Archdeacon: A cornerstone of women’s college sports set to retire

‘A great run’ for Miami volleyball coach Carolyn Condit is coming to an end

OXFORD — Initial intent and final reality aren’t always the same for Carolyn Condit:

  • When she took over as head volleyball coach at Miami University in 1984, she said: “I thought I’d be here three or four years.” Instead, she’s in her 40th season at the helm of the RedHawks’ program.
  • As we sat and talked in Millett Hall the other day, she explained: “I’ve never been in it for the wins and losses.” And yet her 682 career victories are more than any coach has amassed in any sport in the history of Miami athletics. And, if you add in her wins during the four years she first spent at Xavier, she has 781 total victories, 15th best among all active Division I coaches.
  • When she came Miami, she said one enticing factor was that she’d finally get an office, something she didn’t have at Xavier. Now she inhabits far more prestigious digs: 22 years ago she was enshrined in Miami’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Condit is one of the cornerstones of women’s college sports in Ohio.

Her Miami teams have won 10 Mid-American Conference Championships and made nine NCAA Tournaments.

On the court, her athletes have won 85 All-MAC awards and five have been named the MAC Player of the Year. In the classroom — where her team regularly has one of the highest team GPAs among all Miami’s athletic programs — her athletes have won 81 All-MAC academic honors and six have been named Academic All-Americans.

Six times she’s been named the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year.

While she’s seen tremendous changes in the landscape of women’s college athletics and witnessed an evolution of people’s awareness and opinion when it’s comes to women’s participation in sports, the thing that most defines Condit is the impact she’s had on the 200-plus women from her program who have gotten degrees and taken her lessons into their own lives.

One is Jennie (Schuermann) Gilbert, Miami’s associate AD and senior women’s administrator who oversees volleyball.

In the mid-1980s she played for Condit after transferring from Ohio State. After 15 years as a head coach at Tennessee Tech and an assistant at Cincinnati, Eastern Kentucky and Wright State, she was convinced by Condit to apply for the administrator’s job in 2007.

Today, technically speaking, she’s Condit’s boss.

Gilbert laughed at that description:

“I can’t call her Carolyn; I still call her Coach. To me that’s a sign of the respect she has earned. We can have the difficult conversations, but it’s more of a collaboration than hierarchical.”

Gilbert said she’s never forgotten her days playing for Condit:

“We came in as young teenagers and thought we knew it all, but actually we knew nothing.

“With her as a female mentor, she gave us these incredible life lessons to take out in the real world, no matter what career path we chose. We already knew how it felt to be relied upon and valued for what we bring. We realized we could lead when it was our turn.”

And Condit’s players have done just that, Gilbert said:

“We have women who have gone on to become doctors and attorneys and amazing stay-at-home moms raising their own families. We have engineers and entrepreneurs, women in business, educators, coaches — just so many pursuits.

“And we owe a lot of our success to her.”

That’s why each year several of Condit’s former players return for an alumni weekend.

They’ll do that again next Friday and Saturday when the RedHawks, a young team that’s 5-20, close out their regular home season with a pair of matches with Akron.

But this time it’ll be a bittersweet affair.

Condit is retiring at the end of the season.

And then what?

She thought a few seconds, then smiled:

“I’m going to sleep for a couple of weeks.”

Cincinnati native

Condit grew up in a family of 11 kids on Simpson Avenue in the Madisonville neighborhood on Cincinnati’s East Side.

“Our neighborhood didn’t have any girls, so my sisters Teresa and Eileen and I played hard ball, basketball, everything with the guys,” she said. “Growing up, I gained a lot of confidence from my ability to play sports.”

Graduating from Marian High School, an all-girls Catholic school, she then played basketball and volleyball at Mount St. Joseph, where, after a senior year when her volleyball team was ranked 13th in the nation, she earned degrees in physical education and theology.

All 11 Condit kids went to college, thanks to the guidance of their parents — Jim and Rose — and, as Carolyn put it, “a loan officer that my dad found who had very good rates.

“And all 11 of us paid back those loans when we got out of school. That was important in our family.”

After teaching three years at Our Lady of Angels school and getting her master’s degree at Indiana University, she switched to coaching.

Her college coaches had been great role models and the way she viewed it: “Coaching is teaching. To have a chance to teach and mold 15 to 18 young women together to get them succeed is one of the most exciting things I could do.”

She was hired at Xavier in 1980, where the volleyball coaching job was part-time and paid $3,500. To make ends meet, she also worked in her dad’s law office and coached softball at Mother of Mercy High School where Jennie Schuermann was one of the players.

Although Miami doubled her salary, she still was paid less than a men’s coach who was hired at the same time.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to take this job anyway because it’s got to get better’… and it did,” she said.

Her first team still played at old Withrow Court and travelled to away games in vans she and an assistant or even a student manager drove.

It was a time before the internet and cell phones and recruiting showcases, so finding players meant driving from one town and school and state to the next.

“Now we go to these three-day tournaments at convention centers, where there might be 100 sports courts,” she said. “And on my cell phone I can pull up a young lady’s name and it shows her team, the court she’s on and the hour she plays.”

The biggest changes, though, are the way women are treated now,” she said: “They get more quality uniforms and being a part of the Adidas deal here at Miami, they get plenty of shoes. We’re considered a priority sport now.”

Some years back the team found a real guardian angel in Ray Flodin, who had grown up in hard times, was a Korean War veteran and a teacher and principal in the Hamilton City Schools. He lived in Oxford, got a master’s from Miami and after his wife died, he ate his nightly dinners in the campus dining hall, where he got to know some of the volleyball players and became a regular at matches.

When he died in 2011, he stunned everyone and left $1.6 million to the volleyball and honors programs at Miami.

Condit said that has enabled her teams to take international trips every four years ― two to Europe and one to Brazil — where the student athletes did community service projects and got valuable lessons on how other people live.

‘I haven’t found a fountain of youth yet’

Condit said recent national statistics show “women’s volleyball is getting more girls to play than basketball now. Our sport is attracting a lot of the tall, real good athletes.”

While the growth of her sport is encouraging, she offered a cautionary view when it comes to the transfer portal and the new Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) deals athletes now can get.

While she wants athletes to be taken care of — especially after her early struggles — she fears abuses of each entity and the NCAA’s inability to properly monitor those issues.

While she said that’s not why she’s retiring, she said she won’t miss either recent change:

“I’ve been doing this for 44 years of my life. I think we only live so long and I haven’t found a fountain of youth yet.”

That said, she admitted her athletes keep her young.

“And I think I’ve been smart enough to hire young, amazing assistants. Over the years my success has come because I stood on a lot of assistants’ shoulders.

“It’s been a great run. I love the student athletes, But I’ve also missed a lot of other things in life. All my siblings are around, and my dad is 93. I’ve missed birthdays, weddings, family gatherings. I have 52 nieces and nephews.

“I’m going to enjoy my family and I’m very much into practicing my faith and I’m certainly going to stay in touch with all our incredible alums. And then, I’ll just see what comes.”

Gilbert chuckled when she heard those earnest plans:

“I think she is going to enjoy the time with her family … but after six months, I think she’s going to get bored. She’s such a competitive person. She’s going to need something to anchor to. It’s going to be fun watching her figure out what that is.”

Once again, initial intent and final reality might differ for Carolyn Condit.

About the Author