By: Amari Dryden, @Amari_Dryden
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Rhett Hobart, Assistant Director of Marketing at Mississippi State University. Rhett is a two-time Bulldog, completing his undergraduate and Master’s degrees at Mississippi State.
Entering college, Rhett first thought he wanted to get into politics, so he started out as a political science major. During the second semester of his freshman year, he realized it wasn’t the career path he wanted to pursue. After changing majors a couple of times, by the end of his sophomore year, he decided upon public relations. Junior year, he was elected Vice President of the student body, and then was elected Student Body President for his senior year.
“Being SA President gave me an invaluable opportunity to learn so much about how a university operates as a whole, and how the academic and athletic sides work together in cooperation to advance the University. If I was coming into college athletics blind, I don’t think I would fully understand how athletics fits into the larger picture of the entire University, and the strong impact college athletics can have on a university – like the way in which being number one in football for five straight weeks during the 2014 season affected enrollment and retention rates. You want to find ways to get students involved and engaged within the university in order to retain them, and college athletics is one great way to do that. That experience I was fortunate to have as SA President really helped me to see how all of those things fit together.”
During his time with the Student Association, he began working with members of the athletic marketing staff, and strengthened his relationships with the athletic director and other members of the athletic administration. There weren’t any full-time positions available within the athletic department after he graduated, but he knew he wanted to enter graduate school to obtain a Masters of Business Administration from Mississippi State as well, and decided to pursue that opportunity. In the summer prior to beginning graduate school, he sought out advice from the athletic director about the best way to enter the field.
“I wanted his advice on where to go in the field, how to get in the field and if he might know of any opportunities that were available. I knew that he had been through the same thing I was doing right now. He was a Mississippi State student, and could provide me great advice on starting out in the industry. The conversation led to me being able to work directly with him as a student assistant, to shadow him and learn first-hand about the industry. Some days, it meant I was helping to run mail and packages around the department, but other days I was able to go to meetings and learn first-hand from him what happens in college athletics. That was how I got my start in the industry.”
At the end of the summer, one of the graduate assistants for the marketing department backed out, and he was encouraged to take that opportunity.
“During the spring semester of my first year as a graduate assistant, our Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing left for another job, so it gave me a chance to be a lot more involved in our marketing efforts at the end of that first year. I had the chance to pick-up many of the projects he had been working on and help carry them out and begin developing plans for the fall. It really gave me a chance to gain experience that not many GA’s are able to have, just by the opportunity to step in and help where it was needed to keep things going.”
After his second year as a graduate assistant, MSU hired Rhett as their Assistant Director of Marketing and he has been in that role for the past two years.
As a part of his duties, Rhett oversees the internship program in the marketing department.
“I tell my interns all the time that a Master’s degree is so important. Nowadays, so many people have college degrees and it’s not really as strong of a differentiating factor anymore, as it used to be. Master’s degrees are now becoming that separating factor – and oftentimes, they give you the chance to be GA’s, and gain that hands-on experience in the industry.”
After earning his MBA, he decided to take advantage of his time at Mississippi State and earn a second Master’s degree in sport administration.
“It makes you a lot more valuable and qualified for any job that comes open.”
He also stressed the importance of mentors.
“Finding a mentor in the athletic industry is huge because there’s always so much to learn. You can learn a lot from the people who have been in your shoes. When you just sit and talk and ask questions about the things they have learned during their time in the industry.”
Some of Rhett’s mentors are MSU’s Athletic Director, Scott Stricklin, and Senior Associate Athletic Director, Scott Wetherbee.
Rhett’s favorite aspect of his job is that it’s ever-changing.
“Every day you come to work and you never know what that day is going to present. That’s the beauty of college athletics.”
He loves the spontaneous opportunities that come up that he gets to be a part of.
“There’s so many different sports seasons. At Mississippi State, we have sixteen sports teams so we get to put our hand in so many different things.”
Rhett plans to work his way through the industry and work at different levels of athletics.
“Becoming a director of marketing or an assistant athletic director of marketing would be a great step for me in my career. Right now, my goal is to do the best I can to promote our programs here, to seek out innovation and work to implement marketing strategies that are unique and differentiating for our department.”
A journey that has been filled with learning, he has his fair share of advice for people trying to break into collegiate athletics.
“Find a way to get your foot in the door. Be a volunteer, a runner, an intern, etc. When that opportunity comes, you have to put your all into it. It’s great to be involved, but don’t spread yourself too thin. If you put your all into it, hopefully that opportunity will become a job.”