The architect of one of the most storied programs in NCAA Division I volleyball history is in the midst of her second decade of excellence in leading the Florida volleyball program. The accomplishments of Mary Wise since being named head coach of the Gators in 1991 have been nothing short of unprecedented.
The list of achievements is long and cements the fact that if there has been one constant to Wise’s 21-year tenure at Florida, it is unparalleled success. There hasn’t been a single coach in the history of Division I men’s and women’s basketball, football or baseball with at least 15 seasons of coaching who can claim a better winning percentage than Wise has at Florida (.898).
Consider this: Wise became the first coach in NCAA history to win 100 consecutive games, the first to win 130 consecutive regular-season conference matches and the only coach ever to win 90 percent of her matches in her first 20 seasons at one school. She is the nation’s winningest coach since the 1991 season with 659 victories to her credit since her hire at Florida.
Those accomplishments led USA Volleyball to bestow on Wise the title of “All-Time Great Coach” in 2006.
In 2011, Wise led the Gators to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005. Behind two of the greatest Gators in history, All-Americans Kelly Murphy and Kristy Jaeckel, Florida led the nation in hitting percentage (.309) and finished with an overall record of 27-6. The Gators extended the nation’s longest streak of consecutive 25-win seasons to 21, advancing to the NCAA Regional Semifinals in 20 of the last 21 years.
Under her tutelage, sophomore middle blocker Chloe Mann went from relative unknown to one of the most formidable attackers in the nation, setting a new Florida program record for hitting percentage in a season (.500).
Since arriving at UF in 1991, Wise has propelled a once lackluster program into the epitome of excellence. That was never more evident than in 2010, when Wise’s squad – not voted to win the Southeastern Conference for the first time since 1991 – engineered one of the finest campaigns in program history.
The Gators spent eight weeks at the No. 1 spot in the AVCA poll, battling through a grueling schedule to post 10 wins against top-25 opponents during the season. The early part of the schedule proved to be a gauntlet, as Florida faced nine ranked teams in its first 12 matches – winning eight of those contests. Wise’s 2010 Gators became the first team in SEC history to post a perfect 20-0 league record, as the conference instituted a 20-match double round-robin format prior to the start of the 2006 campaign. Wise’s prize pupil – junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy – earned AVCA First-Team All-America honors and was named the 2010 SEC Player of the Year. The Gators placed four players on the AVCA All-South Region team and Wise was named both the SEC Coach of the Year and the AVCA South Region Coach of the Year.
Wise joined the exclusive 700-win club during the 2010 season, becoming just the 16th head coach in NCAA Division I history to eclipse that milestone. She ranks 16th all-time among the winningest coaches in NCAA Division I history and is the eighth-winningest active coach all time with 713 career victories.
The Gators hold the nation’s longest streak of consecutive 25-win seasons at 21 and also have been ranked among the nation’s top-15 in the final AVCA poll each of those 21 years.
It was in 2008 that Wise’s proficiency as a true teacher of the game shined. Her squad captured an unlikely 18th consecutive league championship, which broke an NCAA Division I record for the most consecutive conference titles in the sport of volleyball. Wise guided a young squad that featured five freshmen regularly playing in the rotation to the outright league championship and an NCAA Regional Semifinal appearance.
Under her direction, Murphy, a freshman, became the first player in school history to be named the AVCA National Freshman of the Year and senior Kelsey Bowers was named the SEC Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Florida has so dominated the SEC in her tenure that Wise is one of only two coaches in conference history in any sport, men's or women's, to win as many as 18 consecutive conference titles.
Florida’s success in the Wise Era, however, hasn’t been limited to the conference level. The Gators went more than 10 seasons from 1994-04 without losing a regular-season SEC match – a feat unmatched by any school in NCAA women’s volleyball history. In 2003, the Gators won 105 straight games during the course of the season, smashing the previous NCAA record by 36 games.
A pioneer with tremendous vision, passion and enthusiasm for the sport of volleyball, Wise is the only female coach to appear in more than one national semifinal, and she reached the 500-win plateau faster than any other Division I female coach. A 12-time winner of the SEC Coach of the Year award (1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2010), Wise also has been named the national coach of the year twice (1992, 1996).
Her penchant for prosperity on the court has transcended into the regional community. Florida ranked among the top-10 schools in the nation in attendance for the 20th time in the last 21 years in 2011, as countless Gator fans moved through the turnstiles at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to provide Florida with one of the most electric, intimidating and inspiring volleyball venues in the country.
The NCAA recognized the enthusiasm of Gator fans by awarding Florida NCAA Regional hosting duties in 2006 and 2007, as UF became the first school to host back-to-back regionals and the first to host three total regionals since the pre determined format was adopted in 2003. Florida again hosted regionals in 2009 and 2011 and is scheduled to host the event in 2014.
As strong as the reputation that has built for her program is in the state of Florida, it extends far beyond the borders of the Sunshine State. On the forefront of increasing awareness and exposure for volleyball, Wise has ushered in a philosophy of innovation when it comes to rules changes and youth volleyball opportunities, and she is routinely regarded as one of the finest resources for coaching in collegiate volleyball.
In April of 2008, Wise helped blaze another trail for the women’s volleyball community, as she played an integral role in the organization of inaugural SEC Coaches Beach Volleyball Championships, which marked the first beach volleyball tournament held by an NCAA Division I conference. Later that month, the Birmingham News named her one of the 10 most influential women’s sports coaches or administrators in conference history.
Due to the advocacy of Wise and others in the coaching community, the sport of “sand volleyball” was added to the NCAA’s list of emerging sports for women in the spring of 2009.
Wise served as the president of the American Volleyball Coaches Association during the 2008 year and held the position of past president until Dec. 31, 2009.
Wise’s expertise and intuition have led to numerous appointments on international coaching staffs. Most recently, Wise served as the team leader of the U.S. National Team in the Pan American Cup during the summer of 2010. In May of 2006, she guided the USA Volleyball A2 Team at the U.S. Open Championships, as the volleyball community became one of the first groups to compete in a large-scale event in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. She also directed the U.S. National “B” Team at the 1995 World University Games.
Along the way, multiple players under Wise’s tutelage have gone on to earn invitations to national teams and compile individual honors. In the summer of 2005, four Gators trained with the USA Women's Volleyball National Team - more than any other school in the country that year.
A Florida player has earned the title of SEC Player of the Year in 14 of the last 16 seasons, including Angie McGinnis in 2006 and 2007, when she became the first setter in league history to claim the honor and one of just five players in the league to win the award on multiple occasions. Since Wise’s arrival at UF, 25 players have earned a sum of 59 All-America honors, including a record six combined honors by a trio of players in 2007.
Dating back to Wise’s first season, 55 UF players have been named All-SEC a staggering 110 times – an average of over 5.2 selections per year. Florida upped the ante even more in 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2010, as a whopping six players were named All-SEC in each of those campaigns.
While the accomplishments of many teams end on the court, that’s simply where Florida’s begin. With her emphasis on academics in addition to athletics, members of the Gator volleyball team under Wise have combined to earn 136 Academic All-SEC honors since 1991. In 2011, 10 players were named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll and another two earned SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll recognition. Additionally, seven UF players have combined to receive 11 Academic All-America honors in Wise’s career at Florida.
The Gators have also shown a commitment to playing an active role in community leadership and involvement. Each year members of the Gator volleyball team visit children at nearby Shands Hospital during the Thanksgiving holiday, while players also participate in the Goodwill Gators program. In 2003, Wise helped raise $7,500 for the Children’s Miracle Network after more than 4,000 Gator fans packed the O’Connell Center for a match against South Carolina. She also organizes and operates the annual Mary Wise Scramble, a golf tournament that benefits PACE Alachua, which provides guidance to young girls who are experiencing conflict in school or at home.
Since winning the SEC Championship in her first season in Gainesville, Wise’s affect on volleyball in the state has been nothing short of amazing. UF’s annual summer camps typically draw nearly 1,700 eager athletes from all levels who travel to the UF campus in order to learn from one of the finest coaches in the country.
Fittingly, several of Wise’s former players and assistants have successfully ventured into coaching, including Michelle Chatman (UCF), Arlisa Hagan (Georgetown), Jeni Jones (Missouri State), Claire Lessinger (South Florida), Prentice Lewis (TCU), Nicole and Amber McCray (Panola College), Nikki Shade (South Florida) and Ryan Theis (Ohio), to name a few. Her influence stretched even farther after Wise was the lead editor for the book “Volleyball Drills for Champions.” She also produced a series of videos titled “Foundations for Successful Volleyball.
Prior to guiding the Gators, Wise honed her talents at Kentucky as an assistant for five years from 1986-90. During her progression from a graduate assistant to associate head coach, the Wildcats won a pair of SEC titles and advanced to the NCAA Championship three times. Before moving on to Lexington, Ky., Wise had previously served as the head coach at Iowa State from 1981-84. At the time of her hire, she became, at 21 years of age, the youngest Division I head coach in history before eventually guiding the Cyclones to an 81-63 record, which also included a second-place finish in the Big Eight Conference in 1984.
Wise graduated from Purdue in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education after a standout career as a setter for the Boilermakers. A dean’s list student, Wise was a member of Purdue’s 1979 and 1980 Big Ten championship teams. A native of Evanston, Ill., Wise resides in Gainesville with her husband, Mark, and their two sons, Matt (23) and Mitchell (18).
Wise At A Glance
Hometown: Evanston, Ill.
Education: B.S., Physical Education, Purdue University, 1981
- Iowa State: Head Coach, 1981-84
- Kentucky: Assistant Coach, 1986-89
- Kentucky: Associate Head Coach, 1989-90
- Florida: Head Coach, 1991-Present
- AVCA National Head Coach of the Year (1992, 1996)
- USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coach
- 12-time SEC Coach of the Year (1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2010)
- Led teams to the Final Four seven times (1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003)
- Only female in NCAA history to coach in the national championship match
- Only female in NCAA history to coach in more than one Final Four
- Fastest female head coach to 500 career wins
- At age 21, became the youngest Division I head coach ever hired (at Iowa State)
- 740-138 (.843) career record (25 seasons)
- 81-63 (.563) record at Iowa State (four seasons)
- 659-75 (.898) record at Florida (21 seasons)
- Husband: Mark
- Children: Matt (23), Mitchell (18)
The Wise Ledger
|1981||Iowa State||25-22||N/A||N/A||Youngest Head Coach in NCAA History (21)|
|1991||Florida||35-5||13-1/2-1||2-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Final|
|1992||Florida||34-2||14-0/3-0||3-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Final Four|
|1993||Florida||33-4||14-0/3-0||3-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Final Four|
|1994||Florida||28-6||13-1/3-0||1-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Semifinal|
|1995||Florida||35-2||14-0/3-0||2-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Final|
|1996||Florida||37-2||14-0/3-0||3-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Final Four|
|1997||Florida||34-4||14-0/2-1||3-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Final Four|
|1998||Florida||35-3||14-0/3-0||4-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Final Four|
|1999||Florida||33-3||14-0/3-0||3-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Final|
|2000||Florida||29-5||14-0/3-0||2-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Semifinal|
|2001||Florida||28-2||14-0/3-0||3-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Final|
|2002||Florida||34-3||16-0/3-0||4-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Final Four|
|2003||Florida||36-2||16-0/3-0||5-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Championship Match|
|2004||Florida||28-5||15-1/2-1||1-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Second Round|
|2005||Florida||33-3||15-1/3-0||3-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Final|
|2006||Florida||30-3||19-1||2-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Semifinal|
|2007||Florida||29-3||19-1||2-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Semifinal|
|2008||Florida||27-4||18-2||2-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Semifinal|
|2009||Florida||25-6||16-4||2-1||NCAA Regional Semifinal|
|2010||Florida||29-2||20-0||2-1||SEC Champions/NCAA Regional Semifinal|
|2011||Florida||27-6||17-3||3-1||NCAA Regional Final|
|TOTALS||740-138 (.843)||323-15 (.956)||55-21 (.724)||19 SEC Championships/Seven Final Fours|
Wise at Florida: 659-75 (.898)
Wise at Iowa State: 81-63 (.563)
Florida Team Achievements Under Wise
- Seven NCAA National Semifinal Appearances (1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003)
- 21 consecutive berths to the NCAA Championship
- 20 NCAA Regional Semifinal Appearances
- 19 Southeastern Conference Championships (including 18 consecutive from 1991-2008)
- 12 SEC Tournament Titles
- Received the program’s first national ranking in 1991, highest national ranking in 1996 and 2010 (No. 1) and highest preseason ranking in 2003 (No. 3)
- More wins than any other program in the nation since 1991
Individual Gator Honors Under Wise
- 26 athletes with 63 All-America honors
- Seven athletes with 11 Academic All-America honors
- 43 athletes with 83 AVCA/NCAA All-District/Region honors
- 25 athletes with 40 NCAA Regional All-Tournament honors
- 55 athletes with 110 All-Southeastern Conference honors
- 10 athletes earning 16 SEC Player of the Year awards
- 41 SEC All-Tournament Team honors
- 11 SEC Tournament MVP awards
- 64 SEC Academic Honor Roll recipients earning 136 awards
Florida in the SEC Under Wise
- 19 SEC regular-season titles
- 12 SEC tournament titles (SEC Tournament discontinued after 2005 season)
- 12 undefeated SEC seasons
- Won 96 percent of conference matches
- Set an NCAA Division I volleyball record with 19 consecutive SEC titles
Wiser Than Ever Before …
Since Mary Wise took over the Gator volleyball program in 1991, she has led a turnaround that is as apparent as night and day. Listed below are Florida’s accomplishments before Wise took over the program, as compared to what the program has achieved under her direction:
|Before Wise||Since Wise|
|Regular-Season SEC Championships||None||19 (including 18 consecutive)|
|Highest Finish in the SEC Tournament||Second||First (12 times)|
|30-Plus Win Seasons||Two||12|
|NCAA Tournament Appearances||One||21 (all consecutive)|
|National Semifinal Appearances||None||Seven|
|Winning SEC Seasons||Three||21 consecutive winning SEC seasons,
including 12 undefeated SEC seasons
|Overall Winning Percentage||.609 (156-100)||.898 (659-75)|
|Home Winning Percentage||.670 (63-31)||.939 (340-22)|
|National Home Attendance Rank||50th percentile||20 top-10 national finishes|
|Times Ranked in the National Poll||None||321 consecutive weeks|
|Times Ranked No. 1||None||13|
|Melissa Batie||Volunteer Assistant, 2000||Head Coach, Savannah College of Art & Design|
|Mary (Jones) Buczek||Assistant Coach, 1993-94||Head Coach, The Lovett School|
|Keylor Chan||Volunteer Assistant, 1994-95||Head Coach, Northwestern|
|Michelle Chatman||Player, 2001-04||Assistant Coach, UCF|
|Christina Diaz||Player, 2005-08||Assistant Coach, Jacksonville|
|Arlisa Hagan||Assistant Coach, 2002-05||Head Coach, Georgetown|
|Marcie Hampton||Player, 2004-07||Head Coach, P.K. Yonge High School|
|Josh Hill||Volunteer Assistant, 2005||Assistant Coach, Liberty|
|Jessica (Riester) Hinkle||Player, 1999-01||Head Coach, Manatee High School|
|Jacque (Robinson) Huggins||Player, 2000-03||Head Coach, Father Lopez High School|
|Benavia Jenkins||Player, 2000-03||Head Coach, Lincoln Park Academy|
|Jeni Jones||Player, 1995-98||Associate Head Coach, Missouri State|
|Steffi Legall||Player, 1990-91||Head Coach, Oconee County High School|
|Claire (Roach) Lessinger||Player, 1993-97||Head Coach, South Florida|
|Prentice Lewis||Assistant Coach, 2000-01||Head Coach, TCU|
|Nicole McCray||Player, 1999-02||Head Coach, Panola College|
|Chris Redding||Volunteer Assistant, 1998||Head Coach, Charlotte|
|Jenny (Whitehead) Robinson||Player, 1999||Assistant Coach, Long Island University|
|Jennifer Sanchez||Player, 1999-02||Head Coach, Incarnate Word|
|Nikki Shade||Player, 1993-97||Associate Head Coach, South Florida|
|Aaron Shepardson||Volunteer Assistant, 2004||Assistant Coach, Virginia Tech|
|Chanda Stebbins||Player, 1992-95||Head Basketball Coach, Santa Fe College|
|Ryan Theis||Assistant Coach, 2006-07||Head Coach, Ohio|