Gophers volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon talks stepping away after 2022 season

The University of Minnesota volleyball team is getting ready to face Iowa and Purdue this week, and on Tuesday, coach Hugh McCutcheon spoke with reporters for the first time since announcing the 2022 season would be his last with the Gophers.

McCutcheon told his players at a team meeting on Sunday, and said in a news release he’ll address the details after the season. The Gophers are 10-6, 5-3 in the Big Ten with 12 regular season matches to play. Team officials are calling his departure a retirement, and McCutcheon said Tuesday "it’s business as usual."

"We’ll talk about it at the end of the season. I appreciate everyone’s concern, but right now the focus should be on the team and it is," McCutcheon said.

So what was his message to the team on Sunday?

"The message to the team was very in line with what we said in the press release, that this will be my last year. They’re ready to compete, it’s a seasoned group, it’s a mature group and I think they’re ready to go to battle," McCutcheon said.

Senior libero CC McGraw is in her fifth season playing for McCutcheon. She said as good as he is at developing players, he cares more about them as people and preparing them for what’s to come after college.

McGraw said the news Sunday came as a surprise.

"I think it was a shock for a lot of us. But Hugh has always been such a supportive mentor and coach for us, so we want to support him with his decision. At the end of the day, we just want what’s best for him," McGraw said.

She said McCutcheon’s decision to leave the program can serve as a motivator to send him out the right way. The Gophers can’t worry about the future, they have goals they still want to accomplish in 2022.

"We have all this purpose now for the season, there’s so much to fight for, for each other and for Hugh. I think that’s kind of the narrative we have for the season," McGraw said. "If there’s anything to fight for, it’s for something like this."

The key question is why make the announcement now? The Gophers are 16 games into their season, and McCutcheon had agreed to a three-year extension last December to stay at Minnesota through the 2025 season.

In 10-plus seasons at Minnesota, he’s led the Gophers to a 265-71 record, a Big Ten title in 2018 and three NCAA Final Four appearances.

"All I’m thinking about is this season and trying to finish it to the best of our ability. The other stuff, again, we can speak to at the end of the year. I’ll talk to all the reasons about why it went down the way it went down at the end of the season," McCutcheon said.