAA Tournament in three of the last five calendar years.  In one of those other two years, the ‘Jacks hosted an NIVC round and the other year was the nastiness known as the “COVID Year”.

 A very long time ago – actually the first year of the blogs existence in 2009– I wrote this as Humphreys approached 500 wins:

 “So, quick and dirty math... 23 wins per year for 10 more years puts her at just over 700 career wins. Projecting 23 wins across fifteen more seasons elevates the projected total to around 830. And, if health and desire permit...what if Humphreys coached 20 more seasons at SFA? I know...that's getting way out there...but if the past indicates the future the projected total would rise to over 940 wins. Amazing to just think about, huh?”

 You can read the entire post here.  It’s quite long and contains my reflections about being around the club for the better part of a decade.  So, if “reflections” was what I called it in 2009, then what is it now? So much time has elapsed.  So much additional time.  So many more wins, players, years, joys.

 That quote from 2009 predicted 830 wins by the end of 2024.  I can hardly believe I wrote that and yet – here we are.  The “830” number may turn out to be quite accurate.  We’ll know when we get to the end of next season, but where I missed was the implication that possibly that would be the end.  Sitting here now, I can’t fathom that Humphreys is truly near the end.  Even my wild card thought in that post had her coaching through 2029, a concept that now seems entirely within reach, if not highly probable.  Of course, as with everything, there is still that caveat of health and desire permitting, but both of those areas seem positive with Humphreys going into her 36th season at the helm of our club. 

 I wrote a shorter article when both Humphreys and long time rival Brenda Gray of Sam Houston State were both approaching 700 career wins.  That one is posted here and dates back to August 28, 2019.  Life must have been particularly busy in 2015 as I didn’t formally write about career win 600.

 The list of accomplishments is so long that really just reminding myself of how much I’ve been blessed to see and letting you know of where Humphreys ranks on all-time lists seems like the best use of both my personal and professional thoughts. 

 When Humphreys gets win 812, I will have worked for the team for HALF of her career wins.  That sounds absurd to me given that I feel like I’ve been around this team for so long.  Well, 18 seasons is a long time, but, of course, easy math tells us that’s just half of the Humphreys’ era.

 When I graduated from Baylor as an undergraduate, Humphreys had 55 career wins.  When I finished grad school at SMU, she was on the verge of 200.  The season I began coming to games as a faculty member she began that year with 270.  When I got the job as public address announcer while we were playing in Johnson Coliseum, she was sitting at 406.  When the blog first appeared in this space, her tally was 484.  When we began doing radio for select road matches in 2015, Humphreys had amassed 596 wins.  When SFA got their ESPN contract and I began working the televised matches from Nacogdoches, she was at 616.

 When I got to travel to my first NCAA Volleyball Tournament as a member of the media, Humphreys total at the end of that year was 694.  When I was blessed to call an NCAA Tournament match on the radio in the very building in which I graduated from Baylor she had 725 wins.  Last year, when I made the circle back to do it again, she ended 2022 with 793.  Now, today, against Boise State in Flagstaff, Arizona she coached in her 800th career victory.

 Debbie Humphreys is 20th on the all-time victories list for NCAA Division 1 Volleyball coaches.  She is fourth among all active Division 1 coaches.  The only active coaches with more wins than Humphreys are Mary Wise (Florida), Chris Poole (Florida State) and John Cook (Nebraska).  If  you’ve spent even a meager time around the college volleyball ranks you will recognize all of those names as pillars in the sport. 

Of the 20 coaches that have amassed 800 career wins, eight of them have made it to 900 and Cook would seemingly join them.  Only five coaches have 1000+ wins at the Division 1 level.  My quote from 2009 made it sound like 940 would be a real long shot.  It doesn’t seem quite like that now.  My original prediction of 2029 being about the time where that could happen is still a reasonable pace.  The only difference is that in 2009 that was 20 years out.  Now, it’s only five and I certainly could see Humphreys doing this for five or more years.  Only she really knows how long she wants and/or will be able to coach.  But for now, there seems to be little slowing down and the mind and energy is still certainly there.

I get to witness on a season by season basis her level of desire to teach, to coach and to win.  From where I sit, her competency, desire, competitiveness, and passion are still running really high.  The chase for 900 – even 1000 – will be amazing to witness.

For now, congratulations Coach Humphreys on 800 career wins.  A mighty accomplishment indeed!

Finally, as if the quote from October 25, 2009, above wasn’t enough, look at how I ended that article fourteen years ago (the “eight” is now “twenty”, by the way):

“Some perspective...only eight coaches in the HISTORY of college volleyball have won over 800 matches. I hope I am there....on the mic... to see it happen.”

Yep, I was on the mic and there to see it happen. 

Thanks, Coach.  Sometimes wishes do come true.