Carol Hammerle was the head Women’s basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay from 1973 to 1998. Hammerle was the first coach hired for the newly formed Phoenix Women’s athletic program. During an interview in August 2013, she discussed her roles and experiences within Phoenix athletics. Jane Rank from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Oral History Committee conducted the interview.
JR: …Where were you born, where did you go to school, what sports did you play and where were you before UWGB?
CH: …I was born in Pittsville Massachusetts. So I grew up out east. Went to Lee High School and ended up going to Northern Michigan University to college. Thus my move to the Midwest. From there I went back home and taught at Lee High School after I received my undergraduate degree from Northern Michigan University. And decided I missed the Midwest, went back to Northern Michigan and was termed a part time lecturer at the time, similar to a graduate assistant. So I ended up teaching and coaching at Northern Michigan while I worked on my masters. Finished my masters and had a professor, Lawrence Ley, come up to me and say hey there’s this coaching at University of Wisconsin Green Bay. And it consisted of two thirds physical education, one third intramural coordinator and intercollegiate athletics. And then I think there was a slash cheerleading advisor.
JR: … Can I ask if you played sports in college?
CH: Yes I did. Northern Michigan, matter of fact, was kind of a special situation which I don’t think I realized at the time, but we were the very first intercollegiate sport and it was field hockey in 1968. So they did a big ribbon cutting ceremony on campus. We were playing against central Michigan University. So I played in intercollegiate athletics in Field Hockey for two years.
JR: OK so you saw this posting and you applied. How did that work out?
CH: You know, call it divine intervention, call it what you want to, but Bernie Starks was the chairperson at the time for the physical education department, even though there was no majors program. He was in .charge of the PE department. And I interviewed with him…So I drove from Marquette down to Green Bay and went to the Deckner Center. Cause that was the gym at the time. And was just like, oh no. No way. And then he took me over to the campus which at that time was the Library and then kind of the four hubs, like the science building, the arts building and I can’t remember the other, but basically they were the four spokes that came off the library and at that point, I looked at that campus and said oh yes. Because I could see what was happening. And I knew it would just be a matter of time where everything would be centrally located in a gorgeous setting right off the bay. So many possibilities. I didn’t think much at the time about recruiting, because athletics was in its infancy, with title IX being the big driving force.
JR: OK so who actually decided to hire you, was it all on Bernie or someone else?
CH: Well you know, Bruce Grimes was also, and I met with other people on campus, but Bruce Grimes was the athletic director at the time. But I was being hired primarily for physical education. And that’s what I understood and did not really, obviously title IX, everybody knew about it but didn’t realize what a factor that was playing.
JR: OK so you were hired, you came in 1973, what were your personal goals when you came to Green Bay?
CH: Well, with their interest to get sports off the ground. Ironically my first passion and love was field hockey. So I tried to get field hockey going. The challenge was the gym was at Deckner. The fields were out on our current location. So we were basically sending all the information from Deckner and wanting students to come out to the fields and we really had no place, you know where they could change, or they could do anything. I mean, we were, believe it or not, we actually ended up converting part of Shorewood. There was a building; I’m trying to remember if they tore that one down. I think they may have, but there was an old locker room that were in there and we ended up, my assistant who was Mary Ripp and we ended up going in there and cleaning it up ourselves and painting it and creating lockers and doing all that to try to get Field hockey off the ground. Ironically, I could not get, it takes eleven for a team, I’d have seven one day, I’d have eight another, so it just didn’t work. I was a little disappointed and then decided well let’s try basketball. Basketball was more popular in the state, so I had thirteen players show up for basketball. That was 73 and that’s when we started the team and we were off and running.
JR: So title nine comes around in 1972, you’re hired in 73, when did UW Green Bay finally figure out what that impact was going to be on the athletic programs?
CH: Well, I think they brought me on board with the intent of me starting the program. I think because of my background between high school, I mean I coached high school for two years, all sports, at the high school level for two years. I think with my background and then being at Northern and also coaching there, I think they really thought that between teaching and coaching that I would be a good fit. I think there was a lot of intentionality in that.
JR: …You’re starting it from scratch, right, basically? So what did you do?
CH: Right. Well the very first day of practice, Jane, I threw away my entire practice because it was too advanced…I think I had three maybe four players that had played before. And the other nine had maybe not played other than in physical education class. So I had to go back to square one and I had so start with the fundamentals.
JR: So now did you improve each year, did you see improvement in the program as you moved along?
CH: We did, yeah, except I think the fourth year. Part of that was after our first year, or maybe my second year, I got us to join the WWIAC. Wisconsin Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. I think we were, the only school that wasn’t in it, or Parkside was with us, but I think Parkside beat us too. I think they got into it before us, I could be wrong on that, but we were the only UW school that wasn’t in the conference. So that second year, I got us involved in that and then we had to play against different competition and well a lot of the UW s and we were playing against LaCrosse, Whitewater, Madison, Stevens Point and you know here green Bay is, I don’t even know what the enrollment was, if it was four or five thousand then. Probably not that at the time. Undergrads, but that’s who we were playing against and of course all these programs, LaCrosse, Madison have physical education majors. Talk about a huge advantage. So that came into play as well. I think the second year, we went eight and nine and I don’t have it, I probably should get one of my conference books and look at that, but I know my fourth year, we went four and seventeen. That was very disheartening for me. I remember it like it was yesterday. Yeah, oh yeah. Cause I was thinking if I can’t tum this program around, I’m going to quit. I’m going to just get out of coaching and just go into teaching. And that was I think 76, 77 and the start of the new, we had the new building, the Phoenix Sports Center. And we started scholarships, we had $3,000 and we raised the money. We did bake sales, we did a softball tournament and did concessions, so we ended up raising money and we had $3,000.
JR: That was your only source of scholarship money?
CH: Yup, that was it and they and at the time the university allowed me to raise money and to be able to use it for scholarships. Of course when I look back at it now, I think, oh they should have just given me the $3,000.
JR: …Did the men’s program have scholarships at that point?
CH: Yes, both men’s basketball and women’s, men’s soccer had them and they were like the creme de la creme. They had, I mean they had a lot of money. That was again I think Ed Weidner, he had this vision and they weren’t going to have football because they weren’t going to compete with the Packers, so they put money into soccer and they put money into men’s basketball. Both of them were the cash cows. And then title nine came along and really through a poker into the fire on that one because all of a sudden they knew that to continue with the funding, there needed to be women’s sports as well.
JR: But there was a transition going on, you were coaching women’s basketball and you weren’t on the same playing field funding wise as men’s basketball, correct?
CH: Oh gosh no. Again, Jane that was the time and it wasn’t title IX seventy two and probably ten years from the time it was initiated before it really started to make some impact. It was growing period. Everybody was trying to figure out, what can I do and what I can’t do.
JR: …How did the community respond to a women’s basketball program.
CH: How did the community respond?
JR:…They were used to a men’s program. But woman’s basketball was becoming something. How did they respond?
CH: Initially I always felt like it was a work in progress. And, well even, in Wisconsin the first girl’s high school tournament wasn’t until I think 75. You know, it was just growing. I think people who were coming to the women’s games were either faculty and staff on campus, parents, obviously and probably get some families, especially if they had daughters that played. But the attendance was never really great. For the longest time, I always had the battle of the door at the Phoenix Sports Center where they wanted to keep it closed and it really, I always felt that it hurt us because it created more of a high school atmosphere. So if I bring a recruit in and they look at that facility compared to where they played, there’s no way, they’re going to come to Green Bay. So I’m kind of going off the topic here but I think it was gradual. But them a big turning point and again I still remember this was we were, had an ESPN game and we really had a lot of help from the community, what were they called, an insurance company, out in Howard, I can’t remember the name now. But the community would get free books, like any students that were there at the game, they were going to do some kind of contest, that type of thing. So they really publicized it. It was an ESPN game and it was on at midnight. So I can remember getting there at ten o’clock and of course the door was open, yeah. And we’ve got ESPN there and I think we were playing the University of Detroit. They were in our conference at the time. And the entire place was packed.
JR: …So funding was never quite equal, but sounds like the chancellor generally supported your program as far as that goes.
CH: Yes, Yes. But what happened was the, well a couple things. One, we always needed more money for scholarships. And at the time, we were still, you know we went through that whole growth period, we were AIW and AIW was no longer because they lot a court battle to NCAA. And so there was now AlW any longer so we had to make a choice and if we went NCAA we would have to be the same as the men. Well the men would have to have the same funding. Well there just wasn’t enough, there just wasn’t the resources. And maybe I was naive. I don’t know Jane, but we were a small institution and at times I thought they could do more, but and then at times, well maybe not. So anyhow we stayed NAIA and we had money for NAIA and did that for a period of time and we were successful in that we made post season play and actually came in second. We lost in the championship of the NAIA tournament. That was 80s. That was Sue Bodilly’ s senior year. And after that, the following year, the NCAA governance changed everything and said if your men are NCAA; the women have to be NCAA because a lot of institutions were doing the same thing. So then that really threw a curve into it and that, I wish I had the exact dates in front of me. I want to say it was 86-87.
JR: Sure, what was the most challenging part of your job?
CH: I would say the gender equity issue. I was always trying to get equity for the team. I wore two hats. Actually I wore several. I got field hockey going finally and then they were going to bring in a tennis coach. So I set up a schedule for tennis and then something happened they didn’t hire a coach, so I ended up coaching tennis. I didn’t want us to look bad in the conference. And then I coached head basketball. I had three sports one year so it was quite entertaining. And then selected, thought that my passion was basketball and started. You know it was a lot warmer to coach basketball at Green Bay.
Look below for photo sources and Carol Hammerle’s full interviewFourth-Estate-Photos