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By: Eric SanInocencio
SEC Digital Network
Birmingham, Ala. – Prior to stepping on campus at the University of Georgia, Carla Williams (Green) didn’t know her current job even existed.
Williams, who is in her currently in her eighth year as Executive Associate Athletics Director and Senior Women’s Administrator at Georgia, had a different career path in mind back in her high school days in LaGrange, Georgia. “When coaches first starting coming to my high school to recruit me,” Williams explained, “I thought that looks like a neat job…I want to be a college coach.”
An elite talent on the basketball court, Williams’ first foray into the sports world was as a player. The talented forward lead her high school team to two Georgia State Championships, and was a top recruit when she landed in Athens to play for head coach Andy Landers. Despite a bright future ahead of her wearing the red and black, Williams was already sure what she was going to do once her playing days came to an end.
“Going into Georgia, I was all about being a college coach (after her playing days were over),” Williams said. “Up until that point, I had no idea that there were administrators. I thought the coaches did everything, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Through one chance meeting, her entire job philosophy changed. Williams was introduced to Liz Murphey, a former Athletics Director working with the women’s programs in the Georgia Athletics Department. Murphey worked alongside the Bulldog program in many different capacities, which caught the eye of the then freshman. Their relationship grew, adding a new perspective on what could lie ahead for the talented athlete.
“I got there and I met Liz and learned about what she did and what she meant to women’s athletics and the athletic department as a whole,” Williams commented. “I saw that, and that’s what I wanted to do. It hit me then, I wanted to go into athletics administration. “
With a plan in place, Williams spent her collegiate years (1985-89) starring for Georgia on the hardwood while also getting prepared for her life’s work in sports. In her four years as a Bulldog, the LaGrange native put together an impressive list of achievements that stand to this day.
She finished her Georgia career with 1,115 points, which was No. 10 among UGA's career scoring leaders at that time and now ranks No. 20 on the list. Williams also recorded 425 assists and 285 steals, marks that both rank No. 7 on Bulldog career ledgers.
During that same time, her resume as a future professional grew as well. With Murphey’s steady guidance, Williams continued to learn about the sports landscape, completing her undergraduate work and then her Master’s in Public Administration in 1991.
With a love of basketball still in her heart, Williams began her career on the sidelines. While she inspired a new generation of players, she remained focused on the big picture and her aspirations beyond the court. “I coached not to become a head coach, but to gain experience to help me as an administrator,” Williams added.
After five years holding a clipboard, Williams made the permanent move to athletics administration. After starting in the compliance office at Georgia, she next moved to Florida State. In Tallahassee, Williams focused on student-athlete development, while also working towards her Ph. D in Sports Administration.
“I’ve been fortunate and blessed that through the years I’ve been able to learn from administrators like Liz Murphey, Pat Wall and from coaches like Andy Landers,” Williams stated. “I’ve been able to mesh that with my experience as a student-athlete in the Southeastern Conference, and I am doing what I love to do.”
As she moved up the ladder, her responsibilities grew as well. Her journey continued to Nashville, as she grew to oversee 11 different men’s and women’s sports at fellow SEC school Vanderbilt. Williams also mentored student-athletes through the CHAMPS/Life Skills program, which prepares students with the skills needed to grow as a professional.
In 2005, she got the call to come home. Williams took a position in the Georgia Athletics Department, bringing her career full circle from her days as a player. In her current position, Williams serves as administrator for Georgia's women's basketball, women's gymnastics, and men's & women's swimming and diving. She also has supervisory responsibility for academic support services, compliance, sports medicine, human resources and student services.
In an ironic twist, she now serves in a support role with her former coach, with Landers remaining at the helm for Georgia. Her playing days are never far from her mind though, as Williams always uses her past to provide perspective for student-athlete welfare today.
“When you look at equity and facilities and equipment, I took mental notes when I was a player,” Williams mentioned. “I wanted to make certain that when I became an administrator, those student-athletes had an even better experience than I had.”
Now the tables have turned, as Williams the former player is viewed as Williams the administrator. Much as she did with Murphey years ago, she now looks to mentor those who hope to follow in the same footsteps.
“That’s a part of my responsibility, to make sure student-athletes, both male and female, have an opportunity to learn, grow and develop,” Williams said. “Hopefully they can follow in the footsteps of many people in this conference and around the country that blazed some trails in athletic administration.”
Did Williams ever foresee these types of opportunities back as a student at LaGrange High School? Not a chance. But with the landscape continuing to change, she feels even better about what the future holds.
“The great thing about what we do now is that we have the opportunity to influence women who are interested in athletics administration at Georgia,” Williams added. “I never saw that coming back in 1984.”