MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- Michael L. Covone sat in his office preparing to take a phone call.
"I'm not the most important person," Barry University's Director of Athletics said.
Always one to deflect credit away from himself to others, Covone has done so much for Buccaneer athletics over the 30-year history of the program. From his soccer coaching days, where championships became his middle name, to his seat in an executive chair in the School of Human Performance and Leisure Science building office, Covone has been with Barry through it all.
Following a professional soccer career as a player in the Major Indoor Soccer League in Phoenix and St. Louis, Covone began his career at Barry as the women's soccer coach. coaching the Buccaneers to a 140-32-9 record and three NCAA Division II National Championships in 11 seasons. His 1989 team became the first team to win a national title in any sport at the Miami Shores school that began as a college for women. The Bucs beat Keene State, 4-0, to win the school's first title. Covone's team won 18 straight games that season, and he earned National Coach of the Year honors.
"It was an extremely exciting time," Covone said in an interview earlier this year as Barry began to celebrate its 30-year anniversary of intercollegiate athletics. "We beat Keene State, 4-0, at home with a very dedicated and experienced group of women that were committed beyond any coach's expectations."
Covone's teams also won the 1992-93 titles, becoming the first and only back-to-back champ in any sport at Barry. The Buccaneers beat Adelphi, 3-2, in 1992. It was made up of a group of seniors who helped the Bucs win the first national title three years earlier. In 1993, Barry shut out Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo, 2-0, to complete a season in which they won 15 straight games.
"Many of the freshmen who won in 1989, won again in 1992 as seniors," Covone said in that Q & A with Barry Magazine. "It was a special time for those student-athletes since we lost in the NCAA Finals in 1990 and 1991. In, 1993, the team was primarily composed of freshmen who played their hearts out. They were extremely talented, and had a lot of fun."
Covone was also named National Coach of the Year in 1991, and he coached 15 National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Americans, two National Players of the Year in Kyllene Carter-Weiss and Heather Jaeger and nine Scholar All-Americans.
From 1985-91, he was the United States Olympic Development South Region women's soccer coach, and was a member of the United States Youth Soccer Association national staff from 1984-93.
In 1998, Covone was vaulted from associate athletic director to Director of Athletics. In the early stages, he helped develop the academic guidelines for Barry University's student-athletes with former athletic director Ed Coletti and Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. Eileen McDonough. Since that time, he's seen 299 student-athletes receive Scholar All-Americans at the school. He's watched 261 earn All-American honors on the playing surface. The Buccaneers have won 52 Sunshine State Conference titles. In 1997, he was inducted into the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame as a pioneer for women's soccer growth.
After giving up his whistle for a seat behind the desk to scan emails on his computer screen and phone 24-7 -- and then delegate to his staff -- Covone had to adjust to his role away from coaching.
"The major difference I experienced came in recruiting, teaching and coaching students as opposed to hiring and managing personnel," he told the school's magazine. "It was rewarding in both cases and full of opportunities. I do miss the big games though."
When Covone transitioned into an administrative role, he also took on national responsibilities. He served on the NCAA Management Council from 2002-08, flying back and forth for meetings to the national headquarters in Indianapolis.
"I did that for six years," Covone said in a June trip to Indy to watch Barry's No. 1-ranked rowing crew compete at the NCAA Championships. "Can you believe that?"
Believe it, Covone has done a lot. He was Vice Chair/Chair of the Championship Committee from 2006-08. He also served on the NCAA Budget and Finance Committee, NCAA Championship/Eligibility Project Committee, NCAA Community Advisory Task Force, NCAA Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct Committee and the NCAA Women's Soccer Committee.
He has also served on the Orange Bowl Committee, which helped bring the top NCAA football teams to Barry University to practice. National and FIFA soccer teams have also trained at Barry during Covone's reign.
In 1997-98, Covone's last year as executive associate director of athletics, Barry finished third in the Sears Director's Cup -- awarded for all sports in Division II. Barry was the No. 1 private institution in the all-sports standings. Last year, Barry finished 13th in the Learfield Directors Cup standings, becoming the top spring sports institution in the country.
"Seeing our student-athletes graduate is always rewarding," Covone told Barry Magazine. "Watching our students and coaches experience the feeling of winning conference and national championships is gratifying as well."
Covone has experienced a lot of success at Barry, and his teams and programs have as well. Now as he continues on in his fourth decade with the school the challenges lie in other forms.
"Keeping up with ever-changing technology and facility needs will be critical to our future success," Covone said in the Q & A session. "We have come a long way, but we also have a long way to go. We live in a new generation which is exciting and sometimes challenging, but full of possibilities."
It is quite possible that Covone will witness national success at Barry again.