So You Wanna Work in College Athletics…

By: James Gibson, @icacgibson

After working in intercollegiate athletics and higher education administration for over fifteen years, I have sought out to listen to other college athletic professionals and find out their ideas for getting into the profession.  Those that already work in intercollegiate sports know of the “specialness” of getting to work in college sports.  The game days, the championship celebrations, the donor events, the free shoes (yes some schools give free shoes, and maybe a t-shirt), the free tickets, the possibility of getting to interact with a famous college athlete or coach.  All these things are fun, but the question of “how do I get in the door” always gets brought up. 

In this first series of articles related to the title, I sat down and visited with some young industry professionals and picked their brains about how they think, based on their short tenure, and about how students can get into the industry.  When interviewing these young professionals representatives of three distinct areas within college sports from at an FBS institution, I quickly heard a few common themes.  However, their advice is based on their respective areas, which allows for deeper insight:  Here are my results:

Professional Name:  Mr. Eric Trimborn

Institution:  Texas A&M University-College Station

Title:  Assistant Director of Marketing

Email:  etrimborn@athletics.tamu.edu

Previous Schools:  University of North Carolina-Greensboro

Alma Mater:  University of Connecticut

Advice to students: 

  • Don’t be afraid to work for free.

  • Get any kind of experience you can from ANY area with the athletic department.

  • Network with full-time staff members.  Don’t be afraid to start a conversation.

  • Join the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA)

  • Attend the NACMA convention (they have student registration).  Get a group together to help alleviate hotel costs. 

  • Build your LinkedIn profile.  Begin creating connections and endorsements. 

  • Place your Facebook on private or content restricted assess. 

Professional Name: Mrs. Logan Kickham

Institution:  Texas A&M University/12th Man Foundation

Title:  Suites and Clubs Manager

Email:  logan@12thmanfoundation.com

Alma Mater:  Texas A&M University-College Station

Advice to students:

  • Get an internship as soon as possible, and once you get that internship, make it your top priority while maintaining your scholastic responsibilities.  Focus on the internship to get all you can get from it. 

  • Be involved on campus.  Actively search for leadership roles. 

  • Join a professional organization.  We are members of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors.  Get to know the leaders of the industry. 

  • Always use opportunities and involvement to network.  Make connections and make yourself known and don’t be afraid to let them know you are looking for opportunities.

  • Get into the organization anyway you can.  Find opportunities to work or volunteer in the area that best fits your career path and get to know those decision makers.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help in looking for job opportunities.

  • Make a difference.  Once in the organization make the place think that they wouldn’t know what to do without you being there. 

Professional Name:  Mr. John Daniel

Institution:  Texas A&M University-College Station

Title:  Assistant Financial Manager

Email:  jdaniel@athletics.tamu.edu

Previous school:  University of Maryland

Alma Mater:  Louisiana State University

Advice to students:

  • Use resources available on campus or in your locale to get into the profession. 

  • Ask to do a job shadow or volunteer.

  • Ask to meet other professionals in person to discuss opportunities…don’t just email them asking if they have opportunities.  Schedule face to face time. 

  • Attend professional organization convention.  The College Athletic Business Management Association is for the people in business and finance. 

  • Once in the organization, get out and meet others.  Don’t think that the only ones who can help you are the ones in managerial or supervisor positions. 

  • When attending other sporting events, do not be afraid to speak with staff or event workers.  Ask them what they do and how they got involved. 

  • Lastly, don’t be afraid to work for free. If that is what it takes to get your foot in the door, do it!

As you can see there are many different perspectives given from different areas.  Common themes include volunteering, working hard, joining a professional organization, getting into the organization early and getting over the apprehension to talk to people.  This is sound advice from my perspective.  My only addition to the themes is to keep your eyes on the goal.  I have followed this my entire career and it has never led me down the wrong path.  Sure there might have been some rocky paths, but those paths have always led to something sweeter. 

Go forth and be productive!

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