Carla Williams: She’s Ruling College Athletics

January 10 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Rooting for the Unsung Heroes

If you’re a sports fan, you’re probably not shy about rooting for your favorite MVPs in the game. You always choose them in your fantasy league and ruthlessly defend their honor against naysayers. But what about everyone else who plays a role in ensuring the game goes off without a hitch? From water boys and girls hustling on the sidelines to concession-stand workers to the refs on the field, there’s so much more that goes into a rockin’ game than just the lauded players. Even in Little League, the game relies on patient coaches and encouraging parents offering orange slices and milk cartons. Today, whether you’re rooting for the home team or calling all the shots, take a moment to give a nod to all those folks behind the scenes making sure all the bases are covered.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: More Than 46 Percent

We know women love sports. And when it comes to women working in college athletics, like in other industries, it’s all about women lifting each other up. According to a national study titled Women in Intercollegiate Sport, the number of female coaches in college sports is higher in departments that are led by women. For instance, in Division I departments led by female athletic directors, more than 46 percent of coaches are women.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Carla Williams, Athletic Director for the University of Virginia

Today’s Woman to Watch, Carla Williams, is breaking new ground in the world of collegiate sports, and doing so with grace, determination and whole lot of grit. In late 2017, Carla was named the new athletic director for the University of Virginia, making her the first African-American woman to hold the position at a Power Five conference school.

Carla’s got the impressive athletic background and fierce leadership qualities every team is looking for. In college, basketball was her sport. She was an All-Southeastern Conference guard and finished her college basketball career as one of the top 10 scoring leaders in University of Georgia history. As a kid, she played quarterback and running back against boys in sandlot football games. That fearlessness has been a defining trait of hers since then, and she says being prepared and facing down intimidation have also helped her along the way in her illustrious career.

Athletics was definitely destined to be a part of her career, one way or another. She started as an assistant women’s basketball coach and later, naturally excelled as the associate athletic director at Vanderbilt University, where she oversaw 11 men’s and women’s sports—and that’s no easy layup!

Carla’s move to Virginia occurred after serving up a rock-star performance as the deputy athletic director at the University of Georgia, where she worked in various athletic-department management roles for more than a decade.

Carla is one of only five active female athletic directors at this top collegiate level. Carla recognizes she’s making history as an African-American woman in this field, and she’s more than willing to take on the responsibility of being a role model. She’ll also be paving the way for more African-Americans to reach success in a town that has been troubled of late and made the news in 2017 for hosting violent racist rallies. That won’t be easy, but if anyone can do it, it’s Carla.

With an impressive mile-long resume like this seasoned athletic director has, combined with her determination to be a positive influence and make a lasting impact, there’s no question Carla is at the top of her game!


Coaches and mentors have immense power when it comes to shaping the female leaders of tomorrow. As the founder of Basketball Education in Action, Bea Chang, said:

“By and large, the coaches who taught me how to grow up and become a woman were, well, women.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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