Your e-mails aren’t as good as Hugh McCutcheon’s, but then again your résumé likely isn’t as good as his, either.
The Gophers volleyball coach, a New Zealand native, received an e-mail recently asking him an important question: Would he be willing to accept an award as a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit?
The award was started 20 years ago and is given to people “who in any field of endeavor have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions or other merits.” It has to be approved by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England and this year is part of her 90th birthday honors list.
There are different classifications of honor, with “member” being one. No more than 140 living members are appointed per year. New Zealand isn’t the most populous country, but at roughly 4.5 million people that’s still easily the best of the best.
So, yeah, he accepted the award.
“You have a choice,” McCutcheon said. “I told them I would be honored to do so. They went through all the details and sent it through the Queen’s office. They signed off on it all, and then I received another e-mail saying it was approved.”
The award was made official Sunday in Minnesota — which was Monday in New Zealand. For McCutcheon, a much-accomplished coach who led Team USA’s men’s volleyball squad to a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics and the women’s squad to a silver in 2012, it’s high on the list of life accomplishments.
“It’s a little surreal, to be honest, and incredibly humbling,” he said. “It’s quite an honor to receive this. It means a lot. I’m in indebted. I’m still not even sure how it all happened.”
The honor will be presented by the Governor General of New Zealand at a ceremony there. McCutcheon said there are two chances to receive it: one in October, which falls right in the middle of the college season, and one next April, which he is hoping to attend.
“That will be a first,” he said, “and something to look forward to.”
McCutcheon has no Olympics duties this summer. Of the various controversies in Brazil, including health concerns related to water quality and the Zika virus, he said: “I don’t really have my finger on that pulse anymore. But historically they’ve always talked about issues and things always manage to go on.”
It’s left him free to focus on continuing to build the Gophers program. Minnesota went 30-5 last season, winning its first Big Ten title since 2002 and reaching the Final Four.
“This is a big recruiting time. There is a lot going on, and there’s not too much down time. I think we’re continuing to improve. I was saying this on the [Gopher Road Trip] the other day: You have to be good, successful and lucky. You never know about the last two, but I think we’ll be good and be able to play on a high level.”
Spoken like a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.