A month and 12 days after announcing Grayson DuBose would not be returning as the head coach volleyball coach at Utah State, a new coach has been found.
The university made the announcement in a press release Tuesday afternoon. Rob Neilson will replace the coach who had been in charge of the program for the longest in school history. DuBose was at the helm for 14 years.
Utah State Vice President and Director of Athletics John Hartwell made the announcement. Neilson, who is currently the first assistant for the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team, will be the 11th head coach in program history for the Aggies.
“We had a lot of interest in this position and Rob emerged as the clear choice to lead the Utah State volleyball program,” Hartwell said in a release. “We are excited to have him and his family be a part of the Aggie family.”
In DuBose’s final year at USU, the Aggies struggled to finish matches. They were competitive in most games, but didn’t record a lot of wins. USU went 2-28 during the 2019 season, which was filled with lots of injuries. The Aggies return 12 athletes that saw action last year.
Neilson plans to put together a staff and begin recruiting immediately as the team gets ready for spring practices. He will also continue to work with Team USA in some capacity through the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“Sarah and I are thrilled to join the Utah State family,” Neilson said in a press release. “I’m incredibly grateful for the trust and support of John Hartwell, Jerry Bovee and Amy Crosbie. The university, previous staffs and alumni have built the foundation for an incredible volleyball program and we look forward to working with players, staff, recruits and the Cache Valley community to build on that foundation to a championship standard.”
Neilson comes to USU with 14 years of coaching experience at the collegiate and international levels. He has spent the last three years as the first assistant Team USA. He was on the staff of the team that won a bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships, the team’s first medal finish in 24 years. In 2019, the team took silver at Volleyball Nations League and medaled in its last four major international competitions. In 2017, Neilson developed offensive game plans for the team before switching to the defensive side for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
“I am thrilled for Rob and his family and Utah State,” USA volleyball head coach John Speraw said. “You couldn’t find a more capable coach and man of high character and values. He is going to be an incredible representative of Utah State and its volleyball program. As a father of two daughters myself, I know how important of a decision it is as to where to send your daughters to play and for whom. I can say without reservation that Rob is someone I would trust to coach and train my own daughters. I look forward to seeing the success of the Utah State volleyball program.”
Before joining Team USA, Neilson spent 10 seasons on the men’s volleyball staff at BYU. He was an assistant coach under Shawn Patchell from 2006-10, serving as the team’s recruiting coordinator and overseeing player development. He then spent the 2011 season as interim head coach, guiding the team to a 20-8 record and a No. 2 national ranking.
Neilson returned to an assistant coaching role at BYU in 2012 under Chris McGown, before being named associate head coach prior to the 2014 season. In that position, he continued overseeing recruiting and player development, adding in practice and game planning, scheduling and donor and alumni relations. He guided the Cougars to two conference championships and a second-place finish in the NCAA Tournament in 2013.
“Rob is one of the best young coaches in volleyball — he’s innovative in his thinking, he’s incredibly committed to the athletes, and he brings wonderful energy and passion to his coaching,” McGown said. “Perhaps his greatest attribute is his humility. ... I’m thrilled for Rob, for Utah State, and for the athletes that will get to be a part of the program there.”
Neilson spent the summer of 2011 as an assistant coach for the USA Youth National Team, competing at the Pan-American Cup in Mexicali, Mexico, and the Youth World Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He briefly stepped away from coaching in 2015, working with VolleyMetrics until he joined the U.S. men’s staff.
Neilson played at BYU from 2003-06, where he was the starting setter in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He helped the Cougars to the 2004 NCAA championship, posting an overall record of 91-31 in his career. Neilson tallied 2,790 assists in his career, which ranks fifth in the BYU record book in the rally scoring era. Additionally, he is eighth in block solos, recording 28 in his career.
Neilson earned a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience at BYU in 2006, while also completing his MBA there in 2013. He and his wife, Sarah, have five children, Etta, Liam, Charlotte, Whit and Lois.