2018 WCC HOH Inductee: Suzanne Enos, San Francisco
WCC columnist John Crumpacker profiles San Francisco's two-sport pioneer
Feb. 28, 2018
By John Crumpacker, #WCChoops Columnist
PREVIOUS WCC HALL OF HONOR PROFILES: Randy Wolf, Pepperdine | Miles Batty, BYU & Nicole Karr, Portland | Brian Quinn, Loyola Marymount | Ken Earle, Pacific | Mandy Bible, Saint Mary’s | Cameron Rast, Santa Clara
Leading up to the 2018 West Coast Conference Hall of Honor induction ceremony Saturday, March 3 at the Orleans Casino Resort, WCC Columnist John Crumpacker is profiling each inductee. Today’s profile focuses former San Francisco basketball and volleyball trail blazer Suzanne Enos.
As a note of warning, there’s an “aww’’ story ahead. Reduce speed and proceed with caution.
In the fall of her freshman year at San Francisco in 1976-77, Suzanne Enos found herself at what would become a familiar location – the basketball court at Memorial Gym. She had the distinction of being the first female to be awarded an athletic scholarship in USF history in what were in the nascent days of women’s college sports at the Hilltop.
On the court that day, shooting hoops with some other guys, John O’Meara was challenged to a game of two-on-two and, chest out in the manner of young males everywhere, announced, “And I’ll take this girl here,’’ and the game was on.
When it was over, John and Sue had won. They started dating soon after that transformative game and were married a year out of college, and are married still, the parents of two adult sons.
“We’ve been partners ever since,’’ she said.
With her pioneering status as the first female scholarship athlete in USF history, Suzanne O’Meara will be inducted into the West Coast Conference’s Hall of Honor Class of 2018 on March 3 in conjunction with the WCC Basketball Tournament at the Orleans in Las Vegas. With her on that day will be husband John, who transitioned from a career in advertising some years ago into a professorship in USF’s School of Management (otherwise known as business school), and their sons Douglas and Mark and Douglas’ wife Alex.
When she was informed about going into the Hall of Honor, O’Meara said, “I was blown away. Scott Sidwell, the athletic director at USF, was calling me. That was the last thing I was thinking about. It was shocking. That was a nice phone call, nothing that was on my radar. I was inducted into USF’s Hall of Fame in 2016. I thought that was the pinnacle.’’
From her freshman year of ’76-77 to today, O’Meara has seen the arc of women’s college sports go from humble start-up to full participation across a range of sports at most universities. When she enrolled at USF, the school offered only four sports for women—basketball, volleyball, softball and tennis – and for her first two years on the Hilltop, women athletes were required to play two sports.
Fortunately for O’Meara, she played and enjoyed volleyball at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Rafael, so she became a two-sport Don. She ended up playing three seasons of basketball as a freshman, sophomore and junior, and three seasons of volleyball as a freshman, sophomore and senior.
“That was OK with me back then because I loved both,’’ she said. “By the time I was a junior we were able to pick one. It was evolving so fast. It’s so gratifying to see the progress (in women’s college sports) and how it’s changed. Back then, it was fun. It was the beginning, people were excited. We shared facilities with the men. We shared trainers. We got our ankles taped alongside Bill Cartwright and Winfred Boynes. That was cool. It amazes me.’’
As to her status as the first female scholarship athlete at USF, O’Meara said, “I’m very humble about it. There were a lot of female athletes at the time who didn’t have the opportunity. For some reason the stars were aligned, and they offered me a scholarship. It changed my life. I was raised by a single mom and without a scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to attend college. I’m very grateful. It was a big opportunity for me, one I still appreciate to this day.’’
Not only was O’Meara the first female scholarship athlete in USF history, she was part of the first women’s basketball team at the school. In those comparatively ancient days, USF women’s teams competed in the Northern California Athletic Conference, the Northern Pacific Conference, the West Coast Athletic Conference and finally the WCC.
“There was a whole progression,’’ she said.
On the basketball court as a 5-foot-11 forward (“Now I could barely be a guard’’), O’Meara was named team MVP as a freshman and hit a high-water mark of 35 points against Chabot College on Jan. 11, 1977.
A couple of years earlier, O’Meara had a brush with the big time when as a high school sophomore, her coach at Drake took her to a regional tryout competition in Sacramento as part of the overall winnowing process to select the 1976 women’s Olympic basketball team. She was just 15 at the time, in awe of such players as UCLA’s Ann Meyers.
“That was really exciting,’’ O’Meara said. “That was a scary experience. It was an eye-opening experience. I was cut in the first round. It made me determined to play in college.’’
After graduating from USF in 1980, O’Meara moved on to a 12-month masters program at Stanford, where she received her graduate degree and a teaching credential in the school’s Stanford Teaching Education Program.
That launched a long career in Marin County as a teacher, coach and administrator for O’Meara, a career that continues today as she recently transitioned into teaching physical education at Mill Valley Middle School.
“I’ve been in a number of different positions,’’ she said. “I’m back in the classroom teaching physical education and I’m loving it.’’
O’Meara and her husband, partners still, moved last May from Mill Valley to Petaluma in Sonoma County, not long before a rash of wildfires set parts of the county ablaze. Their house escaped damage.
“Of course, the smoke was horrible,’’ she said. “Thankfully, we were not affected.’’
Through the haze of time, O’Meara realizes her life changed for the better when she was awarded an athletic scholarship and found herself on the court at Memorial Gym on that day more than 40 years ago, looking for a game of two-on-two.
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards. Crumpacker has been covering #WCChoops since the 2014-15 season.