Sometimes you pursue your calling.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it pursues you, too.
A nine-member Maryville College search committee announced on Tuesday that women’s volleyball coach Kandis Schram had been named the school’s new athletics director. Schram, who’ll continue as volleyball coach, will assume her new post May 15, when current athletics director and men’s basketball coach Randy Lambert steps down after 22 years as AD to concentrate on hoops.
Many with an interest in Maryville’s sports teams — yours truly included — felt Schram’s promotion to athletics director was a slam dunk when Lambert announced his resignation last month. To even consider forming a search committee was an affront for many who’ve known and worked with Schram during her 27 years as a player or coach at Maryville.
She could coach.
Not one of her 22 volleyball teams has ever posted a losing season.
She stayed within budget.
Three years ago, Lambert promoted Schram to associate athletics director, where her hand in managing Maryville’s 14 varsity sports has been increasingly felt.
Rather than bristle at not being offered the job outright, Schram welcomed the scrutiny of the committee.
“People have asked me, ‘Why did they waste that time? Why didn’t they just name you?’” she said. “Well, I was grateful for that process.”
The committee’s decision was a shutout when finally put to a vote: Schram 9, all other candidates 0.
“It makes me feel it wasn’t just one or two (committee members) that felt that way,” she said.
The most prominent voice on the committee is the man Schram is replacing. Lambert said on Tuesday he was never conflicted about who should replace him. In the last six years, he’s seen Maryville add four varsity sports and join two conferences — the USA South for football, the Great South Athletic Conference for all others.
Lambert was the driving force in bringing the less-than-a-decade-old Great South into existence.
With the addition of football coach Tony Ierulli five years ago, Maryville teams are now winning on all fronts.
Lambert’s tenure as athletics director has been an unqualified success, and he wasn’t about to leave it with just anyone.
“In my resignation letter, I recommended that the college consider Kandi as the new athletics director,” he said.
That wasn’t necessarily the case 27 years ago, which, ironically, is why Schram’s promotion is now so fitting.
Schram played her first volleyball game in a Maryville uniform in the fall of 1981. Only five years prior, there were no varsity sports for women at the school. None.
Schram, who admits to being “scared to death” that first game, didn’t exactly fit the bill as a future administrator then.
“When she first came on campus as a student athlete, I didn’t think that one day she’d be our athletics director,” Lambert said.
Oh, but she was a super-fast learner.
Schram graduated from Maryville in the spring of 1985. That fall, she was named an assistant volleyball coach. The following spring, she moved to the head coach’s chair. Since then, she’s produced winning team after winning team, the only Maryville coach in any sport to never record a sub .500 season.
Not every coach is cut out to be an athletics director, but there was soon little doubt Schram had what it took. As the years wore on, Lambert said he delegated more and more responsibility within the athletic department to the volleyball coach who knew how to get things done. Men’s basketball is the marquee sport at Maryville, and it takes a lot of doing to make it so.
“Most people on our campus are refueling during the Christmas break,” Lambert said. “I’m in the busiest part of my season. I get Christmas day off. There’s no question I was getting tired.”
As Lambert began to tire of the multi-tasking of being basketball coach/athletics director, Schram was ramping up. They talked increasingly of making a change. Lambert’s driving passion at Maryville is to get one of his men’s teams to the Division III Final Four. The Scots once reached the Elite Eight. To get them the rest of the way, Lambert felt focusing his energies was inevitable.
Convinced Schram was ready, at the same time hoping the search committee would heed his recommendation, Lambert last month stepped aside.
“The college looked at all the necessary qualifications, and Kandi possessed every characteristic they listed,” he said. “It’s all there. She was made to be an athletics director.”
A concern voiced about Schram being named athletics director was how she would handle football. Ierulli’s Scots, 7-3 last fall, are on the march. Maryville has never qualified for the Division III football playoffs, but Ierulli has them close. Alumni are hungry for it to happen. Schram will do nothing, Lambert said, but enhance the quest.
“She knows that football is very important to the institution,” he said. “I know she’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that sport’s successful, as she will with all the other sports.”
Winning coach, experienced administrator, Schram is without question qualified for her new post. Like her predecessor, she wants to see Maryville athletics grow. It’s hoped golf and swimming will be added as varsity sports in the near future. Improvements to Cooper Athletic Center — home to basketball and volleyball teams and the athletic department offices — are badly needed. Amenities for female athletes are sorely lacking.
“When our building was built, there were no female varsity sports,” Schram said.
The addition of a full-service wellness wing at the facility, complete with a state-of-the-art weight room and a place for aerobics, is high on her priority list, she said.
“Our kids deserve more,” she said.
Schram said she feels confident about her new role. Lambert, she said, has left her well prepared.
“He’s taught me how not to micro manage,” she said. “He’s taught me when to pick my fights, and when not to pick a fight. He says, ‘Kandi, you’ve got to pick your battles. Surround yourself with good people, and let them do what they do.’”
Kandis Schram didn’t arrive at Maryville College hoping to one day become the school’s athletics director, but, as it turns out, it’s wanted her for the job all along.