Name it, and Scott Carroll has seen it.
Inside or outside of the school hallways, Cleveland Middle School's assistant principal and director of athletics has encountered virtually every experience – from daily to extraordinary – across a decorated career spent serving in public education.
Like Cleveland High School's varsity football games, of which Carroll has missed only two since the school's inception in 1966, Carroll keeps coming back for more experiences, more opportunities to help impact the lives of young people.
For these reasons and myriad others, Carroll is the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's final Distinguished Service Award recipient for the 2020-21 academic year.
“I always thought I wanted to be a high school coach, but I fell in love working with middle school kids,” said Carroll, a Cleveland native in the Blue Raiders' Hall of Fame. “If they know you care about them, they'll run through a wall for you. They just have to know you care.”
The care is implied and obvious in all Carroll does; it might be about the only thing not formally in his litany of contributions and roles. He's been a Tennessee Baseball Coaches' Association Assistant Coach of the Year and a Cleveland Middle School assistant football coach some 30 years.
Too, Carroll – CMS' athletics director now for a quarter-century – became the first middle school athletics director selected to lead the state's association of athletics director.
Almost exclusively, that role has gone to high school administrators. Almost no one can match Carroll's blend of classroom, hallway and playing fields' experience.
The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association bestowed upon Carroll its prestigious Award of Merit in 2018; the former CMS head wrestling coach also has been named the state's top athletics director among his many accolades.
It's quite a path after initiating his collegiate career on a football scholarship at Carson-Newman before overcoming injury and lack of focus to earn his path into education at Lee University, with Carroll highlighting the role of his mentor, Donnie Yates.
“For 10 years I was in business with my father, who owned a printing company, and I had gotten heavily involved with youth sports in the area,” Carroll said. “My dad told me to go back to school, get my degree and do that. And I've done it now for 28 years.
“My passion's taking care of the fields, maintaining all the facilities, and I'm blessed to be in a big middle school. We've got 1,400 students, and all of our own facilities. And our high school has used our gymnasium that seats 1,500. We've played high school baseball and softball at our school and hosted regional wrestling duals. We're very blessed to have great facilities. I'd put our middle school facilities up against any 4A and down high school (in Tennessee).”
A teaching fellow for NIAAA's national conferences and helming leadership classes at Tennessee's state athletics directors' conference each of the past five years, Carroll also has penned the sports handbook/guidelines for coaches and parents for Cleveland City Schools. His article for the National Federation of State High School Associations is due to be published in the coming months.
Carroll's also taught seventh-grade social studies and served the past 35 years as color commentator for WCLE's radio broadcasts of Blue Raiders' football games.
All this experience, these decades of wins and losses, regional and state championships, leave Carroll knowing exactly what he's looking for in the coaches he hires – and it's scarcely about scoreboards.
“The good thing as A.D. is that I get to hire coaches, and our principals have been great to work with and good to allow me to go out and find coaches,” Carroll said. “Being a college athlete is one thing, but the only thing I care about is your passion for kids and your sport.
“As long as you love it and want to do it … we don't want to hire a teacher and say, 'Oh you're also the new tennis coach.' We don't do that. We try to find coaches who have a passion for their sport and love the kids. We're part of the Capturing Kids' Heart Initiative, which says if you can capture their hearts then you can capture their minds. I believe that through athletics, too.”
TSSAA proudly salutes Scott Carroll for his many years of dedication to student-athletes in Tennessee.