O’Meally Enters Morgan State Hall of Fame
Delise O’Meally was a letter winner and an athletic administrator at Morgan State. As such, she has been familiar with Bears’ Varsity “M” Club, Inc. and its Athletic Hall of Fame for many years.
But the thought of her becoming a member never crossed O’Meally’s mind even though she had a highly successful tennis career for the Bears. She played No. 1 singles and doubles her entire three-year career, which included going undefeated during the 1991-92 season and being named the 1993 MEAC Most Outstanding Tennis Performer her senior year. O’Meally will be recognized as one of greatest Morgan State athletes of all time when she is inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame Friday evening, yet her humility won’t permit her to obsess over her athletic accomplishments.
“Over the course of my career I had not thought about this type of honor,’’ the Jamaica native says. “I had great success while on campus. I think what they’re honoring me for is what I’ve been able to do professionally since I left Morgan State. I was pleasantly surprised and honored when I was approached by several folk saying ‘You’ve done such great work in the intercollegiate athletic field, I believe you should be honored in this way.’ It’s a great honor for me.’’
What O’Meally, who earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from Morgan State and an MBA and was an assistant athletic director at the school, has done professionally is impressive. She spent 17 years working for the NCAA. Her first seven years with the governing body were in Academic and Membership Affairs as an interpretative specialist. As a director, she was responsible for overseeing the interpretations area and supervising the staff that handled interpretive issues for all three NCAA divisions.
After the NCAA moved its headquarters from Kansas City to Indianapolis, O’Meally earned a law degree from the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis and she moved into governance. This position gave her greater impact on policy decisions, and she successfully made the argument that because the world was changing so rapidly, the NCAA needed to engage internationally. She became Director of Governance and International Affairs and served as a liaison to the NCAA Executive Committee.
O’Meally went on to be elected Vice President for the United States International Sports Federation and Vice President for the Pan American University Sports Federation. She was also appointed to serve on the International University Sports Federation Commission on Development of University Sports.
In 2011, she was elected as the Vice President for the United States International University Sports Federation and later that year during the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, was elected as the Vice President for the Pan American University Sports Federation and appointed to serve on the International University Sport Federation Commission on Development of University Sport.
O’Meally served as deputy head of delegation for Team USA at the World University Games in Russia in 2013 and again in 2015 in Korea. Last summer, she was appointed Secretary General of the United States International University Sports Federation, becoming the third secretary general in the organization’s almost 50-year history and the first woman in that role.
O’Meally left the NCAA two years ago to become Executive Director of the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS) at the University of Central Florida, founded by Dr. Richard Lapchick. Using the power of sport to effect positive societal change, NCAS educates and empowers individuals and organizations through inspiring values-based thinking leading to actions that promote social responsibility and equality.
“I came to a place that I felt I needed to do more, to do something different,’’ O’Meally says, explaining why she left the NCAA, “Seventeen years is a long time to be with an organization, and I did some great things there. The opportunity that brought me to the University of Central Florida number one was a leadership opportunity. I’m running a non-profit organization. This organization uses the power of sport to positively change lives. We use the platform of sports to raise awareness and advocate for diversity and inclusion for the prevention of violence against women. Those are things I believe in. Those are things I could work without pay for. If you find something where you say, ‘they don’t have to pay me to do this work,’ that’s where you probably should be. Of course they’re paying me, which is good.’’
O’Meally’s professional accomplishments are unquestioned. But despite what she says about the reason she was selected for the Hall of Fame, O’Meally need not apologize for her achievements in athletics, especially considering the road she traveled. She began playing tennis in her native country around age 12, late by today’s standard that has youngsters picking up rackets as early as age five, and won two Jamaican Junior National titles. However, when she finished high school at age 16, she no longer played competitive tennis.
“I didn’t know anything about opportunities to go to college and play sports,’’ she says. “None of us (in Jamaica) did.’’
O’Meally attended college in Jamaica for a couple of years before moving to New York City. There she lived with relatives and did temporary work but didn’t play competitive tennis. She did, however, play in some ATA tournaments for fun. Haverford College women’s coach Ann Koger saw O’Meally competing in one of those tournaments and immediately recommended her to then Morgan State coach Larry Frazier.
The timing couldn’t have been better for O’Meally. She was struggling to make ends meet and realized that she needed a college education to improve her lot in life. However, attending college was too costly and because she was a legal resident alien, she didn’t qualify for grants to finance her education.
Frazier came to New York, watched O’Meally play, liked what he saw and offered her scholarship and a spot as the Bears’ No. 1 player. O’Meally accepted, even though she knew nothing about Morgan State or any other HBCU.
“I had no clue,’’ she says. “It was a shot in the dark. I remember driving down I-95 with all my stuff in my car saying ‘what am I getting into?’ I took a chance. I learned throughout my life that if you’re willing to take a chance and put yourself out there, good things happen. I had no idea what it would do, what it could lead to.’’
O’Meally researched Morgan State before she enrolled, but what she learned paled in comparison to her experiences once she arrived at the school.
“Morgan State was a very welcoming environment for me,’’ she says. “I grew up in a country where I was part of the majority. I could see people who looked like me in leadership roles. I always felt I could achieve because I saw people who look like me achieving. For me Morgan State was a great fit. I had great professors and mentors who took interest in me and wanted to see me succeed.
“Everything I have done from that point forward is based on the opportunity that Morgan State gave me, lessons that I learned while I was there. Some of the key lessons were to embrace opportunities when they come, to take a chance, to not be afraid to take a chance.’’
O’Meally, however, had to reprogram her mental approach as she returned to competitive tennis for the first time in more than three years, and she had become accustomed to the conditioning and training that was needed to compete at the college level.
“Because I had a level of ability, I had to ensure that I met the standard set for me,’’ she says. “I did things I wasn’t accustomed to to ensure that I could compete.’’
O’Meally says she toyed with the idea of turning pro after she graduated from Morgan State. However, she didn’t have the necessary financial backing.
“How much success would I have had on the pro level? I probably would have been a journeyman,’’ she says. “I probably would have had some success. But it would have been challenging. It would have been a great experience, but wouldn’t say I regret (not going pro). My life has been fantastic.’’