June 23, 2006
NEW ORLEANS - Former Michigan State Athletics Director Merrily Dean Baker has been inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame. The 2006 Hall of Fame class was enshrined during a luncheon Thursday, June 22 at the annual NACDA Convention.
From 1992-95, Baker oversaw Michigan State's 25-sport, $18-million athletics program that provided services for over 800 student-athletes. During her tenure, MSU increased its focus on student-athlete support services. She developed the student-athlete advisory committee (SAAC), a student-athlete community outreach program and initiated the student-athlete mentor program. In addition, Baker supervised the implementation of MSU's Athletics Hall of Fame.
Baker became the first woman to be named athletics director at a Big Ten university and only the second at a Division I football-playing institution when she was hired on April 3, 1992, by Michigan State University. It was a nationally significant step for MSU as Baker joined the University of Washington's Barbara Hedges as the only women to hold the position.
She served as the interim athletic director at Florida Gulf Coast University from 1998 to 2000, initiating a brand new athletics program at a new university while helping lay the groundwork for a department that recently announced its decision to move up to Division I. Baker raised funds for the program and developed a 10-year strategic plan that included department policies and procedures and a facilities complex. She hired the first four head coaches at the school for the men's and women's golf and tennis teams. Her leadership and guidance eased the university's transition into NCAA athletics and built a solid foundation for future success.
In 2002, she received the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators' (NACWAA) Lifetime Achievement Award.
Prior to her arrival at Michigan State, Baker served as the assistant executive director at the National Collegiate Athletic Association from 1988-1992.
One of Baker's major accomplishments with the NCAA included the implementation and administration of a national program to enhance professional opportunities for women and ethnic minorities in the field of intercollegiate athletics. The methods which Baker utilized to accomplish this task were to develop an intern program and a national vita data bank along with administering a postgraduate scholarship program.
Another one of Baker's shining achievements was the administration of two NCAA national youth sport programs which served over 67,000 economically disadvantaged youth each year. The programs provided both sport and enrichment education to youth across America.
Baker also supervised NCAA scholarship and national drug testing/education programs. In addition, she administered NCAA research projects related to academics and sport science and initiated the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
From 1982-88, Baker acquired valuable Big Ten Conference experience at the University of Minnesota as director of the department of women's intercollegiate athletics: a nine-sport, $3-million program. She played an instrumental role in taking the University of Minnesota women's athletic department to a new level of funding as well as a new level of respect in the collegiate world. She helped raise women's athletic scholarships to $350,000 in 1984-85, and created "Friends Groups" for each women's sport at Minnesota. In 1985-86, the State of Minnesota financed the operations of the women's athletics programs largely due to Baker and her staff's lobbying efforts. Baker generated further revenue for the Golden Gophers by securing a rights-fee television contract for women's athletics and by developing and implementing a nationally-recognized marketing program. In 1988, her last year with the Golden Gophers, she was named one of the "100 Most Important Women" in America by the Ladies Home Journal. Baker was a key member of the university's effort to build the Aquatic Center in 1990 as she co-authored an $85 million athletics facilities plan. In September 2005, Baker was inducted into the M Club Hall of Fame.
In 1970, Baker was hired by Princeton as the associate director of the department of athletics, physical education and recreation. During her 12-year stay at Princeton, she initiated many of the programs in which women first participated at Princeton, including basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, swimming and tennis. She also was a member of the first group of women administrators to meet and discuss the establishment of Ivy League championship competition for women. In addition to her administrative duties, Baker coached the gymnastics and field hockey teams until 1975. During her tenure at Princeton, Baker also served as president for the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).
Baker accepted her first administrative position at Franklin & Marshall College in 1969 when she became the director of its first women's intercollegiate athletics program. In addition to her duties as director, she also served as an associate professor of physical education along with being the field hockey and gymnastics coach.
She began her career in intercollegiate athletics as the field hockey coach at St. Lawrence University in 1965 before working with the gymnastics team at Temple University while earning her master's degree.
A native of Bryn Mawr, Pa., Baker was a six-sport athlete at East Stroudsburg University and received her bachelor's degree in 1964.
Baker has three daughters (Jill, Wendy and Jenni) and four grandchildren.