For the first time in 12 years, Long Beach will host an NCAA championship as Long Beach State’s Walter Pyramid will welcome the best men’s volleyball teams in the nation this week for five matches. The action begins on Tuesday with USC facing Lewis at 5 p.m. and Pepperdine facing Princeton after. The winners will advance to face No. 1 Hawaii and No. 2 Long Beach State in Final Four matches Thursday evening at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. The national championship will be on Saturday at 5 p.m.
“I think it’s really exciting for our fans and for Southern California volleyball fans to be able to see a national championship played in the Pyramid, which is one of the best volleyball venues in the country,” said Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe.
It’s a big week for Knipe’s squad. As the defending national champions, they have a chance to send their decorated senior class out with a second consecutive NCAA title–no Long Beach State program in any sport has won back-to-back national titles.
If you don’t already have a ticket for the event, good luck getting in. The Pyramid sold out long before the teams playing in the tournament were even announced. Last year, more than 7,000 fans rushed into the Pauley Pavilion at UCLA to see Long Beach State defeat the Bruins. The Pyramid holds roughly 5,000 fans, and because the NCAA would not assume any of the cost of adding temporary seats, that’s all that will be available this week.
“We don’t control the budget for this,” said Long Beach State athletic department. “Anything outside the budget the institution is on the hook for. If we were to bring in more seats that’s completely on the institution to bring them in and the cost to do that is significant. I know folks don’t like this answer but honestly it protects the university.”
Long Beach State would have had to sell all the tickets to break even on the extra seating, and it’s also a cost that would have had to be paid long before finding out who was in the tournament.
Demand for the tickets has been high since Hawaii and LBSU are the best top seeds the tournament has had in a long time, and national championship tickets have been selling on resale sites like Stubhub for over $300.
Long Beach State will be hosting a watch party on the lawn behind the Pyramid, with Naples Rib Company selling food and drinks, large projection screens so fans can watch the matches, and free shirts available.
“Even if you can’t get inside come on out,” said Fee. “We want to make it special for as many people as we can so you can come out, be together with LB Nation to watch it at a big party.”
The event hasn’t been without some clouds hovering over it. After a story broke in the OC Register about Long Beach State assistant coach Scott Touzinsky and Hawaii head coach Charlie Wade appearing in the SafeSport database for having had investigations into sexual misconduct. Safe Sport is a nonprofit organization authorized by law to independently investigate allegations involving US Olympic sports and programs. The NCAA doesn’t fall under SafeSport jurisdiction, so Touzinsky and Wade weren’t prohibited from coaching in college although both were under suspension by USA Volleyball because of the pending investigations by SafeSport.
The complaint against Touzinsky involved an underage athlete from 2013 or 2014, while Touzinsky was a player on the USA National Team.
Touzinsky elected to depart the program last week after the SafeSport investigation surfaced in a report by the OC Register’s Scott Reid.
“I feel that my continued presence on the coaching staff would be a distraction during what is a critical time for the team,” said Touzinsky. “I do not make this decision lightly, but I believe this is the best course of action for the benefit of Long Beach State Men’s Volleyball. I am so proud of this team and I am so honored to have been part of this amazing program. This has been a remarkable journey.”
Knipe said, “It’s a difficult situation–we respect Scott and his decision to step aside and allow our fans and the players to focus on the week ahead.” Knipe declined further comment, but Fee went into more detail and defended his university’s employment of Touzinsky while the investigation was ongoing.
“I think his putting his program, as an alum and a coach, ahead of his own situation says where his mind is,” said Fee. “The decision was his, he came to us and said that was what he wanted to do and I respect it.”
Fee said Touzinsky passed the university’s background check as well as a LiveScan background check, and that there have been no complaints against him and nothing was found to disqualify him from employment.
Wade held a press conference vehemently denying any wrongdoing surrounding an incident alleged to have occurred between 1986 and 1995 while he was a club coach in Southern California. SafeSport investigations are meant to be kept confidential, so no further details about the incident are available. Wade will coach the top-seeded Rainbow Warriors this week.