Ed. Note: Torchbearers is a College AD series profiling female leaders in college athletics. Torchbearers is presented by SM2. SM2 is committed to positively impacting the culture of social networking users in athletics, SM2 provides the only foundational education programs customized for global sports brands.
Gretchen Bouton joined the TCU staff in 2014, where she serves as the Horn Frogs Sr. Associate AD Student Services. Bouton came to TCU after serving as Associate AD for Compliance at the University of Arizona. While speaking with College AD, Bouton hit on how important it can be for young professionals to build their resumes by volunteering.
On Her Journey
“Some of the stories that I think about are more of the dramatic stories, but it is really fun to watch a student athlete who…when I started, I worked in eligibility….and sometimes it was emotional to get the transcripts ready for the kids. Some of them have been to eight high schools, and to hear the stories behind when you do waivers, like why they have moved so much, or what is going on in their families, or some of the international student-athletes and their life experiences. It’s fascinating to see all of these people with different stories kind of come together into our athletic family. A lot of times these are the kids that would not be in college if it was not for athletics; there’s just no way. It is really fun to work with the NCAA to get them eligible, and to give them the chance. I would say that 7 out of 10 times, there’s a reason why you had to get them eligible, and a lot of times, they end up not being successful, but when you see those three kids make it, and you know that they graduated, and then they go back to wherever they’re from, you know that you might’ve helped those three people, but on the back end, you are helping so many more people. It is just really cool to see them evolve.”
Bouton continues, “When I was a student-athlete, I had no plans to go into college athletics, and my undergraduate degree is leaning more towards doing something with medicine, maybe going to med school. What changed my path was the Title IX lawsuit against the school I went to. That really opened my eyes to….I mean this was in the 90’s…I had no idea what Title IX was…I went the library to look up Title IX. I went through the ropes realizing that there was this whole legal aspect to college athletics, and it really changed my path. I started to get interested in college athletics, and fighting for the rights of student-athletes. I wanted to make everyone have a good experience, and to try to start to impact the industry so that voice is heard, and that is how it all started.”
On Career Challenges
“One professional challenge I faced was working in a situation where I couldn’t move up and couldn’t figure out how to advance myself at the university I was at, yet I couldn’t leave. And women sometimes…the saying that women are hard to move because a lot of times women have families and get married and follow their husband’s careers. I know that sounds really… it’s really just what it is, and it is just what I hear. One of the challenges that I’ve faced was when I was married and worked at the University of Arizona, and couldn’t leave Arizona because my spouse also worked in athletics at the same university. So one of the challenges I faced was knowing that I couldn’t advance myself unless my boss left or retired. I couldn’t advance on paper
“So how I overcame that was that I went to [Kathleen “Rocky”] Larose and asked, ‘What do you hate doing every day that you could give to me? What are some of the things that I can take off of your plate?’ It was really cool because she would give me things, and they weren’t fun, but they were important things. I ended up learning a lot, and she trusted me. What ended up happening was, once I started doing things with Rocky, she’d include me in more stuff, and I ended up being sort of a utility player. My position still read on paper close to the lowest position in the compliance office that you could be, but I was doing things that weren’t that level. I think that you just have to overcome your ego of what your title is and what your salary is.”
On The Mentors Who’ve Guided Her
“I got to Washington State, and absolutely loved working in compliance there. I would say at that time, I found my first mentor, Marcia Saneholtz. She was the senior women’s administrator, and she had a very strong voice across the nation. I absolutely loved my time with her.
“I think mentors have to be generous, and another huge mentor is Chris Del Conte, who I now work with at TCU. We worked together at Arizona from 2003-06. He was awesome. He was in external and I was in compliance; we had nothing in common. He would sit down in my office and tell me things that were going on in external, and I didn’t really understand anything. He really took the time to explain things to me and give me an off-the-wall perspective. He is a very off-the-wall kind of guy.”
On Advice For Aspiring Professionals
“Don’t be afraid to volunteer or to put yourself out there to take on different responsibilities or volunteer for different experiences. For instance, if you’re not an event manager and your university is going to host a regional or a super regional, volunteer to help out with that because they will need more hands during one of those events. It gets you into a different area and shows that you’re committed to what you’re doing and the profession. Try and go to as many sporting events as possible. Don’t just go, to say, football, basketball, baseball, or whatever sport interests you.“
“When I was at Mississippi State, there was no GA position available, so I lowered the pay for grad school and volunteered my 40 plus hours a week working in their compliance office. And you know how it is, no one in college athletics will advance if you don’t have the experience. If you can’t get that experience through a GA position, you are going to have to volunteer to get that experience. It is so diluted at the bottom because everyone wants to get their foot in the door. If you don’t have experience, I wouldn’t even look at you, I would take the person with NCAA experience all day long.”
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