With a background as a student-athlete, coach and administrator, Carla Williams’ approach to leading Virginia is forward thinking. Her focus is on providing opportunities for student-athletes to maximize their college experience while establishing a culture and support system for the sport programs to compete for championships. Above all, her commitment to academic excellence is unwavering.
Williams impact at UVA was recognized when she was named the Women Leaders in College Sports 2019 Administrator of the Year for all NCAA Division I FBS athletics programs
Williams wants student-athletes at UVA to grow, prosper and prepare themselves for their futures away from athletic competitions. To ensure that approach becomes a reality, she announced The Master Plan project in 2018 that will set the course for generations of future Hoos.
The $180 million Master Plan addresses the immediate needs to upgrade facilities for the Cavalier football program and UVA Olympic Sports. Administrative buildings, sport performance centers and new playing surfaces will be the most visible phases of the project that also includes the demolition of University Hall.
The services and support areas encompassed within the project will have meaningful and lasting impacts on student-athletes in the form of leadership, ethics, stewardship, wellness and academic achievement.
It is a plan that is aggressive in scope, but one that Williams feels is needed to ensure UVA’s place among the nation’s leading athletics departments. The end result will provide student-athletes an unsurpassed experience in terms of personal development.
During her short tenure as UVA’s athletics director, Williams has witnessed a revival of the Cavalier football program and a history-making performance by the men’s basketball team. Under coach Bronco Mendenhall, UVA’s football program has gone from a two-win season in 2016 to winning the ACC’s Coastal Division in 2019 and playing in the ACC Championship Game and the Orange Bowl
The Virginia men’s basketball team won the program’s first NCAA Championship in 2019, finishing the tournament with a run of three dramatic come-from-behind victories to cap an epic storyline after UVA exited the championship a year earlier as the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed.
The Cavalier men’s lacrosse team captured its eighth national title in 2019 and helped UVA to an eighth-place finish in the Directors’ Cup. Virginia also claimed the Capitol One Cup for men’s sports in 2019, the second time it won the award since 2015.
In the classroom, UVA student-athletes have set record numbers (496 in 2020) for placement on the ACC Honor Roll, achieved highest grade point average totals in program history and been recognized by the NCAA for outstanding achievement on academic progress reports. A total of five UVA student-athletes were named their sport’s respective ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2019-20.
Williams’ appointment at Virginia in October of 2017made her the first female African-American athletics director at a Power Five conference institution. At the time, she was the fifth active female athletics director at that level.
Recently, Williams worked on the NCAA’s NIL Legislation Solutions Group to examine student-athlete name, image and likeness rights and is a member of the NCAA Federal and State Legislation Working Group.
Prior to Virginia, Williams served as an athletics administrator at the University of Georgia for 13 years and was named deputy director of athletics in 2015. During Williams’ tenure as an administrator at Georgia, its athletics teams won 16 NCAA team championships and 37 Southeastern Conference titles.
In her role as deputy director of athletics at Georgia, Williams was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the department and its $127 million budget. She served as administrator for the Bulldogs’ football and Lady Bulldogs’ women’s basketball programs and also had supervisory responsibility for academic support services, business operations, compliance, event management, external operations, facilities and new construction, human resources, sports facilitators (21 sports and 15 head coaches), sports medicine, strength and conditioning, student services and ticketing. She helped to oversee $162 million in facility additions, upgrades and improvements for the UGA athletics program.
Williams served as the Georgia Athletic Association’s liaison to the president’s office, provost’s office, general counsel, equal opportunity office and student affairs. She also served as the athletics department’s deputy Title IX officer.
Williams has the unique background of competing, coaching and administering at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics. She was an All-SEC guard on the basketball court, then helped recruit and coach some of the greatest teams in Georgia’s history before moving on to become one of the highest-ranking female administrators in Division I athletics.
Williams began her administrative career at Georgia in 2004. She served as associate athletic director (2004-2008), senior associate athletic director (2008-2011) and executive associate athletic director (2011-2015) before being promoted to deputy director of athletics.
Prior to joining the Bulldogs’ staff, Williams was an assistant director of athletics at Vanderbilt (2000-03) and an associate director of athletics (2003-04). She oversaw 11 men’s and women’s sports as well as the Commodores’ CHAMPS/Life Skills program. From 1997-1998, Williams was coordinator for student-athlete development and life skills at Florida State. While completing her Ph.D. in sport administration, Williams was also a graduate assistant for athletic academic support from 1998-2000.
Williams was instrumental in Georgia’s programming to enhance the lives of its student-athletes and prepare them for a life beyond athletics, including its comprehensive “The Georgia Way” program. She also helped build ties for Bulldog alumni, including the creation of UGA’s NFL alumni development program. Her involvement at Georgia included serving as a member of the student-athlete conduct committee and student wellness committee. She was involved in general campus affairs which included serving on the University’s Terry College of Business board of directors and being active in numerous campus personnel search committees.
NCAA and national organization committee membership are a big part of Williams’ resume. She served on the executive committee (2010-2014) for the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. She was a member of the Southeastern Conference’s executive committee (2009-2011), participated on the NCAA women’s basketball issues committee (2010-2014) and was an executive board member of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (2007-2009).
A native of LaGrange, Ga., Williams was a three-year starter for the Lady Bulldogs from 1987-89. She finished her career with 1,115 points, 425 assists and 285 steals. Those tallies ranked No. 10, No. 2 and No. 3 among Georgia’s career leaders at the completion of her career.
Williams was then an assistant coach on hall of fame coach Andy Landers’ staff from 1991-96, including teams which reached the 1995 and 1996 Final Fours, finished as NCAA runner-up in 1996 and won the 1991 and 1996 SEC Championships. Following the 1995-96 season, Williams moved into administration and served as UGA’s assistant director of compliance from 1996-97 before continuing her ascent up the administrative ranks at Florida State, Vanderbilt and Georgia.
Williams was an active member in her community, local schools and church and was on the board of directors for the Athens Area Community Foundation and LLL Community Group. She has served as a committee member for Oconee County School System projects and been involved in the Athens Clarke County Mentor Program.
In May 2015, Williams was recognized by the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia as the Athens Woman of Distinction. That same year she was named one of the top-10 senior woman administrators in the NCAA by the website CollegeAD.org.
Williams and her husband Brian, who holds the title of associate professor of public policy at UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, have three children: daughters, Carmen and Camryn, and a son, Joshua.