2017 BTMVA Conference History
Saturday, March 18, 2017
- Science, Art and Opportunity -
The BTMVA was established in 1990 and has grown to become one of the most respected collegiate men's volleyball conferences in the country. The conference is a part of the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA), and an affiliate of the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF). Each of these organizations promote organized intercollegiate club volleyball opportunities.
The BTMVA organizes sanctioned MIVA competitions, including a season-ending BTMVA Championship Tournament. Following the tournament, teams attend an annual BTMVA Banquet and Awards Ceremony where achievements of the past season are recognized, impetus for the remaining season is revitalized and, most importantly, lifetime friendships are cultivated. Together with student representatives from each BTMVA school, Sante Perrelli (Founder, Commissioner, U Mich) and Dan Kitchel (Director of Competition, MSU) volunteer time to organize and promote a full range of men’s club volleyball opportunities.
The BTMVA has come a long way from its humble beginnings. In 1990, not all Big Ten schools had organized volleyball clubs. Those who did wore t-shirts instead of uniforms, rarely used certified officials for home competitions, and were haphazardly assembled with little or no organizational framework. Additionally, few BTMVA teams traveled outside the Midwest to participate in out-of-region tournaments. Team practices were sporadic, and generally, there was little organized effort to raise funds or gain financial support.
With the formation of the BTMVA, from 1990 to 1995, teams began participating in a full round robin of home and away, best of 5, match play. Teams traveled great distances just to play a single 3/5 match, often times through snow and ice storms. Upon arrival, they had little or no fan support, substandard playing areas, and afterwards if they were lucky, the home team would provide some bare floor area in an unfamiliar dorm room that made due as overnight accommodations. Early sacrifices by BTMVA teams created a blue-collar tradition that transformed Midwest men's volleyball and raised the bar for future generations.
By the mid-1990's BTMVA teams were traveling throughout the country and growing a national reputation for competitive excellence. One school began regularly televising its home matches. Schools began attracting national and local sponsors, while pushing competition and organizational standards. One BTMVA player (Dan Habeck, '96 BA, MSU; '99 JD, WI) was selected to participate on successive (1994, 1995) US Olympic Festival teams (St. Louis, Dallas), and train with the US National team. More recently Stafford Slick (Minnesota) was selected for the A2-U26 Beach National training team. Also, one BTMVA leader coached the USAV Boy's Youth National Team (Gold Medal, Calgary, 1994) and the South Team at the 1995 U.S. Olympic Festival (Bronze Medal, St. Louis, MO). Other BTMVA graduates have won accolades at USAV National Championship events, on the AVP Beach Volleyball tour and qualified for FIVB (world federation) beach events. Most others have stayed with the sport as players, and a select few have honored their BTMVA traditions by coaching and teaching the sport.
The popularity of collegiate men's volleyball in the Midwest has been greatly enhanced by BTMVA standards. In the late 1990's, the State of Illinois joined Ohio and Wisconsin by sanctioning a state high school boy's volleyball championship tournament. This significant development has resulted in more skilled high school graduates enrolling in Midwestern schools, and raising the playing level at BTMVA and other MIVA schools.
Referred to as an "armada of ships from the Midwest" by Gary Colberg (Minnesota and founder of the national championship tournament) no other conference in the nation has traditionally had more of its teams ranked in the Top 25, participate in out of region events and place highly in regional and national championship tournaments. Back at home, BTMVA teams have reached the finals of the MIVA Championship Tournament every year since 1987, save two (2005, 2012), capturing all but six MIVA championship titles during that period.
BTMVA leadership has helped inspire changes in the way men’s volleyball opportunities are defined, both here in the Midwest, and nationally. Through efforts with other MIVA conferences, BTMVA leadership has redesigned and engineered new eligibility requirements at the national level, helping to set new standards that help assure that legitimate academic progress and standing are the primary criteria for participant eligibility. This philosophy reflects the underlying academic priority of BTMVA participants who are among the best and brightest student athletes in the world.
Because men's collegiate varsity volleyball opportunities have been reduced as a result of federal and state legal interpretations, it is unlikely that Big Ten schools will designate varsity status to men's indoor volleyball. With schools like Illinois cutting men's swimming, Wisconsin cutting men's baseball, Michigan State cutting men's lacrosse, etc, men's volleyball has had an uphill battle to gain university recognition (in a 1995 BTMVA cooperative effort, players secured thousands of student signatures on petitions calling for varsity status). However, despite institutional restrictions, and following the BTMVA model club programs and leagues have proliferated throughout the country. The New York Times comments that:
“College club sports are swiftly rising in popularity, a largely unnoticed phenomenon sweeping across campuses nationwide. These are not intramural sports but expertly organized, highly skilled teams that often belong to regional conferences and play for national collegiate championships.” (NY Times, Dec 1, 2008, Rise of College Club Teams Creates a Whole New Level of Success.
It is estimated that BTMVA teams raise (on their own) well in excess of $25,000 per year to purchase uniforms and equipment, pay dues, travel expense and cover season-long expenses. Less then 10% of the revenue required by each BTMVA club is contributed from formal university funding sources. Moreover, most BTMVA teams only have very limited access to sport-specific university athletic trainers, counselors, weight training facilities, or other support. And despite significant efforts by generations of BTMVA students, many university administrators still have no idea that on average, BTMVA players devote 25-30 hours per week to represent their school, travel to events all over the country and that a majority make these commitments for their entire collegiate career. Many have no idea that the academic achievements and graduation rates for BTMVA participants are likely higher than most varsity programs and that national networking among student run clubs has inspired vocational and social collaborations that extend well past graduation.
Because of the successes enjoyed by BTMVA participants over the past two decades, the BTMVA model has been replicated by collegiate club organizations throughout the United States. It has provided an impetus for the formation of the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation, Inc, a non-profit organization devoted exclusively to the promotion of intercollegiate club volleyball opportunities. Commissioner Perrelli serves as a founding member and the first President of this organization, and Dan Kitchel is on the organization’s board of directors and is joined by national club tournament founder and promotional legend the late Gary Colberg. Colberg, Perrelli and Kitchel each graduated from a Big Ten university.
The BTMVA is a progressive organization that is forging change in the name of opportunity by promoting the Olympic ideals: respect, teamwork, commitment, loyalty, sacrifice, sportsmanship, and the relentless pursuit to be the very best. These values transfer off the volleyball court and continue to guide BTMVA alumni as they pursue professional careers, family life, community work, and serve their country at far away places throughout the world.
The BTMVA has evolved to symbolize more than just a loosely organized sporting enterprise. It represents a grass-roots collaboration that celebrates student-inspired sporting values -- a symbol of student solidarity and a vehicle to support emerging approaches to the uniquely American concept of equal opportunity for all.
"The stuff of life is change…" Hericlitus, 500 BC