A House Divided: Choosing A Path In Internal Or External Operations

August 2nd, 2016 | by Erick Taylor
A House Divided: Choosing A Path In Internal Or External Operations


An easy way for me to view collegiate athletics is as a household. The varying responsibilities of this household fall into the categories of external, focused on revenue generation and facilities operation, and internal operations, focused on compliance and student-athlete academic performance. The question then is, who is most qualified to run this household?  

Over the past two years I’ve spent time on the external side of the household, focusing on bringing in revenue while finding myself removed from the daily cultivation of student-athlete experience. However, I’ve been told time and time again that I’m fortunate because external operations, specifically development, is currently the “fast track” to the AD’s chair.

If both sides of the household are equally vital, why then, are academic directors not a popular pick for the Athletic Director role?

One can easily take a look at the big business side of athletics to paint a pretty picture and simple answer to this question, but beyond revenue management and public relations, what qualifies an external administrator so much more than internal directors who often stay at institutions longer between roles?

I’ve recently been offered two part-time roles on both sides of the household at Texas A&M. Through these roles, I plan to explore the motivations and differences that create limitations on the upward mobility of internal affairs careers in athletics.  As a young professional I am motivated to work in collegiate athletics based on strong ideologies and a focus on student-athlete development. My last two years in development show me the merit of indirect cultivation of the student-athlete experience through fundraising and being a spokesperson of the student-athletes to the university community. However, I don’t think anyone has the merits to champion for student-athletes in the same way as those who work with them on a daily basis.

The biggest determent to exploring a role in internal operations is the glass ceiling on that side of the household. A person can make it as high as “Senior Associate Athletic Director”, but rarely do the announcements of new athletic director hires detail an individual primarily experienced in academic affairs. The motivations of all individuals who choose to work in collegiate athletics are all different, but converge at a point of facilitating student-athlete success. If it is the case that the industry has decided that external operations are far better equipped for making decisions for the well-being of student-athletes than those who are focused on daily student-athlete development, then is the industry too admitting that athletic departments should focus more on being businesses rather than higher education institutions?  

About Erick Taylor
Erick Taylor is an aspiring college sports professional and MPSA candidate attending Texas A&M University. Originally from the Greater Atlanta area, Erick received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University, where he also served as a development intern for the Panther athletic department. A young, relatively inexperienced prospect in this industry, Erick is in search of the tools and skills required for success. By sharing his journey, he hopes to help others achieve their professional goals as well.

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