CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Carla Williams said she has had other chances to leave Georgia and realize her dream of becoming an athletic director. She was just looking for the right fit.
She believes she has found it, saying it wasn’t until Virginia offered her the opportunity that she was willing to make the move and become the first African-American woman to lead an athletic department at a Power Five school.
“I knew the quality of the university here at Virginia,” the 49-year-old Williams said Monday when introduced as the successor to Craig Littlepage. “So I think an elite, world class university that has proven that you can win championships — there aren’t many of those.”
Virginia has won 23 national championships, 13 in Littlepage’s 16 seasons as athletic director.
“Winning championships and getting a great education, those things aren’t mutually exclusive,” Williams said. “You can do both. You should do both. This is one of those places in the country where the foundation is there.”
Williams, whose husband teaches at Georgia and whose two daughters go to school there, said she likely won’t start until December or January. She received a five-year contract that will pay her $550,000 per year, plus incentives.
She comes to Virginia after 13 years in athletics administration at Georgia, where she started as a scholarship basketball player in 1986, became an assistant coach and then moved into athletics administration. Williams has also worked in athletic administration at Vanderbilt and Florida State.
“I knew when I went into coaching that I did not want to be a head coach. I went into coaching to become a better administrator, and so I coached for five years and had great success,” she said, noting two appearances in the Final Four and one in the national championship game.
She said the FBI national investigation into college basketball, which has led to Louisville firing Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich and could eventually expose corruption at other programs, made Virginia an attractive destination.
“That’s critical. That’s critical because … there’s no way that I want to work at a situation where there’s a lack of integrity, and Mark Fox, our men’s basketball coach and I have a great relationship, and I think the world of him,” Williams said. “He is high character, high integrity and he talked to me about Tony Bennett, and he has the utmost respect for Tony Bennett and I trust Mark.
“I already knew of the great integrity here at Virginia, so no worries whatsoever. And then when I met him, man, just quality, quality person.”
Williams, a deputy director of athletics at Georgia, has been responsible for the day-to-day operations of the department and its $127 million budget. She served as administrator for Georgia football and women’s basketball programs. She also had supervisory responsibility in a number of other areas, including academic support services, sports medicine, strength and conditioning, student services and ticketing.
She earned her Ph.D. in sports administration from Florida State in 1991.
“She’s committed to the success of every varsity sport, and this is a perfect fit for UVA, where we’re committed to broad success across sports programs,” said school President Teresa Sullivan, who is retiring at the end of the school year. “She also has experience with one of the nation’s top football programs.”
Besides Bennett, Williams also met with Bronco Mendenhall, the football coach in his second season.
“I think the core principles in which she operates from, and the successes that she’s had, I’m really encouraged,” Mendenhall said, adding that Williams encouraged him to reach out to Miami coach Mark Richt, who was at Georgia until he was fired after the 2015 season. Richt, Mendenhall said, “was just really very favorable about the kind of person, but also the kind of professional and the insight and vision and results she’s able to get.”
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