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Wernke out as head coach of volleyball program

Former head coach C.J. Werneke of the Rutgers volleyball team will not have his tenure overlapped with new football team head coach Greg Schiano.

Werneke is out of his position with the Scarlet Knights (8-23, 2-18) after posting a combined 3-117 Big Ten record since the University joined the conference in 2014. Rutgers Athletics will not renew his contract as the head coach of the volleyball program, according to a release.

The shakeup in the volleyball program's coaching staff occurs approximately two months after former head coach Chris Ash was fired from his post with the football program. 

In this year alone, Rutgers Athletics Director Pat Hobbs has now overseen head coaching changes in four different sports. This past May, former Rutgers women's lacrosse team head coach Laura Brand Sias removed herself at her old post.

Former Knights baseball head coach Joe Litterio, like Werneke, could not come to terms with a contract renewal with the Department of Athletics and was ousted on May 28. Steve Owens was deemed his successor less than a month later.

After Ash was relieved of his duties following Rutgers' 52-point loss to powerhouse Michigan on the road, former Interim head coach Nunzio Campanile was tapped in to serve the position, while Hobbs conducted a nation-wide search to find Ash's replacement.

In his 12 years at the helm of the program, Werneke oversaw the Knights’ inauguration into the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and the Big Ten. In his first season on the Banks at his post, Rutgers was a member of the Big East.

Off the court, Werneke's teams have historically excelled. In 2018, five student-athletes were honored with the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award. This is given to bearers of at least a 3.7 grade-point average.

As a unit, his Knights players also earned consecutive AVCA Team Academic Awards. They also captured NCAA Academic Recognitions under his tenure, notably six years of a 1,000 APR score. 

Werneke was on the Banks before his head coaching stint as an assistant coach under Anne Leonard-House, starting in 1999, and spent time under Leonard-House until 2001. He then took a head coaching position at Fairfield.

Werneke's Stags topped the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) standings four straight seasons.

Werneke's volleyball program has not compiled a record exceeding .500 since joining the Big Ten. Rutgers started off with one conference win in its first three seasons.

For the past three years, the Knights could not dig themselves out of the loss column in the Big Ten standings. They were unable to come away with any wins aside from 2015, before this season started.

But, on Oct. 27 that script finally changed. Playing at the College Avenue Gymnasium, whose lone varsity sports tenant is the volleyball team, Rutgers came away with its second-ever Big Ten win. The Knights edged out Northwestern 3-2 in a five-set battle.

Then six days later, Rutgers extended its conference number of wins to three on the road in Iowa City. The Knights swept Iowa in three sets. It was the first time in the Big Ten era that Rutgers captured multiple victories over conference opponents in a single season.

The announcement comes three days after the Knights hosted a senior day ceremony for three student-athletes prior to the start of its match against Wisconsin. Rutgers lost its final match of the season in straight sets to the No. 5 Badgers (22-6, 18-2). 

Senior middle blocker Jasmine Stackhouse paced the team with 10 kills against Wisconsin. She finished her last season on the Banks with 156 kills, tied with junior right side Beka Kojadinovic for third on the team.

"We would like to thank C.J. for his time and service at Rutgers and his dedication to our student-athletes, including navigating the program through conference realignment to join the nation’s best volleyball conference," Hobbs said. “After evaluating the program, I felt a change in leadership was appropriate at this time."

A national search is set to begin immediately, according to the release.

For updates on the Rutgers volleyball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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