Long Beach State hosts NCAA volleyball Final Four amid glare of investigation

Long Beach State and Hawaii are the two best men’s volleyball teams in the country—but as they head into this week’s sold-out championship tournament at the Walter Pyramid, both are beset by a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations against team coaches.

LBSU assistant coach Scott Touzinsky resigned from his position last Friday after a report by the Orange County Register detailing an allegation involving an underage girl at a camp or clinic in Canada in 2013. Touzinsky, who at the time was a player on the USA National Team, was suspended from USA Volleyball on July 19 and received a “formal warning” from a nonprofit charged with investigating such claims.

The coach was later deemed eligible to return to USA Volleyball events. Officials from SafeSport, the organization that investigated, found the suspension sanction was “sufficient,” according to the Register report.

Long Beach State had been aware of the complaint since late March, had investigated it, and decided no further action was required, officials told the Register.

In an interview, Long Beach State Athletic Director Andy Fee defended the university’s actions. Touzinsky passed the university’s background check as well as a LiveScan background check, and there have been no complaints against him since.

“I feel we did our due diligence to protect our student-athletes, our campus, and our staff,” Fee said.

He also praised Touzinksky for stepping down, putting his program first. The coach wanted to avoid being the center of attention ahead of this week’s matchup, Fee said.

“The decision was his,” Fee said. “He came to us and said that was what he wanted to do and I respect it.”

Touzinsky declined comment.

Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe, who hired Touzinsky and also coached Touzinsky as an All-American player at Long Beach State, 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 said.

Meanwhile, Hawaii head coach Charlie Wade held a press conference in his home state vehemently denying any wrongdoing surrounding an incident alleged to have occurred between 1986 and 1995 while he was club coach in Southern California.

Wade has not stepped down; he will coach the top-seeded Rainbow Warriors this week—and will likely spend a good portion of a Wednesday evening banquet fielding questions about the allegations.

The American Volleyball Coaches Association is hosting the banquet, a gathering of the top coaches and players in the NCAA that will take place in Downtown Long Beach. The banquet usually features the announcement of the AVCA’s major awards, but AVCA spokesman David Portney said that won’t happen with the Coach of the Year award, in a statement that implies Wade was going to be the recipient of the honor.

“The AVCA Division I-II Men’s Awards Committee has postponed making the decision on the 2019 National Coach of the Year pending the conclusion of an investigation by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. The announcement of the AVCA’s coaching awards for Division I-II Men will be made when the investigation is complete,” said Portney.

Tournament lineup

The tournament itself begins Thursday, beginning with No. 1 Hawaii facing Illinois’ Lewis University at 5 p.m. No. 2-seeded Long Beach State will play Pepperdine later that day at 7:30 p.m.

The semifinal winners will meet on Saturday at 5 p.m. to decide the national championship. LBSU and Hawaii have a good chance of facing each other in that final game. The teams have played three, five-set matches already this season, with LBSU winning a pair at the Pyramid, and Hawaii winning one on the islands.

“There hasn’t been this much separation between the top two teams and the rest of the field in a very, very long time,” said national men’s volleyball reporter Vinnie Lopes of Off the Block.

Tickets for Thursday and Saturday are both sold out, with Saturday’s tickets selling on the resale market for $125 to $300. The university will host a free watch party on the lawn behind the Pyramid, with large screens showing the action inside the building.

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