Living and breathing college sports

By Will Barnett, CONTRIBUTOR
College sports is something that is watched, enjoyed and for very few, played. Currently, college sports bring people the very best amateur athletes in the country straight to the hometown or there television screens. But for some people there is a whole lot more to college sports than watching it.
For California State University, East Bay Athletic director Jason Carmichael, college sports is something that he lives and breathes on a daily basis.
Carmichael was oppointed as Athletic Director at CSUEB on January 30, 2017 taking over interim Athletic Director Don Sawyer.
Carmichael earned his bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from Harding University in Searcy, AK. After realizing he wanted to pursue a career in the education Carmichael then completed his masters degree in Physical Education, Health and Recreation from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas.
Carmichael began his career in athletic administration at Mid-South Community College in West Memphis, AR. During his time in West Memphis Carmichael served as the school’s first Athletic Director and was responsible for the schools first ever athletic program. Carmichael also spent time as the Dean of Students whilst working at MSCC.
During his time at MSCC, Carmichael learned about achieving goals and the challenges someone can face when completing them.
“I learned that creating things from scratch is a lot of fun but very challenging,” said Carmichael. Some people look at those opportunities and think “I have so much freedom to create something” while others look at it and say “Oh wow there are so many unknowns.”
Carmichael believes that his biggest takeaway from MSCC was realizing there is a possibility to learn from every opportunity.
“The biggest takeaway for me from that experience is that you can learn and improve your skills in almost every situation no matter the circumstances.”
Carmichael then moved to Gunnison, CO where he served as the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Internal Operations. Within a year, Carmichael was promoted to Athletic director where the Mountaineers would thrive in both the classroom and the playing field under his leadership. In fact the men’s wrestling team at WCU captured the DII National academic championship with a cumulative GPA of 3.53.
Carmichael doesn’t believe there is a major difference between being an athletic director at a community college compared to an NCAA institution except for the resources available.
“The mission is similar, use athletics to help support student success,” said Carmichael.
“Whether it’s with a staff of two or twenty the desire is still to improve the reality for our student-athletes and coaches.”
For such a demanding job it is important that someone in Carmichael’s position enjoy what they do for a living. Carmichael credits his passion for intercollegiate athletics from a coach he had when he was younger.
“I got into the industry of athletics because of the positive impact a coach had on my own life,” said Carmichael. “Their impact allowed me to grow at a pivotal time in my life. I enjoy trying to help support similar opportunities for our student-athletes.”
Like any job, being an athletic director comes with its own particular set of challenges that Carmichael must face when completing his role. The biggest challenge for him is managing relations and expectations.
“The temptation is there for all of us to become myopic in our daily focus,” explained Carmichael. “A lot of my day-to-day energy is spent educating myself and others on the needs of our programs and then helping those needs with the overall mission of the institution.”
Part of being a great athletic director is being well respected by coaches and players in the department.
Senior Men’s Golf member Max Murai has the utmost respect for Carmichael and his efforts as CSUEB’s athletic director.
“Jason is very approachable,” said Murai. “I feel because he is the boss of everyone in the athletic department he could easily act like he doesn’t have the time for people if he wanted. But that isn’t him which I really admire.”
Murai especially admires the fact that Carmichael treats every sport the same whether its golf and basketball or women’s and men’s sports.
“Being on the golf team, some people might not really take notice,” said Murai. “But every year Jason is at our home tournament cheering us on and at the conference championship. As a player that really means a lot.”
Murai isn’t the only one who has noticed personally Carmichael’s interest in his student athletes. Former CSUEB swimmer, Ryleigh Weight also appreciated Carmichael’s efforts.
“I remember seeing seeing him at my swim meets and thinking how cool it was the he would take the time to come and watch us race,” said Weight in an interview.
Part of Carmichaels job is ensuring that the student athletes are not just athletes but students as well. Since he began as CSUEB’s athletic director the athlete student body has achieved a grade point average of over 3.0 every single semester.
“We are students first and Jason places a great deal of emphasis on being great students as well as athletes,” said Murai. “At the end of the day most of us are not going to play professionally in our sport so Jason’s commitment to academics really helps us in the long-term.”
During his short stint so far in East Bay Athletics, Carmichael has achieved some things that no other Athletic Director is CSUEB has done before. One of these is he helped secure a five year deal with sports apparel giant Under Armour in July, 2017.
On October 29, 2019 the NCAA Board of Governors voted that starting in 2023 student athletes will be allowed to be paid based on their image and likeness from outside sources such as brand sponsorship and other forms of payment that does not interfere with the interests of the NCAA or the athletes respective schools and conferences.
This vote comes after California Governor, Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 206 titled the ‘Fair Pay to Play’ act that would allow student athletes in California to be paid by outside sources. With pressure coming from other states looking to follow in the footsteps of California the NCAA eventually folded and decided to grant all athletes around the country the same opportunity.
For Carmichael the rule change in 2023 could change his role as athletic director drastically. Carmichael doesn’t know what to expect once the rule comes into play but he hopes student athletes benefit from it.
“The truth is there are still lots of moving parts in play. I would say I expect that in 2023 our jobs will be slightly more complex but hopefully the student-athlete experience is better.”
With backing from both players, staff and the confidence to succeed and take the Pioneers to new levels, Carmichael is making his way to becoming one of the best athletic directors the school has ever had.