Michael Sutton of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) is the 2018 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Distinguished Service Award recipient.
The Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual who has promoted collegiate athletics, and the concept of the student-athlete as a coach, administrator or long- term member of the conference, and/or otherwise been involved with servicing college athletics on campus. The award may be given to nominees who have retired or resigned from athletics administration, and who have rendered such noteworthy service to entitle them to this honor. Sutton, who currently serves as CMS's Director of Advancement for Athletics, is receiving this prestigious honor less than two years after stepping down as the institution's director of athletics.
"It's an incredible affirmation to be considered worthy of the same recognition in the Distinguished Service Award that many of the people I looked up to in the conference over the years have received," Sutton explained. "It's humbling knowing that others have recognized the work I dedicated my career to."
In his new position, Sutton assists the Claremont McKenna College development, public affairs, and alumni and parent relations offices with various outreach programs pertaining to CMS athletics. Through this endeavor, Sutton takes on the challenge of adding value to the experiences of the institution's current student-athletes and alumni.
A 1976 graduate of Claremont McKenna College, Sutton was named CMS's Director of Athletics in March of 2001 after serving as the acting AD since the fall of 2000. Prior to taking the reins of the athletics department, Sutton, as a head coach, led the Stags to an unprecedented 33 conference championships in 21 years as head coach of the men's swimming & diving and water polo programs. He also led the Stags' swimming & diving program to six national runner-up finishes and 10 top-5 finishes on the national level. Aside from his time in Claremont, Sutton served as team leader of the 1992 United States Olympic water polo team.
During his role as athletic director, Sutton was instrumental in leading a consistent rise of CMS Athletics on a national level. CMS has long been considered a conference and regional power based on the success of its teams on the field and its student-athletes in the classroom. Under Sutton's guidance, CMS won 26 SCIAC All-Sports Trophies in a 30-year span. The 2015-16 academic year concluded with CMS athletics ranked 10th nationally out of 450 institutions – the program's highest finish under Sutton – in the NCAA Division III Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings, which ranks athletic programs based on the success of its teams in NCAA postseason play.
Sutton's vision for CMS Athletics has benefited hundreds of Athenas and Stags over the years and many other students at Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Scripps Colleges. That vision includes a lengthy list of major contributions: the growth of women's sports at CMS; the continued improvement of CMC and CMS's athletic facilities with the construction of the Biszantz Family Tennis Center and Roberts Pavilion; and the expansion of the intramural and physical education programs available to students, faculty, and staff at the CMS colleges. He also hired and mentored 22 head coaches during his 15 years as AD, and added assistant coaching positions and other important staff positions within the department.
"One of the things that kept me going over the years was, not only did I love what I was doing, but I really like who I worked with at CMC, CMS, in the SCIAC, and at the NCAA Division III level," Sutton stated. "I really enjoyed the friendships, the relationships and the competitive rivalries that we built over the years."