How to become an athletics director - Part 11 - Your network

     Who you know can be just as important as what you know.  Great ideas spread through social interaction. Reputations spread in a similar manner - built and torn down one interaction at a time. Representing yourself in an authentic but positive way - being your own brand - is important.  People who can guide your decision making when pursuing an AD position or can help provide entry to a search is important.  Who are those people?   

1)  Directors of Athletics - This is a crucial network and an exclusive club.  If you want to be a Division I AD, you are seeking one of approximately 350 jobs nationally.  It’s a very selective profession.  There is a huge supply of candidates with an exceedingly small number of openings each year.  AD's can provide tremendous guidance about the challenges of the position and are dialed into a high level of dialogue about the business of college athletics.  Make sure the relationship mutually beneficial.  Learn about them and try to make their world better.  Their time is valuable, but most will invest in those individuals where they see promise, and in those who make the relationship beneficial for both.

2)    Coaches – They move, A LOT!  Assistant coaches in particular are very mobile.  It’s not all about football and basketball, although it may seem that way.  Many search committees will have coaches from various sports and they can provide valuable entry to a search if they are on a committee.  Further, make sure coaches view you as a great resource at your current institution.  Be helpful.  Provide great service and counsel.  Doing a great job now, for all coaches, both head and assistant, benefits everyone and perhaps helps you down the road. 

3)    Your president – Presidents are very intelligent, hardworking and their time is extremely valuable.  If you are an asset to them, they’ll appreciate it.  When you reach the stage of pursuing an AD job, presidents like talking to other presidents when seeking references.  They have tough jobs and tremendous pressure.  Hiring an AD is not something they can afford to miss on because a mismanaged athletic program can derail a presidency very quickly.  A reference from a presidential peer goes a long way. 

4)    Conference personnel – Conference commissioners and their associates are very well connected nationally by the nature of their jobs and you want to make sure you are someone that brings value to them, is responsive, and contributes to the greater good of the conference.  We are in a competitive business.  Being likable is important, but being respected is even more so.  This can be particularly true at the conference level.  

I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled "Moving from the business office to the athletic director's chair." Since that talk a number of people have asked me for a copy of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.