Mikki Baile has worn many hats over the course of her athletic career.
She was a member of the U.S. National Field Hockey team and an accomplished athlete at West Chester (Pa.) State University.
She played in the first AIAW basketball championship, the precursor to today's NCAA women's title game.
And the New Jersey native is a former basketball and field hockey coach at Michigan State University, where she earned her master's degree.
For many years, though, Baile has worn the hat of Old Dominion's athletic department. It must be a comfortable fit. This fall the senior associate athletic director will begin her 25th year with Monarch athletic programs.
Back in 1975, Baile, then known by her married name, Mikki Flowers, was hired as field hockey coach, a position she held four years before moving to the administrative side.
In her first season as coach - the Monarchs' first year as an NCAA Division I program - Baile laid the foundation for the formation of the Old Dominion dynasty in field hockey. The Lady Monarch field hockey squad went from a 3-6-2 record in club play in 1975 - only the second year the sport was offered at the university - to 11-7 in 1978 under Baile's guidance.
While still in the coaching ranks, Baile also served as adviser to the sailing club and taught sailing classes. So scarce were facilities and equipment in the 1970s that she hauled the outboard motor for the coaches' boat in the trunk of her car. Sailors also had to hoist their 1950s-era Penguin boats by hand over the seawall, she recalls.
Nowadays, the university's sailing team is one of country's top programs, winning two national championships in 1998 to bring its total to 11.
The field hockey program, likewise, has come a long way since those early days. Under Baile, the turfless Old Dominion field hockey team played its home games at Larchmont School, an experience she calls "dirtball."
"We were in pretty bad shape," said Baile, who took the coaching job as a favor to athletic director Jim Jarrett while he searched for a permanent replacement. "We started so far below and we gained some credibility."
Baile was in on the hiring of current coach Beth Anders, an alumna of Ursinus College, a rival of West Chester. Anders has gone on to claim eight national championships in her 17 seasons as coach, the most recent coming last year.
"Our facilities have improved," she said, noting that the team now plays on artificial grass at Foreman Field. "Our total credibility as a university has improved, which helps us with recruiting."
Baile also started the sport of women's lacrosse at Old Dominion and was the team's first coach in 1980. The squad finished its inaugural year - Baile's only season as coach - with a 7-4 record.
Sitting behind her desk in the Athletic Administration Building, Baile ruminated on the changes that have rippled through the athletic program over the years.
She was among the pioneers of women athletic administrators in the 1970s. She began her administrative duties in athletic program support and gradually took on additional tasks in facilities and game management, budget and purchasing.
When Baile was named associate athletic director in the mid-1980s, she began to delve into issues such as the NCAA-instituted drug testing and academic eligibility standards.
She was chair of the NCAA's field hockey committee and directed the first two NCAA basketball tournaments held at Old Dominion, as well as the field hockey championships at Foreman Field."We've had to make a lot of adjustments over the years," she said. "It doesn't seem like I've been here that many years. There's always been something going on."
Today, as senior associate athletic director, Baile oversees the daily operations of all Old Dominion athletic programs except men's and women's basketball. She also oversees management of home games, as well as the strength room and scholarships. In addition, she serves as the department's housing liaison, and handles disciplinary issues and NCAA-mandatory drug testing. For five years, Baile represented the university to the NCAA Council, which oversees the day-to-day operations of member institutions. She also was chair of the playing and practice season committee
Last year, she earned her doctorate in higher education at Old Dominion after completing her dissertation, which compares men and women coaches of Division I women's basketball programs. One of her findings discounts the perception that male coaches are less concerned about their family responsibilities than female coaches. She discovered that, in fact, men and women are pretty much the same when it comes to balancing their coaching jobs and home life.
Baile's extensive background in athletics and her contacts with coaches around the country helped her get an amazing 81 percent return on the surveys for her dissertation.
- James J. Lidington