For someone who never imagined she’d follow this career path, Carrie Michaels certainly has excelled.
The California native joined a former teammate for a job at Slippery Rock University years ago, thinking she would make it a temporary position on the way to something else. Michaels, who is married to Director of Athletics Jeff Michaels, joined the staff at Ship in 2006 and worked her way up to the role of associate director of athletics, a position she's held since 2010. Today, she oversees all of the athletic department budgets, supervises six sports, oversees sports medicine, serves as the Deputy Title IX coordinator, and manages the Athletic Department’s biggest fundraising event.
Her dedication does not go unnoticed. This fall, Michaels received the 2018 Women Leaders in College Sports NCAA Division II Administrator of the Year Award, a highly prestigious national honor. Michaels was one of nine women to receive the award during the annual Women Leaders in College Sports National Convention held in Atlanta, which is emceed by ESPN analyst and reporter Maria Taylor.
“It’s a career award, it’s a very unique thing to get in your career. I was blown away by it,” she said.
Q / Why did you choose the field that you’re in? I feel like the field chose me, to be honest, because ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be an attorney, until I figured out I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I got a call from a former teammate who had just gotten a job at Slippery Rock, and she needed an assistant. I decided I’d go out there, I’m going to do it, I’ll do it for two years, figure something else out, and I’ve literally been in Pennsylvania ever since, complaining to Jeff about the weather regularly.
What was your reaction to receiving the award? Stunned. I had no idea. Ashley (Grimm, assistant director of athletics) knew about it, Jeff knew about it. There was this whole group of people. So essentially, a friend of mine, a colleague, her name is Janet Judge. She’s a big name in the field. She’s an attorney and consultant, and she actually worked with our school over the years, and we’ve become very good friends and colleagues. Last April, she communicated to a handful of people who I know and said, “I’m going to put Carrie up for this award, I need everyone on board, I need letters, etc.” So it was a secret the whole time, and this is probably the first secret that Jeff has ever kept from me. …You know what the coolest thing has been? She sent me all the letters people wrote for me. To be able to have that at your disposal, from eight to ten different people, and to hear their letters that I never asked them to write, it was amazing.
What does that say to you about what you’ve accomplished? It really gives me a lot of pride. The hours in our job aren’t great. The reason I do it is because of students and their successes and possible impacts on them… Being able to read those letters and having people reach out to me, it was just really nice.
What makes our athletes stand out? They are well-rounded individuals. I think they are competing at a very high level. They are putting the time in, they are putting the effort in, and they are competitive athletes. We have national championships, we have conference championships. We have people playing at the highest level in our division. I think there’s a distinct, competitive spirit and athletic skillset. And they also are successful in the classroom. Our student-athletes do better in the classroom and graduate at higher levels than the rest of the student population. That’s a fact, that’s a statistic, and I’m very proud of that.
What experiences have you had as a female athlete? As a kid growing up in southern California, I had access to everything. I never was in a position where I thought the boys had more opportunity than the girls, because, for example, I played flag football in elementary school. I’ve been involved in sports literally since I came out of the womb. The concept of Title IX or inequity was never on my radar. It’s my expectation to be able to do anything. Going through college and beyond college and starting to learn about Title IX made me want to ensure that everyone had equal access to sports and opportunities.
In your time here, what’s a standout Ship sports moment for you? Well, field hockey winning the national championship last year was pretty special. I was actually on the last two trips. You have a first-year coach, first time as a head coach, she walks into a situation—it was a thrill to be a part of, and I know that team so well… anytime I ever get to know the student-athletes brings me the most joy. When you can connect with them, that’s the greatest part.
What’s your favorite sport? It’s totally basketball, I was a basketball player. But I really do enjoy all of our sports.