Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer announced the hiring of Eve Rackham as UT's new head volleyball coach Wednesday. A first-time head coach, Rackham has spent the last nine seasons on staff at North Carolina, serving as assistant head coach since 2013.
The Sebastopol, California, native also oversaw recruiting and was responsible for UNC's offensive development.
Rackham has agreed to a five-year contract with a first-year salary of $175,000.
Eve Rackham, Tennessee Volleyball Head Coach
"I am incredibly excited and honored to be the new head volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee. This is an amazing place with great people who have been so welcoming and warm. Knoxville is an unbelievable city. I'm just so excited to finally be here. Thank you to athletics director Phillip Fulmer, Angie Boyd-Keck, Donna Thomas, Reid Sigmon. All of whom have been unbelievable in the process and really welcoming and patient while I make this really difficult decision. I also want to thank some of the people I want to thank who I have worked for. Jenna Panatier, Danijela Tomic, and of course Joe Sagula, who not only I played under, but have coached with for the last nine years. All of them who have helped prepared me for this next step in my career. Tennessee Volleyball is a program with great potential. Rob Patrick laid a foundation that I hope to build on and believe that we can. This is a great place, and we are going to do great things. This is a place that was in a Final Four in 2005. We won a SEC Championship as recently as 2011. We have a great group of girls who are ready to get to work. They are eager and excited to improve. I am also looking forward to building a championship culture where we can build strong women and confident women and just ready to get to work with everybody. Lastly, I just want to say that I am truly humble to be at the same university where Pat Summit was a coach. I never had a chance to meet her or work at the same time. As a female coach, she has really been an inspiration to so many of us and showed that women can really build championship programs."
On her plan for Tennessee:
"I need to get in the gym with the kids and see where we are at. We have a lot of work to do. I have watched film of the girls and I have a good starting point. I need to get a staff in place and get to work. It is going to take some time, but we have the pieces here, and then it is about recruiting and getting the highest level athlete to come to Tennessee and building from there."
On her first head coaching opportunity:
"When I started coaching, I always knew that I was going to be a head coach, but for me it was a matter of where and not if. After this season, I felt like I was going to look, but I was only going to leave for the right place. There was no doubt, when this job came open, that this was the place I wanted to be where I felt like I could be successful or I felt like the resources where there and where they cared about female athletics and they wanted to see a program rise and I felt like I could build on what was already there."
On going to North Carolina and dealing with pressure there:
"To be honest, I don't know if I ever felt pressure. I'm competitive, I want to win, and I changed positions because that's what the team needed me to do. I just wanted to win in any way that we could. I moved across the country, so that was a culture shock for me. Moving from northern California to North Carolina was a big change, but that's what recruiting will do. Coach laid out a good plan for me, I made the decision, it was a great decision, and I had a great experience."
On what needs to be done to get Tennessee back to being a tournament team:
"I think the talent is here. I've watched the film, and I know the girls that are here have the talent to do it. And they were close last year, we had a 5-13 SEC record, and there were five matches that we lost in five. So if you turn that around and you win those five really close matches, we're 10-8 and the season looks a whole lot different. We have to get to work, there's some things we need to change and some system things we need to work on, but in terms of the talent, I think it's here, and like I said, we'll build form there with new recruits."
On what prepared her to be a head coach while she was at North Carolina and what her recruiting footprint will be like:
"I was at North Carolina a long time, and I was with a head coach that's been doing it for over 30 years. So I've kind of covered everything there is to cover in coaching. I think from a recruiting footprint, the good thing about Tennessee is that it's a university that everybody knows, it has a national brand, and we can go anywhere. I believe the best players in the state of Tennessee should come to the University of Tennessee, so that's where we'll look first, but I think we can reach out to the west coast, we can get players from the Midwest, we can recruit in Texas and in Florida. I'm not concerned about that, I know this place will sell itself."
On if her time at North Carolina influence the type of player she recruits:
"Recruiting has changed. Especially in the last five to six years, we're recruiting younger and younger. So in a way it's changed a bit, but I think the big thing for me is first and foremost I want kids with a ton of passion, who love to play. I went to the facility yesterday to meet with the team, and the girls were in there, and I thought that was a great first sign. I want kids who love to play, and not just when it's the first day of preseason, I'm talking about on a Wednesday in October after a midterm. Are you still excited to play? So obviously there's a certain talent level and physical level that we're looking for, but when you talk about those intangible things, I want kids with a lot of passion who want to compete, who want to play hard, and want to play for the team."
During Rackham's tenure on staff with North Carolina—where she stands as one of the most accomplished volleyball student-athletes in school history—the program posted a 210-77 record. She was named the AVCA Division I Assistant Coach of the Year in 2014, and the Tar Heels earned seven consecutive NCAA Tournament berths from 2010-16.
"Coach Rackham obviously has built an unbelievable resume, but she was even more impressive during the interview process," Fulmer said. "She articulated an incredible plan to restore Tennessee volleyball to a championship level, and we are confident she will make an immediate positive impact on our student-athletes and our program.
"Her track record as an elite recruiter and a standout developer of talent—as well as her ability to implement potent, fun to watch offenses—makes for a very exciting outlook for Tennessee volleyball."
Rackham is the 12th head coach in the history of the Tennessee volleyball program.
"I am honored to be named the new head volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee," Rackham said. "While I will always cherish my time at the University of North Carolina, I could not be more excited for this opportunity. I look forward to building on the foundation of success laid by Rob Patrick during his 21 years.
"I want to thank Angie Boyd-Keck, Associate Athletics Director, for initially approaching me about the coaching position, being so patient and helpful throughout the interview process as well as a terrific ambassador for Volunteer sports. I would also like to thank Chancellor Beverly Davenport, Senior Associate Athletics Director Donna Thomas and Executive Associate Athletics Director Reid Sigmon for their support. Thank you to Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer, who has expressed his support and desire to return Tennessee volleyball to prominence and for having the confidence in me to lead the program.
"By accepting the coaching position at the University of Tennessee, I intend to help return the volleyball program to national relevance. Tennessee is a special place with top-notch facilities, tremendous school spirit, strong academics and a tradition of champions. These are all the elements for building a successful program and for helping our players develop as students-athletes and as strong women. I am confident recruits will see the opportunities available to them here, and I look forward to fostering a winning program the community can embrace."
No stranger to championship-caliber teams, Rackham was instrumental in guiding North Carolina to ACC Championships in 2014 and 2016. The 2014 squad (29-3, 16-0 ACC) advanced to the NCAA Tournament semifinals, and the 2016 team (29-4, 19-1 ACC) reached the NCAA Tournament Round of 16.
North Carolina earned a series of new program highs during its remarkable 2014 campaign, including a No. 7 AVCA Coaches Poll ranking, a No. 5 NCAA RPI rating and a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Two years later in 2016, Rackham helped North Carolina achieve its highest-ever AVCA national ranking (No. 6) and its best year-end RPI rating (No. 5) in program history.
Successful teams are powered by successful players, and Rackham's student-athletes consistently maximize their athletic potential. In her 14 years as a college coach, Rackham has produced 18 AVCA All-American selections, 30 all-conference honorees, two conference Players of the Year, three conference Defensive Players of the Year, four conference Newcomers/Freshmen of the Year, 23 AVCA All-Region selections, two AVCA Regional Freshmen of the Year and four NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team selections.
Additionally, she has coached five CoSIDA Academic All-District honorees and one CoSIDA Academic All-American.
Statistically, Rackham's teams have ranked among the most potent in the country. She guided the 2016 Heels to their most efficient attack clip since 1983 (.273), which led the ACC and ranked 14th nationally. Seven different players on that 2016 squad recorded 100+ kills.
The 2014 Tar Heels—a team that strung together a school-record 20-match win streak—ranked among the best in the ACC in three different categories, including fourth in the ACC and 29th nationally in hitting percentage (.259), fourth in the ACC in assists/set (12.86) and fourth in the ACC in kills/set (13.84). Following that historic season, Rackham was named the AVCA Division I Assistant Coach of the Year.
In 2011, North Carolina finished third nationally in both assists per set (13.91) and kills per set (14.89). The 2010 Tar Heels ranked 10th in the country in assists per set (13.52) and 16th in kills per set (14.37).
The Volunteers are sure to benefit from Rackham's reputation as of the nation's most effective recruiters. As UNC's recruiting coordinator, she signed a total of 17 top-100 prospects between 2011-17. The Tar Heels' 2016 signing class was rated No. 3 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com, and her 2012 signing class was rated No. 8 nationally.
UNC's 2011, 2013, and 2014 recruiting classes also gained national recognition and were ranked as High Honorable Mention by PrepVolleyball.com. And Carolina's 2012 recruiting class was ranked eighth in the country and included three eventual AVCA All-Americans.
Rackham began her collegiate coaching career in 2004 as assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at Colgate, where she mentored the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.
In 2005, Rackham began a three-year run as assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at East Carolina. During her tenure at ECU, seven Pirates garnered all-conference acclaim. In her first year, she helped lead the squad to a 20-11 record, marking only the third 20-win season in school history.
Before returning to UNC, Rackham spent the 2008 season as the top assistant and recruiting coordinator at Florida International. She helped guide the Panthers to the Sun Belt Regular-Season Championship and the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001. She coached the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and NCAA kills leader, along with two All-Sun Belt honorees and one AVCA All-American.
UNC's starting setter from 1999-2002, Rackham led the Tar Heels to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including the 2002 NCAA Round of 16 and North Carolina's highest-ever ranking to that point in the AVCA Coaches' Poll (No. 11).
Carolina's all-time career leader in assists per set (12.58), Rackham earned first-team All-ACC and first-team AVCA All-Region honors in 2002. She was part of the winningest class in school history, as the Tar Heels compiled a 110-27 record, winning more than 80 percent of their games during her playing career.
Rackham graduated from UNC in 2003 with a degree in journalism and mass communication.