Mount St. Joseph University

Staying in the Game

Mount News: alumni magazine


Mount St. Joseph graduates have gone on to make a big league impact in the sports world– as coaches, administrators, teachers and beyond – by staying “in the game.”There are many stories of their numerous successes. We share just a few of them here.

“Without my time at the Mount, I certainly wouldn’t be here (as Reds Hall of Fame curator). I am just a much better person for having gone to (the Mount) and will always be grateful for what it gave to me.” – Chris Eckes; history major, Reds Hall of Fame curator

Last September, Chris Eckes ’00 was standing in the Great American Ball Park dugout with Pete Rose as the Reds legend waited for his name to be called over the loudspeaker. The Mount St. Joseph University graduate saw tears welling up in Rose’s eyes as he got ready to join his teammates from the Big Red Machine on the field in their first Reds reunion. Eckes started to tear up as well. Then came, “Peeeeete Roooooose,”loudly. A highlight video played on the big screen. Trumpets blared. Thousands of fans roared. And as Eckes– the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum chief curator and operations manager – watched Rose slowly walk out,he knew this was going to be one of his greatest baseball memories. “We were all assigned a player, and I was assigned Pete,” says Eckes. “Pete was holding that dugout rail, getting emotional. The moment was getting to him. And I, of course, was getting emotional. To be there for that was the crowning experience I’ve had here.”

In a big way, Eckes had a hand in that memorable reunion– the first at a Reds event for the Big Red Machine World Series lineup – as part of a team working on a Joe Morgan statue dedication at the stadium. “Joe didn’t want to be involved if his teammates weren’t involved,” Eckes says. One thing led to another, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Whether they were athletes or not, like Eckes, Mount St. Joseph graduates have gone on to make a big league impact in the sports world – as coaches, administrators, teachers and beyond – by staying “in the game.” Eckes’ story is just one of numerous successes. Eckes, 42, has reached the major leagues in more ways than one as a lifelong baseball fan and history buff. He hit the pinnacle of both worlds when he started working at the Reds’ Museum in 2004, just four years after graduating with a history degree.

Now, he regularly gets to meet and work with his childhood idols. “I always refer to them as baseball cards coming to life,” Eckes said. The lifelong Cincinnatian is an Elder High graduate and a Reds fan since age six, when he went to his first game. Working with the biggest team hall of fame in baseball, Eckes says is his “dream job in many ways.” He acquires items for exhibit from private collectors and puts exhibits together with designers. Staff members from other teams’ hall of fame museums often visit Eckes to see how it’s done.

Telling history is also about what’s next. For Eckes, “next” is making 2015 the best year yet at the museum because the MLB All-Star Game comes to town in July for the first time in more than 25 years. “It’s such a special event. We’re hoping to find a way to make it a season-long celebration,” Eckes said.

5 Questions with Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Wineberg ’14

Cincinnatian Mary Wineberg won a gold medal in the 4 x 400 relay at the 2008 Olympic Games. When it came time to “train”for her next career as a teacher, Wineberg, 34, chose the Mount, where she received her Master’s degree in May. She started teaching second grade language arts and social studies at Rees E. Price Academy in Price Hill in August.

When I decided to retire from sports, I had done everything I wanted to do. I asked, ‘Where’s my passion?’ And my passion was speaking to kids, being a role model
and an inspiration. Since I was young I always wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to find the right program for me. I looked at UC, XU and the Mount. I’m so happy I made the decision to attend the Mount because it worked out really well.

I was just really impressed by the Mount. My first thought was, ‘How in the world am I going to do this?’ I was nervous, scared. ‘I’ve been out of school for how long?’ But it was a good time. I liked the professors and learned a lot. Having an athletic background helped me to drive and push myself. I had a deadline, ‘I’m starting in August and need to be done by next August,’ and that’s what happened

I had no involvement. I had no time for that. I was a mother, a wife, a full-time student and student teacher. I had to take several months and pull away from the sport. Track and field had consumed my life, not in a bad way, it was good, but that’s what my life was. I miss track and field a lot. I’m not sure about coaching yet, but my goal is to bring a track camp to the city with my Olympic teammate David Payne.

As a teacher, this is going to be a huge inspirational piece to utilize with students to show them that dreams can come true. When you have a teacher that has done it, they think it’s kind of cool. Working in an urban district with less advantaged kids, they can say, ‘If she can do this, I can too if I put my
mind to it.’

Right now my short-term goal is to get through my first year of teaching. Then long term I want to bring a track camp to the city. And I’m starting to write a book about my life’s story. I just think I have an inspirational story, and have brought some people to tears when speaking – how I grew up, my family background. I should have given up a long time ago but I never did.

Sports and Business; Perfect NFL Teammates

When Bob Mullen graduated from the Mount in 2012, he landed a trial seasonal ticket operations job with the Bengals thanks to being tipped off to the opening by Dan Yost, chair of the Mount’s Sport Management program. Mullen’s education in and experience from sports co-ops while a Mount student opened the door quickly. The Bengals made him a full-time employee last season.

Mullen is now entering his third season with the team. He does a little bit of everything – occasional sales, helping season-ticket holders, helping sales people manage accounts and working customer service windows on game day. The Elder High graduate with an interest in “the business”side of sports is setting some big goals.

“I’d like to get more on the football operations side of things
– coordinating team travel, setting up hotels, things like that,” Mullen says. He’s just 26, so he has time to get there. For now, he’s enjoying the ride. “Fans can be fun, but at times they can be stressful. I want the team to do as well as possible. The more fun everyone else is having the more fun it is for me.”

The Mount in the ’70s:A Collection  of Coaches

One of the longest tenured coaches in Miami University history, Carolyn Condit ’76 returned this year for her 31st season in charge of the volleyball program, and as such, has had a transformative impact on NCAA student-athletes for a generation.

The 1976 Mount graduate is the winningest coach in the history of Miami University athletics, with more than 620 overall victories.

When asked how she succeeded in what is often a cutthroat business of high-level NCAA athletics, and at one institution, Condit says, “but by the grace of God.”

Condit says she thought she’d be at Miami “two or three years” after arriving from Xavier, where she spent her first four seasons as a head volleyball coach. But Miami embraced Condit’s coaching philosophy centered on developing young women as citizens, students and athletes – instead of winning at all costs. These are values Condit says she learned at the Mount, where she played four years of volleyball (1972-76).

Another former standout Mount volleyball player, Peg Bradley-Doppes ’79, recommended Condit for the job when she left as Miami’s volleyball coach in 1984. In addition to coaching at Miami, Bradley-Doppes has been the director of athletics at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, women’s athletic director and head volleyball coach at
the University of Michigan and head volleyball coach at the University of North Carolina. She was the youngest coach ever to reach 300 Division I victories.

“Mount people help Mount people if you believe in them,” says Condit, who “passed it forward” by helping her then assistant at Miami, John Bennett, get hired as the Mount’s head coach five years ago.

That team spirit was ingrained in the women who played Mount volleyball in the early ’70s. At the time there were no divisions or scholarships, and Title IX, the law ensuring gender equity in college athletics, had just started. “Everyone played for the love of the game,” Condit says. She was part of a program that was a national pioneer in women’s sports, particularly in volleyball. Many other women who played on those teams went on to make huge footprints in college athletics – Mary Biermann ’71, Bradley- Doppes, Jane Meier ’73, Joan Shadley Mazzaro-Epping ’76, among many others. 

Meier says the Mount athletic department was “more advanced for providing opportunities for women than any of the public institutions.” With those opportunities came experience, which translated to successful sports careers. “The Mount at the time was a cradle of coaches,” Meier says. 

Meier became a titan in NCAA athletics. At the Mount, she was a standout athlete in volleyball, basketball and swimming. As athletic director at Northern Kentucky University she helped transform the fledgling athletic program into a Division II powerhouse and then a Division I school. After coaching volleyball, softball and basketball at NKU for 10 years, she became athletic director in 1988, one of the first female ADs in the nation.

Meier retired a year after overseeing the basketball team’s move into the state- of-the-art Bank of Kentucky Center in November 2008. Since retiring, Meier has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NCAA Division II Athletics Directors Association, the highest honor for an AD. It was a crowning achievement for a woman who knew as a high school sophomore that she wanted to be a coach.

“I did not want to fail, because one, I was a woman — what a rare opportunity— and two, it’s my hometown. Thank God I loved the job and the people I worked with,” Meier says.

"Brothers" With Whistles

“The coaches made the biggest impact in my life. I’m starting to well up thinking about it right now. They made the difference and are the reason I got into coaching.”
– P.J. Volker ’05, business administration major, current football linebackers coach at Georgia State

When P.J. Volker ’05 and Jesse Minter ’05 arrived at the Mount to play football in 2002, little did they know that their athletic careers – and lives – would be closely linked to today.

The pair helped the Mount football program achieve success as players from 2002-05, and now they’re doing the same as Division I college football coaches at Georgia State University. At just 31, they’re quite young to be coaching at the highest collegiate level, but their record as coaches has them on the fast track.

Minter, the son of Philadelphia Eagles linebackers coach Rick Minter, knew he wanted to be a coach while at the Mount. After graduating, it took him just four years to land a job at a Division I school when he was hired on at Indiana State University as a defensive assistant. He recruited Volker as a defensive assistant in 2010. A year later, Minter was promoted to defensive coordinator, becoming one of the youngest in the nation to hold the prestigious title.

Together they built a Top 10 defense, and when the opportunity came in 2013 to join the Georgia State staff, they jumped at it. By this time, they and their wives were good
friends, and now they’re more than just coaching peers.

“They’re family to us,” Minter says. “He’s like my brother.” The friends were in each other’s weddings and Volker says their families live right across the street from one another in Atlanta. With Volker as one of Minter’s top assistants, they can better plan for games because they know and trust each other so well. That familiarity brings success on the field. Volker says it is an honor to “not just to work with someone you’re comfortable with but with someone that’s been one of your best friends. We think a lot alike.”

The pair say they’re focused on turning around another program. Despite their success and bright futures, both say they want to remain humble. “In my wildest imagination I never thought I’d be a Division I football coach,” says Volker. “But now that I’m here, I’m grabbing the bull by the horns and running with it.”
Minter says one is never satisfied. “I feel like I’ve really worked hard and done things to get better as a coach, and that keeps me in the position to get better
every day.”