Before Kelly Sheffield agreed to become the new volleyball coach at the University of Wisconsin, he needed some hard questions answered and some family-related logistics taken care of.
That Sheffield was introduced as the 10th coach in UW volleyball history Friday is a sign that to-do list is being addressed to his satisfaction.
After five years of sustaining a highly regarded product at Dayton, Sheffield takes over a "dream-type job" with a program he's followed closely for more than 25 years. He was hired to replace Pete Waite, who was forced to resign Nov. 26 after 14 seasons as coach of the Badgers.
Sheffield, 42, took the job after quizzing UW athletic director Barry Alvarez and senior associate AD Terry Gawlik about the direction of the program given its place in the ultra-competitive Big Ten Conference. The league has had a representative — Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska or Penn State — in seven of the past eight NCAA championship matches.
"I think everyone considers this one of the absolute elite jobs in college volleyball," Sheffield said in a telephone interview Friday. "Was it going to be supported at the level to go out and compete with the Penn States, Nebraskas and Minnesotas? Is it a goal of everybody's to be a championship program?
"I don't think you get into that conference — a conference where you've got seven of the top 22 teams in the final coaches' poll — with one hand tied behind your back.
"The further I got along in this process, the more that I talked with Terry and talked with Barry, it became very clear that was a major goal of this department."
Asked what UW needed to regain its place among the Big Ten elite — the Badgers won league titles in 2000 and '01 and played in the NCAA title match in 2000 — Sheffield declined to be specific.
"Hopefully when we come in there we can get the team energized," he said.
In a UW news release, Alvarez said "we're looking forward to Kelly leading our team back to the top of the Big Ten and into the NCAA tournament."
Dayton was 131-33 overall, won the past four Atlantic 10 Conference titles and qualified for the NCAA tournament all five seasons under Sheffield.
UW, meanwhile, was 77-80 overall and 31-70 in Big Ten matches from 2008 to '12. Sheffield said he didn't think there would be a fast turnaround "because it's just too good of a conference," but it can't hurt to have Lauren Carlini, the national player of the year, as part of the incoming class of recruits.
"You just get to work," Sheffield said. "You do it together. You do it with enthusiasm. You do it with discipline. You recruit like the dickens."
Prior to his time at Dayton, Sheffield spent seven years at Albany turning a moribund program into a three-time America East titlist and NCAA tournament qualifier.
Sheffield has monitored the Badgers since the late 1980s when the late Steve Lowe was running the program. Sheffield is a disciple of Steve Shondell, a former Indiana prep legend and current Ball State coach who was a close friend of Lowe's. Sheffield said he remembers attending summer camps where a drill was named for Bucky Badger.
"Other than my alma mater at Ball State, this is probably the first program I ever started following," Sheffield said. "I've always, always, followed this program."
Before the hiring was announced Sheffield reached out to all his Dayton players to break the news. He also had to sort through issues that come with having a pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter.
Sheffield said his wife, Cathy, who oversees the pharmacy curriculum at Wright State University Medical School, will initially stay behind while he gets things settled in Madison.
"That complicates a lot of things," Sheffield said of his family situation. "But this is something I couldn't be more fired up about."