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About a decade ago, Terry Pettit was sitting at the computer in his home in Fort Collins, Colo., when his then-8-year-old daughter approached.

"She said, 'Dad, do you know anybody who could teach me how to be a setter?'" Pettit recalls with a chuckle.

Emma Pettit evidently didn't know her dad was a two-time AVCA national coach of the year (1986, 1994).

She apparently didn't understand her dad was the impetus to Nebraska volleyball becoming a state treasure, and something admired nationally.

She was too young to grasp it all.

If she doesn't fully understand now, she will Sept. 6, when she arrives in Lincoln as a sophomore setter at Villanova to be part of a historic night for Nebraska volleyball, a night during which "Terry Pettit Court" will be formally unveiled at the remodeled Devaney Sports Center.

The naming is the result of a recent financial gift from Bill and Ruth Scott in honor of Pettit. The NU board of regents approved the naming Friday.

It all makes perfect sense. Pettit, the Husker volleyball coach from 1977-99, used to have to chase pickup basketball players off the NU Coliseum court so his team could practice.

The Coliseum, of course, eventually became the Huskers' home, and a rollicking place to be in the fall. The program kept growing. Kept winning. Interest kept increasing, to a point where NU volleyball has become the prime tenant in the remodeled Devaney Center.

After a $20.5 million makeover, the Devaney Center will be reconfigured from 13,595 seats to about 7,000 for most matches. On special occasions, the arena could seat up to 10,000. Seating will be moved closer to the playing floor. Two new video boards will be installed closer to the floor. The south end will be rebuilt for luxury suites and coaches offices.

Video boards. 10,000 seats. Luxury suites. Yes, for women's college volleyball. Many folks around the nation wouldn't understand. We understand fully. And to me, that's much of the significance of "Terry Pettit Court."

And what a nice touch to have Emma involved.

Pettit recalls Villanova coach Josh Steinbach mentioning the possibility of the Wildcats, 11-19 overall last season, playing in Lincoln in 2013.

"Part of me thought it was a little odd -- might not be the best choice," Pettit said.

It didn't occur to him that something might be up, that perhaps Emma was heading to Lincoln for something more meaningful than a season-opening match for both teams.

That it didn't occur to Pettit indicates humility, as does his response to the honor.

"Obviously, I'm pleased to have it happen," he said. "But I'm even more pleased that the University of Nebraska values an Olympic sport enough to do something like this."

That it is a women's sport is also meaningful. When Pettit began coaching at Nebraska, women's sports weren't nearly as popular as today.

"Nebraska, in a lot of ways, has been ahead of the curve in volleyball," Pettit said. "I think this is just another example of that."

He hopes people see "Terry Pettit Court" and remember the commitment by high school coaches in the state. He hopes people think of the volleyball culture that's developed in the state. He hopes people think of all the great players.

His relationship with high school coaches was critical, he said. By the end of his third season at NU, he had conducted clinics in every Nebraska community with a population of more than 3,000. He always hired high school coaches to work his camps, as opposed to bringing in big-name coaches from elsewhere.

The camps were not only designed to train players, but also coaches.

Go back and look at Husker rosters. In many years, at least 50 percent of the players were from in-state.

What we're talking about is a foundation.

What we're talking about is a man who had a vision.

People with vision often have buildings and courts named after them.

Pettit still isn't 100 percent certain Emma understands what he did at Nebraska.

"I think she thinks I was a conductor on a train or something," he said jokingly.

She'll know better come Sept. 6.

"I don't think she will quite understand the depth of Nebraska volleyball until she steps out on that floor and gets the reception she'll get," Pettit said. "It obviously will be a real challenge for Villanova. But it's going to be a pretty special day."

And a very fitting occasion.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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