Vice President, Women's Sports Programming
Carol Stiff – who in 20-plus years at ESPN has become one of the most influential people in women’s college sports, particularly in basketball where ESPN has held exclusivity on the NCAA tournament since 1996 – is vice president, women’s sports programming. She returned to the programming department in March 2016, after joining the espnW team in February 2013 as vice president, content program and integration. As vice president, women’s sports programming, Stiff is tasked with leading the company’s efforts in NCAA women’s basketball and the WNBA, as well as integrating espnW content across ESPN platforms.
Stiff previously had worked for 22 years in ESPN’s programming department, ultimately serving as a vice president, programming & acquisitions since April 2010. She oversaw the acquisition and scheduling of a variety of sports on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, including NCAA women’s basketball, NCAA championships (the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, Football Championship Series, College World Series, Women’s College World Series, lacrosse), WNBA, professional softball and more.
Stiff joined ESPN in 1990 in programming and advanced to program planner II in 1997 and senior program planner in 2000. In 2005 she was promoted to senior director, programming & acquisitions. Before that advancement, she had been program manager, programming & acquisitions and director, programming & acquisitions.
Before joining ESPN, Stiff worked in college athletics. Stiff began her coaching career at Western Connecticut State University where she served as head field hockey coach and assistant women’s basketball coach from 1983-85. She also worked as a part-time elementary school physical education teacher. She then was head women’s basketball coach and a physical education instructor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y for three years before moving to Brown University in 1988 where she spent a year as an assistant women’s basketball coach and recruiter.
A member of ESPN’s employee committee in support of The V Foundation for Cancer Research, Stiff has been a leader on behalf of the company’s efforts to benefit The Foundation. She was instrumental in the development of the Jimmy V Week and in raising awareness for the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund in partnership with The V Foundation. In 2012, she was selected as a unanimous selection to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund Board of Directors.
Stiff is a member of several professional groups, including the Women’s Sports Foundation, appointed to the USA Women’s Basketball Standing Committee, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Directors, the Collegiate Women’s Sports Awards Board and has served as a panelist and/or lecturer for several sports-related events.
Adding to her list of credentials, Stiff was inducted into the Connecticut Basketball Hall of Fame in April 2005; was named the “Top Advocate for Women’s Basketball” by the Tampa Tribune in 2008; in 2009 Sports Business Journal recognized her as one of the most influential executives leading the way in women’s sports; and was awarded the 2011 WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award for her commitment to women’s basketball and advancing the role of the media in the game. In April 2013, Stiff received the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health Leadership Award. In June 2013, Stiff was recognized by the Alliance of Women Coaches as a “Bigger Picture of Being a Champion” as well as a WISE Woman of the Year. Stiff was honored as one of Business Insider’s 50 Most Influential People Behind the Scenes in Sports in August 2014. Sports Business Journal named Stiff one of 35 “Game Changers of 2016” for her role at ESPN, in addition to serving as a mentor to young executives. She will be honored by the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in November 2016.
A native of Bernardsville, N.J., Stiff graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 1983 with a bachelor of science degree in physical education. While in school, she competed in both basketball and field hockey. In 1989, she received a master’s degree in human performance/physical education from SCSU.