Views from the bottom of The Hill: Travis Hudson is the G.O.A.T.

Head Coach Travis Hudson enters season No. 26 at the helm of the WKU Volleyball Program this school year. He has a record of 642-215 with the program. 

Kaden Gaylord

On Oct. 9, WKU Volleyball Head Coach Travis Hudson was inducted into the 2020 WKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Hudson graduated from WKU in 1994, took over the volleyball program in 1995, and turned a rebuilding program into one of the best in the nation, which is why he is the greatest coach ever on the Hill.

After finishing his first three seasons with a 7-26, 18-17 and a 9-22 record, the 1998 Lady Toppers posted a 26-10 record and haven’t looked back since.

While playing in the Sunbelt conference, WKU won 10 regular season championships with a 215-59 record, including seven straight from 2000-2006 while also winning five conference tournament championships, five SBC coach of the year awards and two American Volleyball Coaches Association south coach of the year awards.

Switching over to Conference USA in 2014 brought WKU into more on the mainstream media light as they dominated the conference right out the gate, winning five of their first six regular seasons and conference tournament championships.

Hudson has led the Lady Toppers to multiple historic seasons including seven of the last nine seasons ending in more than 30 wins, but WKU’s 2019 campaign is arguably the best season in program history. It seemed like they were breaking a record every week.

WKU led the nation with 23 sweeps while posting a school record of 28 straight victories. The Lady Toppers swept C-USA play going 14-0, winning the conference tournament for the fifth time, ending the regular season 31-1.

If I wrote out all the awards and records this team broke, this column would take up two pages of the newspaper.

The season became extra special when it was announced WKU earned the 15th overall seed, making Diddle Arena the home of the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament for the first time ever.

WKU made it to the second round, ultimately losing 3-2 to Louisville again that season; the Cardinals owned the only two losses against the Lady Toppers in 2019.

But what made it so much more special was the crowd turnout, setting two attendance records on back-to-back days by bringing in 9,537 total fans — the fourth best in the country.

Hudson turned and looked at the crowd and had tears of joy showing nothing but gratitude towards the Bowling Green community because all he’s wanted is to get the arena packed to capacity to support his girls.

The thing about Hudson is he doesn’t just get it done on the court; he works his butt off putting as much effort into outside obligations and responsibilities as he does on the court.

“Travis is a coach that genuinely cares about your future outside of volleyball,” former WKU star Alyssa Cavanaugh told me in 2017. “It isn’t all about winning on the court. It’s about creating an environment and principles that will take us to bigger things after volleyball.”

And that has stood the test of time.

Every single one of the women who have put on the Lady Topper jersey have walked across the graduation stage under Hudson’s tenure, and since joining C-USA WKU has had eight student-athletes make the All-Academic team. For 14 straight years, WKU has won the AVAC Team Academic Award, with a total of 18 times since 1999.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Friends of Jacolyn Foundation and of course Hope for Harlie. FOJ is a charitable, non-profit organization that strives to enhance and strengthen the support system built around children with pediatric brain tumors.

FOJ connected WKU to Harlie Bryant in 2012 who was diagnosed with a brain tumor behind her eyes. Bryant was adopted as an official member of the team, wearing the No. 6 jersey ever since.

Hudson has produced nine All-Americans and has coached women part of the USA Junior National and Collegiate National teams, respectively.

“I hear about the wins and the championships, all those kinds of things, but at the end of my career if I’m only known by wins and losses, that’ll be a shame because that’s not the reason I do what I do,” Hudson said in his induction speech.

The man encapsulates everything that Western Kentucky stands for.

He is indeed the greatest of all time.

Men’s basketball beat reporter & columnist Kaden Gaylord can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.