The University of Virginia introduced the new Director of Athletics, Carla Williams, this afternoon at John Paul Jones Arena. Williams, who has been an athletic administrator at the University of Georgia for the last 13 years, will take over for Craig Littlepage in January or February.
“This is a world class university with elite athletic programs,” Williams said during her introductory press conference. “UVA has tremendous coaches and very talented student athletes.”
Williams’s resume is impressive, to say the least. A native of La Grange, Georgia, Williams attended the University of Georgia and was a member of the women’s basketball team. She was a three-year starter under head coach Andy Landers, and finished her career as a Bulldog with 1,115 points, 425 assists and 285 steals. Both her undergraduate (Sociology) and master’s (Public Administration) degrees come from UGA. After graduating, Williams played professionally in Spain before returning to Athens to serve as an assistant coach under Landers. As an assistant, Williams was on the staff for teams that reached the 1995 and 1996 Final Fours, finished as NCAA runner-up in 1996 and won the 1991 and 1996 SEC Championships. Not too shabby.
Williams transitioned into the administrative (compliance) side of the house in 1996, corresponding with the birth of Carmen, her first of three children. From there, she took a job at Florida State and worked as a coordinator for student-athlete development and life skills and graduate assistant for athletic academic support from 1997-2000, when she also completed her Ph.D. in sport administration. Vanderbilt was the next stop, where Williams served as assistant director and associate director for athletics from 2000-2004.
Georgia lured Williams back in 2004 when she took over as associate athletic director (2004-2008), senior associate athletic director (2008-2011), and executive associate athletic director before being promoted to deputy director of athletics (her current role).
“My approach as a player, as an assistant coach, as an Assistant AD, Associate AD, and along the way has always been to be the very best in that job.” Williams said at today’s press conference.
Williams believes she will transition fully into the new role by January or February after tying up some loose ends in Athens.
The search committee that selected Williams was made up of Board of Visitors members Robert Hardie and Barbara Fried, Virginia rowing coach Kevin Sauer, Faculty Athletics Representative Carolyn Callahan, UVA student (and former field hockey player) Pheobe Willis, former Virginia Athletics Foundation president Scott Dockter, and Virginia’s vice president and chief officer for diversity Marcus Martin.
“It was an impressive group of people that we looked at,” Sauer told the media before Williams’s press conference.
Sauer and the search committee interviewed six candidates in New York over a couple days, eventually landing on Williams. As the only current Virginia coach on the committee, Sauer made sure to discuss the hire with his fellow coaches.
“A lot of opinions,” Sauer said of his compatriots. “We had good meeting with the head coaches and President Sullivan before we actually started the interviews, so I think that was really key to get some input from them...that was a very productive meeting. I just think she was a presence when she came into the room. She was somebody that we looked at and said, ‘Wow, this is an impressive woman.’”
As the new Director of Athletics for Virginia, Williams will have to carry on a high level of success for programs like men’s basketball while also building up football. So far, she has been impressed with all of Virginia’s coaches, including Bronco Mendenhall and Tony Bennett.
“From the outside looking in, you’ve got a high-character person, great integrity, very successful history,” Williams said of Mendenhall.
Mendenhall addressed the hire today at football’s media availability, saying, “I was really impressed with Carla as a person, not only from a professional standpoint and all the things the’s done preparation-wise and the things on the resume that have helped her build her career to this point, but I was very impressed with the communication skills.”
And as for basketball? “I did have a chance to sit down and visit with Tony Bennett and it was phenomenal,” Williams said of Bennett. “It just reinforces the reason - all of the reasons - that I wanted to come to a place like Virginia.”
Bennett got a little bit of a heads up on his new Athletic Director from Georgia’s head coach Mark Fox. "I told Tony last night, I'm just crushed," Fox shared with Virginia Sports’ Jeff White, continuing, "because she has been so good to Georgia, so good for me as a coach, but best for our student-athletes. It's obviously with mixed emotions that we see her go. We're happy for her, but we're sad to lose her."
The expectations placed on Williams will be high. She inherits a Virginia athletic department that has won 74 ACC team championships (best in the conference) and 13 national championships since 2002. Academically, Virginia had 323 student-athletes named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll and a student-athlete group with an average GPA of 3.043 (!!!) in the 2016-17 academic school year.
Additionally, history was made as Williams is the first African-American female to be named the athletic director of a Power Five school.
“I do understand and appreciate the historic nature of me being named athletics director of the University of Virginia,” Williams said. “I have served as a role model throughout my career as a student-athlete, as a coach, and as an administrator...for anyone who aspires to be in this position, it doesn’t matter if you are black or white, male or female...the most important thing you need to know is I am the athletics director at the University of Virginia because I have always done more than what was expected of me.”
Williams has yet to have had much time to acclimate to Charlottesville and its customs, but she’s got the most important one down.
“Well, I’ve already had Bodo’s,” Williams said with a smile. “My entire family had it and it was awesome.”
Williams and her husband Brian, who is an associate professor of public administration & policy at UGA, have three children: Carmen, a fourth year at Georgia; Cameron, a first year at Georgia; and Joshua, an 8th grader.
In all, Carla Williams has an impressive resume, experience in multiple facets of the world of college athletics (student-athlete, coach, and administrator), and has said she will emphasize academic achievement, athletic excellence, and integrity.
“To prospective students and prospective student-athletes in every sport, throughout the commonwealth of Virginia and across the country,” Williams said to close out her remarks, “...if you are looking for a place to make big dreams a reality, if you are looking for a place to achieve goals that seem unimaginable, if you are looking for a place to defy the odds, I’ve found that place. Come join us at UVA. Go Hoos.”