Pepperdine has won just one National Collegiate Athletic Assn. title of any sort--the 1978 men's volleyball title.
This weekend, the Waves might add another. Pepperdine is favored to win the NCAA men's volleyball tournament being played at Pauley Pavilion.
Coach Marv Dunphy, who led Pepperdine to its earlier title, would like to take this team all the way, too, before he takes a three-year leave to coach the U.S. Olympic team.
Last year, and the year before, Pepperdine finished second behind UCLA. That can't happen again. The Bruins were eliminated by USC in the regional last weekend at Cal State Northridge. As a result, UCLA, the host school, will not have the opportunity to stretch its string of four straight NCAA titles to five.
Today at 5:30 p.m., Pepperdine, 23-2 and winner of the California Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn., will play Ball State of Indiana, 27-6 and winner of the Midwest Regional. At 7:30, USC, 27-8 and winner of the West Regional, will play George Mason of Virginia, 22-11 and winner of the East Regional. Saturday, there will be a consolation game at 5:30 p.m. and the title game at 7:30.
Chances are good that the final game will match Pepperdine and USC, for the fourth time this season. It seems to come down to West Coast teams almost every year.
"It's still a national championship, though, because it includes the elite of college volleyball players," Dunphy said. "The fact that most of those players are from the West Coast doesn't change that. This just happens to be where the volleyball players are. . . . We're not too good at hockey out here.
"Actually, volleyball is on the rise in the East, both in the high school and the college programs."
Of course, the coach who will soon be taking over the national team is interested in seeing the sport gain in popularity all over the country. Beach boys can't carry the load forever.
"It's amazing, because everybody has played volleyball at some time or another," Dunphy said. "Everyone's first experience with volleyball is recreational. It is taking time for kids to think of the sport in a more formal sense. But it is getting a broader base.
"The gold medal last summer helped tremendously. Americans aren't going to back any program that isn't on top. And, also, it's a great team sport, it's a great spectator sport, it has the combination of finesse with the hitting and blocking and speed of the ball, and it has great athletes. Some of the highest-jumping athletes--male and female--are volleyball players.
"And, very important, CBS tells me that it is a good sport for TV. All that action is in a confined area.
"Our league stats show attendance going up and up."
Dunphy, who officially became the Olympic coach last October, will be joining the national team at its training center in San Diego after this tournament. He won't be back with at Pepperdine until after the 1988 Games in Seoul.
"I thought about it for a long time before I decided to go with the Olympic team," Dunphy said. "Our program at Pepperdine is going very well, and it's not easy to leave those players. And I think of the players as people, as individuals, not just as star players.
"I went back and forth with the Olympic Committee and I talked with some of the younger players and with my athletic director. I finally decided to do it."
The Pepperdine volleyball program will, no doubt, profit in stature and reputation by having its coach as the national coach for the next few years, but the cost is that it will, again, have an interim coach. Dunphy earlier took three years off to get his doctoral degree at Brigham Young, returning in 1981.
"In a way, it might help the program," Dunphy said. "But I think if they had their choice, Pepperdine would rather have me coaching."