Going Out on Top

Greg Carroll
Published date

Greg Carroll champions winning culture following 18-year career as athletics director

Greg Carroll still remembers his wild first day on the job as director of athletics at SUNY Morrisville.

Fresh off a successful 12-year run as the athletics director and director of communications for the Cazenovia (New York) school district, Carroll walked into football check-in day before the 2001 season. Nearly 150 student-athletes flooded campus looking for his assistance.

“Initially, I thought, ‘what did I just get myself into?’” Carroll recalled. “I’ll be honest, I felt a little bit over my head that first day.”

Fast forward 18 years, when news of Carroll’s retirement broke on social media in June and was met with an outpouring of support and positive feedback from current and former employees, student-athletes and their families, and the entire college community.

One Facebook comment in particular summed up the legacy Carroll leaves behind after nearly two decades at the helm of the Mustang Athletics Department: “Congratulations Mr. Carroll … You have been instrumental in the development of the winning culture and Morrisville Spirit that exist today in the athletic programs. It is an honor to say that we know you … Mustang Pride!”

That comment was posted by the late Eric Prior, whose son, Jordan Prior, currently serves as an assistant coach for the Morrisville men’s basketball team. Jordan was a two-year standout basketball student-athlete during the squad’s epic runs to the Elite Eight (2014) and Sweet 16 (2013) rounds of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament, where Carroll could be spotted cheering from the sidelines each game.

Eric, who tragically passed away unexpectedly in June, and Jordan shared fond memories of Carroll as a leader, mentor and friend.

“I know Mr. Carroll meant a great deal to my father because he felt that Greg was your textbook AD: always involved, always active, always influencing excellence,” Jordan said. “It was always comforting as an athlete to know your AD chooses to be involved not because he has to, but because he wants to.”

True to the spirit of his first day, Carroll humbly credits those around him for any success gained by the department during his tenure.

“All credit goes to the people on our staff, who are tremendously committed, have tireless work ethics and share the same values for the importance of providing a positive experience for our student-athletes,” said Carroll, who always maintained an open-door policy for staff and students.

Collaboration was one of the first philosophies Carroll established in his tenure.

“It was never a ‘you’ or ‘I,’ I’ve always tried to make it a ‘we,’” he said. “I would like to think that we created a good environment for people to grow, enjoy coming to work, have success and, when they don’t have success, there are others around here to pick them up.”

He thought correctly.

Brandy Thurston, associate athletic director for compliance & sports information, started at Morrisville just a week before Carroll.

“Greg has always encouraged and made it a priority for staff and student-athletes alike to be able to seek additional leadership and learning opportunities to develop both personally and professionally through the athletics experience,” she said. “We’re so thankful for the work and dedication he has put into the department to help us develop such a quality NCAA Division III program.”

Next came building the right staff, which coincided with leading the task of transitioning Morrisville from membership in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) to NCAA Division III to align with Morrisville’s new four-year degree offerings. Joining the NCAA typically takes four years; Carroll got it done in three.

Carroll then found the Mustangs a fitting home within the NCAA, steering the institution to full-time membership in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) in 2009. The Mustangs worked to the top of the conference ranks, with teams earning a collective 18 regular season titles, 22 NEAC championships and 21 NCAA Division III tournament appearances to add to eight NJCAA Region III titles and four national championships won during Carroll’s tenure.

Under his leadership, Morrisville athletics increased its full-time staff and transformed its facilities, with more than $20 million in improvements of its Recreation Center, construction of the Athletics Stadium facility featuring Drake Field and renovations to the athletics venues within the Student Activities Center.

Perhaps most importantly, Carroll always placed an emphasis on academic achievement and community service among student-athletes. The grade-point averages of Morrisville student-athletes outpace those of the general student population, while student-athletes now take part in 25 community service initiatives annually, averaging 2,600 hours and more than $7,000 in donations to charitable organizations per year.

“At the end of the day, the athletic experience has to be educational,” said Carroll, who served on numerous conference and national committees focused on student-athlete well-being. “I firmly believe that those experiences bring a team together.”

As Carroll enters retirement, he plans to spend quality time with his wife, Maureen, and their two children, Connor and Caeli, who have always supported his hectic work schedule and who “understood I only knew how to do this job one way, so they were very patient with me.”

Although he’s excited for this next chapter, Carroll knows SUNY Morrisville will remain a big part of his life.

“I’m looking forward to a free weekend here or there,” he said, “but I’m sure when that comes, I’ll probably be watching the webcast of one of Morrisville’s games."