SCIAC honors Mike Sutton ’76 with Distinguished Service Award

The Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) selected Mike Sutton '76 as its 2018 Distinguished Service Award recipient. Sutton has dedicated nearly 40 years of his career to intercollegiate athletics at Claremont McKenna College, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, and within the SCIAC.

"It's an incredible affirmation to be considered worthy of the same recognition in the Distinguished Service Award that many of my mentors in the conference over the years have received," Sutton said.

When Sutton graduated from Claremont Men's College, he never expected to work for the College. He certainly didn't foresee spending the vast majority of his career at CMC as a coach and administrator for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athletics. But that's where life took him, and along the way, he had a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of Athena and Stag student-athletes, coaches, and staff members.

"I truly consider this award as a recognition of our shared successes over many years," Sutton said on April 17 when he received the award.

As a head coach, Sutton led the men's water polo team to a 178-12 SCIAC record with 15 SCIAC Championships. In swimming & diving, Sutton led the Stags to a 101-4 SCIAC dual meet record and he coached 18 NCAA D-III individual national champions, 18 SCIAC Championship teams, and 15 teams that placed in the top-10 nationally.

He served 16 seasons as the CMS Director of Athletics. During his tenure as AD, CMS won 13 overall SCIAC All-Sports Trophies. Nationally, CMS had six top-25 finishes in the NCAA D-III Directors' Cup standings, including a program-best tie for 10th place finish in 2015-16. CMS also won two NCAA D-III team national titles (men's tennis 2015 and men's golf 2016) on Sutton's watch. Aside from competitive results, Sutton took a great deal of pride in hiring, mentoring and working alongside outstanding coaches.

"Mike has had the most stunning career on any kind of equal measure," CMC President Hiram Chodosh said. He later added, "Mike, we're so proud of you and everything you've done to earn this Distinguished Service Award from the SCIAC."

Sutton's first coaching position after college was with Mt. Baldy Aquatics. He then worked at San Clemente High School for two academic years, where he served as a history teacher and the boy's water polo and swim coach. In 1979, he applied for the open aquatics head coaching position at CMC, and got the job.

"It all happened quickly and surprisingly, and I had no idea how little I actually knew," Sutton said about starting out as a coach at CMC. "Coach [Bill] Arce took a chance on me and I spent the next 37 years trying to prove that he made a good decision."

Coach Arce - the founding director of athletics at CMC and CMS - was the first recipient of the SCIAC Distinguished Service Award back in 1985. He served as a mentor for Sutton during his career in intercollegiate athletics, as did DSA recipients John Zinda, David Wells, Gary Troyer, CMC President Emerita Pamela B. Gann, and many others.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual that has been committed to intercollegiate athletics, the Division III philosophy, and providing a high-quality student-athlete experience as an administrator, coach, or long-time member of the Conference.

– Chris Watts