There’s no one path to become an athletics director, but the most well traveled roads are — or are at least becoming — through fundraising and the business world. It takes more than just raising and handling money to run an athletics department, but that’s undeniably a huge part of the job, so it’s understandable why college presidents lean toward the bean counters and the bean collectors.
But Matt Doyle makes a strong argument why DFOs should be considered for open athletics director positions — or at least jobs in the AD’s senior leadership team. A veteran of 18 years, five head coaches and six athletics directors at Stanford, Doyle started as the Cardinal’s DFO and now carries the title of senior athletics director of football operations and player programs. In an interview with D1 Ticker’s 1.Question, Doyle said that the years on the job have implanted upon him the necessary skills to manage more than just the football program’s logistics, but all the tentacles within the entire athletics department and the people within them.
“I think it’s a natural connection,” Doyle said. “In football operations you deal with so many different areas, so many different personalities, so many departments, from both the athletic department, across campus and in the community. So it’s really important you have a pretty good understanding of all those areas — whether it’s facilities, compliance, fundraising, alumni relations, certainly the external groups like marketing, ticket operations and now a days social media and media relations. There’s just so many different areas that you touch it’s a natural position to be in football ops and cross over to a senior associate athletic director position. It’s really critical you build great relationships with people you work with in all those departments because you do rely on them for so many things, and along the way you end up building a great skill set. I have a pretty firm grasp of what almost all these departments require, what their personalities are like and what their structure is like. It’s been a really beneficial thing for me professionally but it’s also something that’s very natural for a DFO to be involved with.”
“It’s a fairly new position, the last 20 years or so, but you’ll start to see a lot more DFOs progressing into senior positions because they have developed those skills over time.”
Doyle said that it isn’t just the operations part of the job that arms DFOs with the ability to become ADs and senior associates, but specifically the football part of the job, too.
“It’s become such a big business that the business side of college football makes it so you must be at your best and your highest when you’re dealing with a lot of these issues, and football happens to be at the forefront,” he said. “If you look at all different changes in NCAA legislation, if you look at all the facility arms races, if you look at fundraising, football’s a huge part of that. When you have someone involved in football who is at the forefront, like a DFO, it’s natural for them to be progressing toward an (AD) position. It would be a great situation someday where almost every open AD position featured at least one candidate who has some football operations experience because I think they’re in a position to deal with all of those areas — alumni relations, donor relations, scheduling, travel, compliance, facilities, sports medicine, strength and conditioning. Every area you can think of falls under the category of a football ops person.”
Listen to the full interview here.