Courtesy: NDSU Athletic Media Relations
When people talk about Amy Ruley's NDSU women's basketball program they often speak with a sense of awe. Depending on who you talk to, her teams have been called a powerhouse, dynasty or juggernaut.
People talk about the character of the coach. The strength and courage she portrayed while battling breast cancer during the 2001-2002 season has served as an inspiration and an example to many. She continues to be a strong and vibrant spokesperson for breast cancer.
The winningest coach in the program's history, Ruley's teams are consistently among the leaders in the region and nation. She was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in June 2004, Purdue University's Athletic Hall of Fame in November 2004, and was recognized as one of the South Shore Sports Legends in Northwest Indiana in the 2007 fall.
During her 28 years at NDSU, Ruley has led the Bison to five NCAA Division II national titles and nine trips to the Final Four. There was a run of 16 straight playoff appearances from 1986 to 2001.
Past successes aside, Ruley looks to each season as a new opportunity for her team. Clearly over two decades at the helm has not diminished her enthusiasm for the game.
"You try to draw on your past experiences for preparations and, yet, you realize every year there will be different challenges and obstacles. There's a new team and a chemistry to establish," she said.
"There's always something new around the corner. I get excited just talking about the season ahead."
Ruley has compiled a remarkable 654-187 record at NDSU. In addition, she has received a host of honors including the 2002 United States Sports Academy's "C. Vivian Stringer" Women's Coaching Award, 1997 Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Carol Eckman Award, 1993 WBCA Division II Coach of the Year, American Women's Sports Federation (AWSF) Division II Coach of the Year in 1986 and 1991, Midwest Sports Channel 1995 Collegiate Coach of the Year , College Sports Magazine Division II Coach of the Year in 1994 and 1995, WBCA District VII Coach of the Year 10 times and the North Dakota Associated Press College Female Coach of the Year seven times. She was inducted into the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame in June, 2000, and was also named as one of the "50 Greatest Sports Figures in North Dakota" as selected by the staff of Sports Illustrated.
Active on the national scene, Ruley served as the secretary for the WBCA, was a member of the USA Basketball Select Team Committee and was on the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee.
Locally, her work with young people in the Fargo-Moorhead community was recognized with the Fargo Optimist Club's 2002 Friend of the Youth Award. She is a frequent speaker at local service clubs, schools and businesses.
It's a resume few people could match, but Ruley quickly shares the credit for her accomplishments.
"You're only as good as the people around you," she said. "We've been fortunate at NDSU to have excellent support from our administration, a great staff, and most importantly, the fine athletes. I've had so many outstanding people to work with that my chances of success have been very good, based on their quality."
A point guard and team captain during her playing days at Purdue University, Ruley earned her bachelor's degree in physical education from Purdue in 1978 and a master's degree in science and physical education from Western Illinois University in 1979. She was selected to Mortar Board while a student at Purdue. Ruley was inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame in November, 2004.
Ruley uses her many abilities to fill the roles of coach, teacher and mentor. It's a challenge she finds highly rewarding.
"My background is in education, physical education and psychology and sociology of sport. I've tried to prepare myself from an academic standpoint to have skills in these areas," she said. "I feel a sense of responsibility to be a mentor for other women involved in athletics and those who look at coaching as a profession."
During Ruley's career at NDSU, she has coached six Kodak All-Americans, three NCAA National Championship Most Outstanding Players, four CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, one AIAW All-American and numerous All-Division I Independent and North Central Conference players. She continually urges her players to do their very best.
"In recruiting, I look for kids who really love the game, want to have fun and take advantage of the opportunities to become the best players that they can be," Ruley said. "The excitement, the fun and the challenge should be the key reasons for their performing. With that, I also look for the person who wants to be a student and who will take the opportunity at the collegiate level to prepare for a career and develop themselves as an individual."
While she pushes individuals to succeed on the court and in the classroom, her lessons concentrate on a team concept. She expects all of her players to take part in her fast-paced, balanced approach to scoring, defending and rebounding.
"Each person contributes in whatever way they can, whether that be in a starting role or as a back-up. I believe our team is only as good as the final player," Ruley said.
"We want everyone finding and accepting a role, contributing in a positive way to the success of the team."
Those successes have come often during Ruley's tenure and she anticipates more in the future. Excellence has become the normal standard for her program.
"After 28 years, I still find coaching to be challenging and fun," Ruley said. "At NDSU, we have a perfect balance of athletics and academics. It's a perspective that keeps this job fun for me. When we're recruiting student athletes, we know we're in a position to offer them countless opportunities.
"If they are willing to make a commitment and work at it, we can really provide them an excellent experience. To believe in the product you offer, that's really important and that's how I feel about NDSU."