Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 13 No. 1 | August 2020

Marci Byers is the first African-American female head coach at Tech, and her background as a high school math teacher and a volleyball coach who has risen through the ranks could add up to more wins for the Hokies by Jimmy Robertson COUNTING ON Historic Hire To Lead To Success W hen it comes to math, teachers often try to get their students to add love and subtract hate in relation to their mindsets on the subject to reach the proper answers. Marci Byers certainly can attest to this. After spending more than a decade of her career teaching algebra and trigonometry to students at two different Richmond high schools, she certainly possesses the ability to convert negatives into positives. Perhaps that makes her the perfect person to be the head coach of the Virginia Tech volleyball team. She knows how to combine constants and variables and get the right answer for a winning equation. Byers took over the helm of the program in January after 12 successful seasons at nearby Radford University—and her numbers back that up. She guided the Highlanders to three Big South regular- season crowns, two conference tournament titles, two NCAA tournament berths and more than 200 victories during her tenure there. Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock hopes that Byers brings her winning formula to the Hokies, who currently sit in a string of four consecutive losing seasons. Though unintentional, Babcock’s hiring of Byers was historical for Virginia Tech. She became the first female African-American head coach in the school’s 148-year history—something that resonates with Byers. “It does mean a lot,” she said shortly after her team’s first official fall practice in mid-August. “I have a responsibility to be a role model to a lot of people, especially in the profession of volleyball. It’s definitely not a sport that a lot of minorities play. It’s a sport that can be a little exclusive, so obviously that’s something that I’ll always think about, and I want to make sure I’m doing things the right way. “I think that’s what also drives me to be good and to want to be good. I definitely don’t take it lightly. There are only three of us [African-Americans] at the Power 5 level that are coaching volleyball, and we’re all women. So I definitely take that and honor that fact that I’ve been able to do that and been able to be a role model for a lot of kids out there. It’s definitely something that I don’t take lightly.” Yet winning—and not history—is what really drives Byers. And her blue-collar background, that she earned her credentials the hard way, makes her an ideal fit at Tech. A Chicago native, Byers played basketball all throughout her younger years—her dad was a high school coach—and she only picked up volleyball when she arrived on campus at Virginia Union University in Richmond, citing burnout from basketball. Her athleticism enabled her to pick up the sport quickly, and she started all four years of her career. After graduating from Virginia Union with a degree in secondary education and a concentration in mathematics, she started teaching and coaching both basketball and volleyball at Hermitage High School in Richmond. “I coached basketball and volleyball, and there were some things that sort of happened, and I stopped coaching basketball and I went full time with volleyball,” Byers said. “I coached volleyball and did volleyball and went all around the country. I learned a lot. I had a mentor up there—his name was Skip Weston [director of facilities and strategic initiatives for the Richmond Volleyball Club]—and he did a really good job of trying to get me involved with 28 Inside Hokie Sports