CHICAGO — Kayla Caffey announced last week that she wouldn’t return for a seventh year at Nebraska. In an Instagram post on Friday, Caffey shared that the Nebraska coaches informed her that they were unable to offer a scholarship for the fall. Coach John Cook said otherwise during his time with the media at the inaugural Big Ten Volleyball Media Days on Monday.
It was an unusual situation, per Cook, elaborating “on what unfolded” between Caffey and the Huskers.
In November, Cook asked Caffey if she would like to return for her “super senior” year at Nebraska. Caffey said yes for two reasons. The first was to earn her second master’s degree during her time in Lincoln. The second?
“I asked her why she wanted to come back and she said she wanted to help us win a national championship because we were so close,” Cook said.
The compliance department at Nebraska “worked hard” to get Caffey the seventh year, but the NCAA ruled Nebraska would take a scholarship penalty as a result. Cook was committed to making it work, even at the cost of Caffey counting double for the Huskers.
Cook said the ball was then in Caffey’s court by May. He thought she was on board and was waiting to hear her announcement to return. Instead, he saw her post that she was moving on from Nebraska and entering the transfer portal.
While unfortunate for the Huskers, Cook is confident in what Nebraska has on its roster at middle blocker going into the upcoming season.
“We still have—last I checked—three middle blockers so they’re going to compete just like they were going to compete before,” he said.
UPDATE (8:04 p.m.): Cook released a statement, clarifying his comments from Big Ten Media Days.
“To clarify my press conference statement at Big Ten Media Days earlier today, Kayla did not have an athletic scholarship for this upcoming fall semester. Kayla had been working on outside NIL deals that would cover her expenses, but she notified me last week she was going to enter the transfer portal. Kayla was a great Husker. While we anticipated having her be a part of this year’s team, I respect that this is a personal decision for her. We wish her the best going forward.”
More news and notes:
>> Club volleyball—and the national teams—have changed the way freshmen come into programs. Cook said that “15 years ago, we wanted to redshirt every freshman” but that has changed. While players still need time to adjust, the freshmen come into programs having it skill-wise to play.
>> Speaking of the adjustment to college volleyball, there has been a lot of conversation around the ability for teams to work with coaches in the summer. Cook is in agreement with many in that he’d like to see an opportunity for volleyball coaches to work their players in the summer. Football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball all have the opportunity, so Cook would like to see volleyball follow suit.
>> “Two points better” is one of the team’s themes after a lot of close losses, stemming from needing to win three games by two points each to win a match. At the end of each workout, Nebraska is doing “two points better” activities to challenge themselves both physically and mentally.
>> The Tech N9ne “Red Kingdom” song now has a Husker version, all thanks to Cook. He originally sought out the song specifically for Nebraska volleyball, but athletic director Trev Alberts asked if it could be focused on Nebraska athletics as a whole. Tech N9ne—and Cook—delivered.
>> Cook echoed the comments of other Big Ten coaches, thanking the conference for hosting the first media days for the sport.
“My hope from all of this is that it will spread to other conferences,” Cook said, adding that he thinks it’s a great
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.