Hambly: 'It's hard to beat this place'
CHAMPAIGN — Kevin Hambly, who guided the Illinois volleyball team to a runner-up finish in the 2011 NCAA tournament, has signed a five-year contract extension.
The UI announced the deal Friday, with the third-year head coach’s new pact running through Jan. 31, 2017. His initial contract expired Jan. 31.
“It’s nice that they feel comfortable about that,” Hambly said of the school’s five-year commitment. “Contracts typically have been more like three-year deals here. The fact that they’re investing five years in me is exciting.”
Hambly received a $25,000 increase in base salary to $125,000 per year. With additional bonuses for promotional activities and TV/radio appearances, his total annual salary is $145,000.
The Illini are coming off a historic season after reaching the Final Four for the first time in 23 years and making their first appearance in an NCAA title match.
Illinois spent four weeks at No. 1 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 poll en route to a 32-5 record. Only three teams in the program’s history won more matches in a season.
The Illini were No. 2 in the final AVCA poll behind NCAA champion UCLA. The program’s previous highest finish in the coaches’ poll was No. 4 in 1988.
Hambly has an 82-20 career record at Illinois, and each of his teams have finished second in the Big Ten Conference.
“I believe Coach Hambly is one of the top volleyball coaches in the country,” UI athletic director Mike Thomas said in a prepared statement. “With Kevin, our teams have succeeded at the highest level on the court as well as in the classroom.
“Under Coach Hambly’s leadership, we will compete annually for our ultimate goal and that is to win national championships.”
The Illini’s extraordinary success last season led to speculation among some fans that Hambly might be lured away by another school.
Hambly, who is in his eighth year on the UI staff after previously serving as an assistant, said he never seriously considered other opportunities.
“I’ve had periodic inquiries about if I would be interested, but it’s hard to beat this place,” he said. “I’m excited to be here. I like the direction the program is headed in, and I’m happy to be part of the team.”