Entering his 15th season as the head coach at Arizona, David Rubio has turned the Wildcat program into one that not only contends in the traditionally dominant Pacific-10, but on a national level as well.
In the last seven seasons alone, Rubio has guided the Wildcats to five Sweet 16s, four Elite Eights and to Arizona’s first-ever Final Four. His teams have won 155 matches during this seven-year stretch, including 16 in the NCAA Tournament, which is six more than the previous 14 postseason teams combined.
As the Wildcats’ top man, Rubio has guided the once-lowly program to 12 NCAA Tournament berths, including the last 10 straight, a school-record 22 NCAA Tournament victories, seven Sweet 16s, four Elite Eights and to the Final Four in 2001.
Despite playing a challenging non-conference slate every year before the grueling Pac-10 season, Rubio’s teams are consistently ranked in the polls. The Wildcats have been listed in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Top 25 in 118 of the last 127 coaches polls, including a streak of 30 straight weeks in the Top 10 from 2000-03. In 2000 and again in 2001, his teams ranked as high as No. 3 in the poll, the highest ranking of any team in school history.
Inheriting a program that did not win a single conference match the season prior to his arrival, Rubio has guided the Wildcats to a 278-141 (.663) overall record and has won 400 matches in his 19-year collegiate coaching career. His last 10 teams have averaged 22 wins a season and 12 conference victories, and in 2000 he guided Arizona to its first ever Pac-10 title.
Rubio’s tireless recruiting efforts have seen more athletic and highly regarded student-athletes opting for Arizona. During his tenure, he has recruited 24 athletes listed as Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 recruits (the magazine ranks the Fab 50 from first through 50th in order of the impact they are expected to make in college volleyball). His recruiting class in 2002 (Jennifer Abernathy, Meghan Cumpston, Kim Glass and Bre Ladd) was the top-ranked freshman class in the nation. He followed that the next three years with classes that featured a pair of members of the Fab 50 list, and his 2006 class was ranked fourth in the nation.
At Arizona, Rubio has recruited and coached four first-team All-Americans, including Arizona’s first ever consensus two-time honoree, an AVCA Freshman of the Year, a Pac-10 Player of the Year, 24 All-Pac-10 performers, eight All-Pac-10 freshman players and 11 academic all-conference athletes. Wildcat athletes have also earned 23 Pac-10 Player of the Week honors under his guide.
Last year, Rubio led his team to one of the best seasons in school history. The squad went 25-6, with all six losses coming at the hands of ranked teams. Arizona finished second in the Pac-10 with a 14-4 record, its best conference mark since 2001. The Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, where they heartbreakingly lost in five games to Santa Clara.
Senior Kim Glass was named to the AVCA All-America first team, while senior Jennifer Abernathy was named to the third team. Glass and Abernathy were also named to the All-Pac-10 team. Meanwhile, senior Bre Ladd, junior Kristina Baum and sophomore Dominique Lamb were honorable mention selections, and Brittany Leonard was named honorable mention All-Freshman.
In addition, the 2005 season was one of personal milestones for Rubio, as he notched his 400th career victory when the Wildcats defeated Ohio in the Sweet 16 on Dec. 9. Earlier in the year, he became Arizona’s career wins leader, surpassing Rosie Wegrich.
In 2004, injuries plagued the Wildcats, yet Rubio was able to lead the team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where it lost a heartbreaking five-game match to host San Diego. Arizona finished the season 19-11 overall and 10-8 in the dominant Pac-10, which featured three of the teams in the Final Four.
Glass, who missed the entire non-conference slate with a shoulder injury, was named All-Pac-10 for the third consecutive year. Senior Jolene Killough was also named to the All-Pac-10 squad and finished her career ranked second in the Arizona record books with a .349 hitting percentage. Ladd was an honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick.
In 2003, the Cats went 17-15 overall and tied for fifth place in the Pac-10 with a 10-8 record. Arizona lost to Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Glass was named an AVCA All-American (third team), was an All-Pacific Region pick and was named All-Pac-10. Classmates Ladd and Abernathy were both named honorable mention All-Pac-10, while Baum and Stephanie Butkus were named honorable mention All-Freshman Pac-10.
Losing a pair of All-Americans, Rubio’s coaching abilities shined in 2002. Fielding a team with a transfer setter and four freshmen playing major roles, Rubio led the Wildcats to a third-place finish in the Pac-10 and the right to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. He guided the Wildcats to opening round wins and an upset victory of Minnesota in the Sweet 16, giving Arizona its seventh straight 20-win season, a third-straight trip to the Elite Eight and UA’s third consecutive Top 10 final ranking. Glass, playing in her first season under Rubio, was named the AVCA National Freshman of the Year and a second team All-American. Glass and Ladd also became the first pair of newcomers to be named All-Pac-10 Freshman in the same season at Arizona.
In 2001, Rubio’s decade-long effort to build the Arizona program into a national power came to fruition. Returning the 2000 Pac-10 Player of the Year, All-American setter Dana Burkholder, and three other starters, the squad entered the season as the sixth-ranked team in the nation, the highest preseason ranking in school history. The lofty expectations and the implementation of rally scoring did little to alter Arizona’s course with history, as the Wildcats remained among the top seven teams nationally all year and concluded the regular season 21-4 overall, 14-4 in the Pac-10 and fourth in the national poll.
While home court advantage eluded Rubio and his team, the Wildcats took to the road in the postseason and never looked back. Heading to Champaign, Ill., for the first and second rounds, the Wildcats easily handled Eastern Illinois and host Illinois to advance to their third-straight Sweet 16 appearance. Traditional national power Pacific proved not to be up to Arizona’s challenge in the regional semifinals, as the Wildcats won 3-0, paving the way for a showdown with Pac-10 rival and regional host USC in the Elite Eight.
The two rivals battled it out in a five-game thriller that saw Rubio’s Wildcats emerge victorious, despite trailing 12-9 in the decisive fifth game. The monumental victory elevated Rubio and the Arizona program into uncharted territory ?- the first Final Four appearance ever. Burkholder’s was named NCAA Regional MVP, while classmate Jill Talbot tallied All-Regional Team honors.
Though a three-game loss to unbeaten and eventual runner-up Long Beach State in the national semifinals the following weekend ended Arizona’s season, it could not mar the excellent year that Rubio and the Wildcats enjoyed. The breakthrough season ended with the Wildcats posting a final record of 25-5 overall and a No. 4 ranking in the final poll.
Burkholder and Talbot both garnered first-team All-America honors from the AVCA, the first two players in school history to be named All-America in the same season. Burkholder was also named first-team All-America by Volleyball Magazine, making her the first ever two-time consensus honoree at Arizona. Talbot garnered third-team honors from the publication. The pair, along with junior Lisa Rutledge, were also tabbed with AVCA All-Pacific Region honors, as well as first-team All-Pac-10 awards.
Rubio was named the ASICS/Volleyball Magazine National Coach of the Year. The honor placed him among elite company in the history of Arizona athletics, joining an exclusive list of men’s basketball coach Lute Olson, swimming coach Frank Busch, softball coach Mike Candrea and former Arizona coaches Dave Murray (men’s cross country), Todd McCorkle (women’s golf) and Jerry Kindall (baseball) as the only head coaches in school history to be recognized with the national honor at Arizona.
In 2000, Rubio’s team also lived up to and exceeded the preseason expectations. Selected No. 10 in the preseason poll, the 28-5 Wildcats maintained a place in the Top 10 for 14 of the 16 polls, finishing No. 4 in the final poll. Picked to finish fourth in the conference, Rubio’s team won its first-ever Pac-10 title. It was an impressive feat considering that, since conference play began in 1986, no team other than UCLA or Stanford had won a conference title. As a result, Rubio earned his first Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors.
Hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats swept both Alabama A&M and Michigan. The victories advanced the Cats to a second-consecutive regional semifinal. In Lincoln, Neb., Arizona easily handled BYU for the second time that season to move on to its first Elite Eight appearance ever. Eventual national champion Nebraska proved to be too much to handle, handing Arizona its only 3-0 loss to end the historic season.
Along with the team accomplishments, Rubio’s players fared well in postseason accolades. Setter Burkholder was named first-team AVCA All-America and Pac-10 Player of the Year, and to the NCAA All-Central Region team, the AVCA All-Pacific Region team and the All-Pac-10 team.
Marisa DaLee joined Burkholder on the AVCA All-Pacific Region team, while Allison Napier joined the pair on the All-Pac-10 team, the most all-conference performers ever in a single season for UA.
In 1999, Rubio led the Cats to a 21-11 mark and took them to their sixth-straight NCAA Tournament. The then-18th-ranked Wildcats downed Virginia in the first round, then went on to log an upset sweep of host Texas. The second-lowest-ranked team to earn a Sweet 16 berth, the Cats faced Pac-10 foe and eventual national runner-up Stanford. Arizona took a game from the Cardinal before bowing out of the tournament. Arizona ended the year ranked No. 14 in the nation. Both DaLee and Burkholder were All-District VII and All-Pac-10 selections.
The 1998 season saw the coach take a club with just one returning starter and six freshmen to 22 victories, the most since 1982. Middle blockers DaLee and Keisha Johnson earned All-Pac-10 accolades, and Burkholder was named to the league’s All-Freshman squad. Arizona fell to eventual national champion Long Beach State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The previous year, the Cats had also exceeded all expectations, matching their then-best-ever finish in Pac-10 play, tying for fourth with a 12-6 mark. They went 20-6 and were ranked in the Top 10 throughout November. For just the second time, Arizona had a pair of athletes earn All-Pac-10 honors ?- Erin Aldrich and Carolyn Penfield.
In 1996, UA posted its first-ever season sweep of UCLA en route to a fifth-place Pac-10 finish. The Cats returned to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence and defeated San Diego, becoming the only team to win a first-round road match. For the second-straight season, Wildcats earned All-Pac-10 (Barb Bell) and All-Pac-10 Freshman (Aldrich) honors.
In 1995, Arizona started off by winning eight of its first 10 matches. The Cats rose to No. 12 in the USA Today/AVCA poll before losing their final six matches. Arizona finished 14-14, but Bell and Johnson were named to the All-Pac-10 and All-Freshman Pac-10 teams, respectively.
The 1994 season marked the second consecutive year in which Rubio’s Cats reached the Sweet 16. The team won six of its last eight matches to secure a spot in postseason play, then proceeded to knock off No. 8 Brigham Young in Provo, Utah.
In Rubio’s second season with the Wildcats, he guided them to a 20-11 record and Arizona’s then best-ever conference finish, placing fourth in Pac 10 play. The ’93 season also saw the Cats return to postseason play for the first time since 1989. They reached the NCAA West Regional following first- and second-round victories over Lamar and Arizona State. For his efforts, Rubio was honored as the AVCA West Region Coach of the Year.
In 1992, Rubio’s first season at Arizona, the Cats experienced some growing pains, finishing 10-17 and posting a 4-14 mark in Pac-10 play. Not outstanding figures, but a definite improvement on the 0-18 conference mark of the year before.
Rubio had already established himself as one of the great young coaching talents before arriving at Arizona. He came to Tucson from Cal State Bakersfield, where he had developed one of the nation’s winningest Division II programs. In five seasons, he coached seven All-Americans, led the Roadrunners to three consecutive Top 5 finishes and won the 1989 national championship. Rubio was honored as the ASICS Tiger Coach of the Year in 1989, and in 1991 was honored as the CCAA Coach of the Year.
Rubio served as an assistant coach for Cal State Northridge’s men’s team in 1983 and then for the women’s team in 1985, helping them win a national championship. He began his coaching career in 1978 as the boys’ coach at Granada Hills High School. He spent time as an assistant at Pierce College before taking the Chatsworth High School girls’ team to the league championship in 1982. Prior to his arrival at Bakersfield, Rubio spent four years as coach of the women’s team at Westlake High School.
As a player, Rubio was an all-conference and all-state volleyball selection at Cal State Northridge. A volleyball clinician and grass tournament entrepreneur, he is highly recognized for his extensive community involvement.
Rubio graduated from Cal State Northridge in 1982 with a B.A. in physical education. Born on June 20, 1959, he is married to the former Amanda Sebbas. They have a three-year-old daughter, Olivia, and are expecting twins, one boy and one girl, in December.
Rubio’s Year-by-Year Record at Arizona
Year W L W L Finish Postseason 1992 10 17 4 14 8th 1993 20 11 11 7 T-4th NCAA Sweet 16 1994 17 10 10 8 5th NCAA Sweet 16 1995 14 14 6 12 T-7th 1996 20 10 10 8 5th NCAA Second Round 1997 20 7 12 6 T-4th NCAA First Round 1998 22 7 12 6 4th NCAA Second Round 1999 21 11 12 6 4th NCAA Sweet 16 2000 28 5 16 2 T-1st NCAA Elite Eight 2001 25
NCAA Sweet 16
NCAA Sweet 16
NCAA Second Round
NCAA First Round
NCAA Second Round
NCAA Sweet 16
NCAA Elite Eight