The University of Illinois at Chicago, the sport of volleyball and the state of women’s athletics has seen many changes since the Flames became a Division I athletic program back in 1981. The man who has seen all of the change and adapted to keep the UIC volleyball team successful every step of the way is Don August, who enters his 22nd season as head coach.
In August’s tenure, UIC has posted seven 20-win seasons, including a UIC Division I record 30-win campaign in 1984. The Flames have endured only seven sub-.500 seasons under August with the veteran mentor has compiled a career mark of 390-357 (.522).
Last season, UIC gave opponents all they could handle as the Flames went the distance seven times, only to lose each of them as they finished the year with a mark of 15-15. Those marathons included a pair of five-game contests against Horizon League regular-season champion, Loyola and against Horizon League tournament-champion, UW-Milwaukee.
Following the season, sophomore outside hitter Teaha Shepperd was selected to the All-Horizon League Second Team, while teammate Dawn Strahanoski was named to the All-Newcomer squad.
The ’00 Flames opened the year red-hot, jumping out to a 9-1 record – the best start in school history – including a tournament title at the inaugural UIC Wilson Volleyball Invitational en route to a final record of 18-13 and a No. 10 ranking in the final Mideast Regional Poll. UIC was led by a pair of freshmen – Teaha Shepperd and Lindsey Filkins, who combined for 742 kills and 713 digs during the season, finishing in the top 10 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in both categories en route to earning MCC All-Newcomer Team recognition. August also saw his senior setter Erica Anderson set the UIC career assist record, breaking the mark in just three seasons as a Flame.
In the 1999 campaign, a Flames' squad with just two seniors finished with a 17-15 overall record and 7-5 league mark, their most successful season since joining the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1995 as UIC finished in third place. August reached a personal milestone on October 2, 1999, as he tabbed career victory No. 350 as the Flames downed Cleveland State.
The '99 Flames produced three MCC honorees as Jackie Utz and Kelly Colangelo were voted to the All-MCC Second Team while Gina Caneva earned a spot on the MCC All-Newcomer Team.
In 1998, August entered the year with questions at the setter position and a tough non-conference schedule that included a trip to No. 1 Penn State. The Flames finished the season with 15 wins, their most since 1993, and a share of fourth place in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. Setter Erica Anderson quickly energized the Flames' offensive attack, which helped senior Kathy Berg earn first team All-MCC honors and senior Vanessa Grazzini gain second team All-MCC recognition.
Early in the 1990s, August guided the Flames to three straight winning campaigns, compiling a record of 54-46 for the 1990-92 seasons. UIC was a consistent force, showcasing a strong offensive game with a scrappy defense.
The late 1980s saw August lead the Flames to a dominant standing in the North Star Conference. Posting a 28-12 record in conference matches in the league's four-year existence, UIC captured a regular-season title in 1988 and a conference tournament championship the next season. August was recognized as North Star Conference Coach of the Year in 1988. Since promoting August to head coach, the Flames featured some of the best players the state of Illinois has had to offer. The best high school volleyball players in the state routinely consider UIC as an option because of August's coaching style and its volleyball tradition in addition to a strong academic reputation. Under August, 10 players have been named to all-conference teams. One player, Dee Dee Ericks, was one of the first female athletes inducted into the UIC Athletic Hall of Fame. August found Ericks playing beach volleyball and convinced her to come to college and earn her degree through playing for the Flames. Three seasons later, Ericks graduated as one of UIC's top performers, ranking among all-time leaders in four categories.
A 1975 graduate of UIC, August earned accolades as the then Chikas' football quarterback. He was also an AA rated volleyball player and led Midland Chemical to several national championship tournaments from 1977-86. He captained the squad's 1984 Great Lakes Regional champions and has played on a team that was a perennial top five finisher in the master's division.
In addition to his teaching duties within the kinesiology department, August holds a master's degree in public administration. Currently, August is completing work on his doctorate degree in public policy analysis with an emphasis on higher education.
With an easy-going style that players appreciate and a true dedication to the sport, August has continued UIC's winning tradition on the court. August and his wife, Gert, have two daughters, Rachel and Ashley.