The sixth winningest active head coach in NCAA Division I volleyball, Karen Chisum earned her 800th career victory in her 35th season at the helm of Texas State Volleyball. The landmark victory came against Troy on November 15th, 2014, and made Chisum just the 13th coach to reach 800 wins in NCAA Division I history and the 22nd collegiate volleyball coach ever to do it. Only nine other coaches across all three NCAA divisions have won 800 matches with one team like Chisum. She now holds an all-time record of 803-509-3 after finishing 2014 with a 22-13 overall record and leading her team to the Sun Belt Conference Championship match.
Texas State Volleyball’s trip to the SBC Championship match was the second consecutive appearance the Bobcats made in the conference championship. Chisum led her team to the SBC Championship in 2013, the team’s first season in the Sun Belt Conference. With the 2013 championship, Chisum’s volleyball team became Texas State’s first ever Sun Belt Conference Champion as 2013 was the program’s inaugural season in the Sun Belt.
With 37 total years at Texas State, starting out as an assistant coach for two seasons before taking over the program in 1980, Chisum is a standout Texas State alumnus. She holds a record of 329-137 with a winning percentage of .706 in conference play.
In 2014, under Chisum’s tutelage, freshman Jordan Kohl won Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year with an impressive 2.69 kills per set against conference opponents. Meanwhile, freshman middle blocker Lauren Kirch averaged 2.51 kills per set and team highs 115 blocks and 30 aces to be named All-Sun Belt in her freshman campaign. Senior setter Caylin Mahoney joined Kohl on the SBC Championship All-Tournament Team, making it Mahoney’s second consecutive honor after being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in Texas State’s championship run in 2013.
Chisum earned her 750th career victory in 2012 with a 3-0 sweep of Seattle U on the road Sept. 29. The team also saw two players, Amari Deardorff and Ashlee Hilbun, recognized as All-WAC performers to add to the long list of Bobcats to earn All-Conference status under Chisum’s tutelage.
Before that, however, in Texas State’s final season in the Southland Conference, Chisum collected her sixth Southland Conference regular season championship and seventh tournament title. The 2011 Southland Conference Coach of the Year, Chisum has 757 career victories to her credit and has established herself as one of the elite collegiate coaches in America.
In addition to being a highly successful coach, the five-time conference Coach of the Year also serves as an assistant athletic director in Texas State’s Athletic Department, a position Chisum has held for the past nine years.
Under Chisum’s guidance, the Bobcats have won seven regular season conference championships and eight tournament championships.
The Bobcats’ seven conference championships under her leadership began with the 1986 Gulf Star Conference crown and also include Southland Conference titles in 1991, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2011.
Chisum also led Texas State to Southland Conference Tournament Championships in 1991, 1998, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011, and a Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship in 2013. Her teams earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament each year.
For her merits, Chisum was selected Southland Conference Coach of the Year in 1991, 2000, 2003 and 2011 after receiving the same honor in the Gulf Star Conference in 1986.
Her 700th career win came with a three-game sweep over Prairie View A&M in the team’s home opener Sept. 7, 2010. Her next landmark win will be 800, putting her in the company of just 18 other coaches all-time in all divisions of the NCAA. Her 700th victory came a little over five years after Chisum earned her 600th career win with a sweep of Morgan State in the first match of the season on Sept. 2, 2005.
Chisum has coached numerous athletes who have received all-conference honors with the Bobcats. In addition to Jordan Kohl and Lauren Kirch in 2014, Amari Deardorff and Ashlee Hilbun in earned the honor in 2013 and 2012. Four more athletes earned the honor in 2011 – Amber Calhoun, Deardorff, Caleigh McCorquodale and Melissa Toth. Chisum has coached 25 All-SLC First-Team players during her career. Overall, 93 of her players have received all-conference honors, 75 of which were in the Southland Conference.
She also coached four Conference Players of the Year. Kim Wells-Lauwers won the award for the Gulf Star Conference in 1986, while Stephanie Winn-Lane and Shenequa Bedford were named Southland Conference Players of the Year in 1991 and 2000, respectively. In 2011, Amber Calhoun added her name to that exclusive list.
Chisum has also tutored three SLC Newcomer of the Year selections, as Kristy Braun-Rioux won the honor in 1991, Krisha Neimann-Crosley in 1993 and Jennifer Dallao in 1999.
Several of Texas State’s players have garnered All-Conference honors in multiple seasons. In 1997, Crosley became just the fourth player in Southland Conference history and first Texas State player to earn All-Conference honors all four years. She earned All-SLC First Team honors as a freshman and sophomore and was a Second-Team selection as both a junior and senior.
As proud as she is of her players’ honors and accomplishments on the court, Chisum also takes a great deal of pride in the fact that her players excel in both the classroom and the community as well.
Krystal Kolkhorst embodied Chisum’s ideals as she was named to the ESPN The Magazine CoSIDA Academic All-America Third-Team, the SLC Setter of the Year and SLC Tournament MVP in 2004. She also earned the SLC’s Scholar Athlete of the Year award in 2004.
In 2005, Elizabeth Nwoke was named the MVP of the SLC Tournament to give the Bobcats back-to-back SLC MVPs.
As a squad, the volleyball team has won the Emmitt P. Shelton Academic Excellence Award three times, including both 2004-05 and 2005-06. The award is given annually to the top Texas State men’s and women’s athletic teams with the highest cumulative grade point average.
Chisum’s career as a volleyball coach began as an assistant at Goodnight Middle School in San Marcos. She moved up the coaching ranks when she was named an assistant at San Marcos High School before becoming the head coach at New Braunfels High School. Chisum led the Unicorns to a Class 3-A State runner-up finish in 1976, coaching former Texas volleyball and basketball standout Nell Fortner, who later served as head coach of the 2000 USA Olympic team that won a Gold Medal. Fortner recently retired as the head women’s basketball coach at Auburn. In 1980, Chisum was named Texas State’s fifth head volleyball coach and is still going strong more than three decades later.
Chisum’s influence in volleyball reaches far beyond Texas State. She serves as a member of both the NCAA and American Volleyball Coaches Association voting committees for regional and national rankings. She has also been a teaching clinician for various volleyball programs and camps throughout the United States.
In 2011, Chisum was named a Texas State Distinguished Alumni. The award dates back to 1959 when it was presented to Lyndon B. Johnson, a U.S. senator at the time. It acknowledges outstanding accomplishments and leadership in the individual’s chosen business, profession or life work on a national or international level.
“When I received the call, I was honestly choked up,” Chisum said. “To be awarded the highest honor a Texas State alum can receive from this great institution is amazing. I am a true Bobcat and so very proud to be one. I owe so much to Texas State - not just for my education but for my career.”
In 1994, Chisum became the first female to be accepted for membership in the “T” Association’s Hall of Honor. During her intercollegiate days at Texas State, Chisum played on the softball and tennis teams. Induction into the Hall of Honor is the highest award a letterwinner at Texas State can receive.
“It was a great honor and a personal highlight for me,” reflected Chisum on her induction.
“The two major reasons why people are chosen to receive the honor closely parallel how I feel about Texas State,” Chisum said. “Either you are recognized for your performance as a student-athlete or for what you have accomplished since graduation.
“I am proud to be affiliated with a group like that. Now, as the first female inductee, I am proud to open the door for other women. I’ve always been inspired by people who give back to the university.”
Chisum has passed along some of her volleyball knowledge in writing. She co-authored a book titled “Developing a Successful Volleyball Program” with former Bobcat volleyball player Stephanie Scott Jordan.