Editor’s note: The following is a Q&A the Big Sky Conference conducted with Idaho State Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) Caroline “Smitty” Faure.
Why did you decide to become an FAR?
Really the decision was our President’s and I was just really honored to be asked. I am a pretty visible person around campus, I suppose, and I happened to be on (then) President Vailas’ radar in a positive way because of my concussion research. He appointed me to the Athletics Advisory Board and then asked me to assume the FAR position when Dr. Scott Benson (the FAR at the time) retired. It was a perfect marriage of my interests and my abilities. The learning curve as far as rules and processes is steep. But I’m a lot different than our previous FAR. He was really good and really strong in areas of compliance, especially. I’m super strong in addressing overall student-athlete well-being. I want our Bengals to have a positive experience at ISU — academically, athletically and socially. I want them to be happy and healthy. Of course, I still need to know all that other stuff that comes with the job, too. Thankfully, President Vailas really let me cater the position to my strengths, and when President Satterlee came to ISU a couple of years ago, he really encouraged and empowered me to be even more involved and impactful.
What’s your favorite thing about being an FAR?
I’m fortunate to work with some really good people. Our entire athletic staff and our coaches are just superb human beings. I also really like working to connect the athletic side of campus to our academic side. I started a Faculty Athletics Mentor program and that has really been cool for me and for our student-athletes. But my absolute favorite part is just getting to know and care for the student-athletes. My No. 1 goal is to make sure our Bengals know they are loved. And I am really lucky because I feel that love right back! Also, the exposure I get from conference and NCAA management really strengthens me as a Professor of Sport Management.
What’s been one of your most memorable moments while at Idaho State?
This past year I created a video with our student-athletes to highlight the need for them to address their mental health. Then at the beginning of the year I asked them to take #TheBengalPledge — to promise to acknowledge when they were struggling and needed a little help, and to support their teammates when they were struggling. I was so impressed with the number of our student-athletes who took the pledge, and even more impressed with how they really stepped up throughout the year and supported the pledge. A lot of our coaches have really embraced the effort, too. So have our faculty and university administration. We have raised a lot of awareness about what student-athletes go through. We are all working together on this issue. We have come a long way toward ending negative stigma surrounding student-athlete mental health on campus.
I also really enjoy traveling with our teams when I am able. When you’re on the road, you see a different side of the student-athletes. It’s not just game mode. You see a lot of professionalism in the way they carry themselves and the way they represent our university off the field/court/track. It makes me feel like a proud mom.
What are you missing the most right now being away from campus?
The students. All of them. I miss the interactions. I miss giving and getting hugs every day when I’m walking around campus. People all over campus know that when they see me, chances are pretty high there is going to be a hug involved, especially my student-athletes. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to do that again because of COVID-19. I hope so, though. It’s “Smitty.”
You’re known for having your camera attached to your hip. How did you get started in photography?
I worked in television news for nine years right after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. I was an award-winning videographer and sports anchor/reporter. I never tried my hand at still photography, but I always wanted to learn. I just never had time — or a camera. Two years ago, I bought myself a camera and I started teaching myself. It’s a lot trickier than videography. I have to anticipate a lot more and controlling the ISO and shutter speed is always picky. I have to keep buying myself new lenses, too. I still need to learn how to do some cool post-production things in Photoshop and such. I don’t do much there. I’m not into landscapes either — only sports. I figure I’m at all the Bengals’ games anyway, so I might as well make myself useful. I’m pretty stoked that my photos are used as much as they are by people at ISU and in the community. I’m not doing it to make money. It has just become a passion of mine. My photos are getting pretty good, too! At least I think so.
You’re a three-time ISU graduate. Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate. What does it mean for you to teach at your alma mater?
It is everything! I never set out to teach, let alone teach at ISU. It just happened. As I said, my career path out of my undergrad program took me into the world of journalism. I’d still be doing that if I could. I absolutely loved every second of it. But I also knew that career path was taking me away from Idaho — and I really wanted to stay here. My husband has deep roots in Pocatello, too, so leaving was never really a thought (even though I did for a time before I got married). That’s why I did my doctoral program at ISU. I was headed for the University of Tennessee until I got engaged. I can’t express the amount of pride I have in ISU though. It’s deep. And being able to create a career here — one that will probably take me to retirement — is pretty special for me.
You’re passionate about academics and athletics. Have you always been into sports?
Oh yeah. I was a competitive swimmer growing up. I was super serious about that sport — and I still am. When I got to high school, I really wanted to venture out and try new sports. The basketball coach at my high school (who is now coincidentally the associate head women’s’ basketball coach at Montana State!) was also my PE teacher. She told me since I was tall, I should try basketball. She convinced me to try track and volleyball too. I wasn’t very good at either of those. I ended up quitting swimming end of my sophomore year in high school and just focusing on school sports. Swimming would have certainly given me a lot of college options, but I liked the team aspects of basketball. I ended up playing in college at the College of Southern Idaho. I really grew as a person there. I was the student body president, and I really found a passion for the academic side of college and for my capacity to be a leader.
Where did the name “Smitty” come from?
My maiden name is Smith.
Talk about how the Idaho State team liaison program you created for the Big Sky basketball tournaments and how you implemented that into your classrooms as a part of the curriculum.
As a FAR, I am privy to a lot of what happens in the Big Sky Conference. I’m not directly involved in everything, but I definitely pay attention to things. When the basketball tournament moved to Boise, I thought it would present a wonderful opportunity for my sport management majors to get involved. I reached out to the Big Sky’s championship director and he was really receptive to the suggestion and we ran with it. I had 13 students help off and on throughout the week during the first year in Boise (2019) and I had 25 students there the entire week (well…for as long as it lasted… ugh) this year. I also recruited a few kids that majored in business or communications this year, too! My sports management students learn about the logistical management of sporting events, so the tournament is a perfect opportunity for them to apply the things we teach them to a practical setting. I’m big on applied learning and project-based learning, and my students have put on a really big (400 participants) spring triathlon for the past 11 years. Now that we have the tournament, we probably won’t do the triathlon again. My students absolutely love the experience, and they get to network with some really important people in the regional sports world. They meet and work alongside head coaches, athletic directors and of course conference administrators. That’s a pretty big deal for a group of kids hoping to be in those shoes someday!