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Article Press Release

April 19, 2023

Spartan Volleyball Tournament Named in Honor of Kathy DeBoer ‘78

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State volleyball head coach Leah Johnson announced Wednesday that beginning in 2023, the annual Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational will be known as the Kathy DeBoer Invitational presented by Auto-Owners Insurance. DeBoer, a 1978 graduate from Michigan State, was inducted in the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2022 and recently announced her plan to retire as Executive Director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
“Our program is thrilled to honor the career and legacy of Kathy DeBoer,” said Johnson. “Kathy has been one of the most prominent advocates for women’s athletics dating back to her time as a student-athlete at Michigan State in the 1970s. Her dedication to the sport of volleyball has led to exponential growth for our game during her 17 years as Executive Director of the AVCA.”
DeBoer has long been one of the top advocates for the sport of volleyball and women’s athletics throughout the country. Her 17-year stint as Executive Director of the AVCA saw volleyball grow at unprecedented levels, becoming the top team sport for high school girls in the United States in 2015. Volleyball at the NCAA Division I level is as popular as it has ever been, with the 2023 DI NCAA Championship match drawing record attendance.
“I am so grateful to Coach Johnson, AD Haller and Associate AD Julee Burgess for honoring me in this way,” said DeBoer. “Sharing the name of the Invitational with Auto-Owners Insurance only serves to amplify this honor as their support shows women’s volleyball has value in the marketplace, a goal I have worked towards for my entire career.”
Prior to her time with the AVCA, DeBoer served as head volleyball coach at both Ferris State University and the University of Kentucky before moving into athletic administration at Kentucky. DeBoer rose to the title of Senior Associate Athletics Director before joining the AVCA.
“Kathy has served as an exemplary role model of success and integrity for so many people,” said Dr. Jaime Gordon, the AVCA Executive Director in waiting. “She has been a trailblazer in athletics, coaching and administration who has had a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals. Naming this event after Kathy is appropriate because it will provide an opportunity to tell her story so she can continue to inspire others.”
A Spartan standout on the volleyball and basketball courts, DeBoer helped the MSU volleyball program to an 82-13 record along with a pair of Big Ten titles and two trips to the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national tournament. Michigan State took ninth in 1975 and seventh in 1976, with DeBoer earning team MVP honors following the 1976 campaign.
“Kathy DeBoer dedicated her professional life to growing the game of volleyball,” said Michigan State Vice President and Director of Athletics Alan Haller. “We’re proud to call her a Spartan and a Michigan State Hall of Famer, as she starred in both volleyball and women’s basketball. Naming our annual volleyball tournament in her honor is a fitting tribute and an opportunity to celebrate all she has meant to college athletics.”
DeBoer’s name still ranks among the greats in the Michigan State women’s basketball record book. Her 9.3 career rebounds per game is fourth best in program history and her 17-career double-doubles ranks No. 14 all-time despite playing just two seasons with the team. DeBoer earned team MVP honors following the 1977-78 season and was a finalist for the first ever Wade Trophy, presented annually to the best player in collegiate women’s basketball by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
In 1989 DeBoer was awarded the Michigan State Varsity S Club Dr. Nell Jackson Outstanding Alumna award, presented annually to a Spartan alumna whose career has been distinguished not only by outstanding professional accomplishments, but also by an exceptional record of community service.


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