“Keep one foot in the door.” That was the advice given to me by Jon LeCrone, Commissioner of the Horizon League, when I was leaving my job of over 12 years under his leadership. Conference office life was all I had known. I had loved my time there and venturing onto a new path as the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for the Fiesta Bowl was, admittedly, a little scary for me. While it was still going to be law and sports, I knew the world was going to be very different from the one in which I had grown comfortable, and I was a little worried about the transition. What if I hated it? What if they hated me? What if I wanted to go back to conference or campus life, but I had been away too long?
Jon reassured me that my skills were transferable, that a board was a board, and that the things I had learned—like the importance of building relationships, doing the job and doing it well, keeping the organizational mission and vision at the forefront, and that the process is often as important as the outcome—are all things I would need to practice at the Bowl in order to be successful. And perhaps most importantly, he pointed out that it would be my responsibility to stay in touch with my network. I had to put in the time and the effort to maintain these connections.
It turned out that I loved the new path. Phoenix was where I wanted to live, the work was fulfilling, and I made great new friends and colleagues. I made sure not to lose touch with the world of intercollegiate athletics. I went to the Final Four each year. I visited Indianapolis every summer and scheduled a group lunch with all my people; a tradition I keep to this day. I called, texted, and emailed my colleagues, and I stayed current on changes in the industry. I was the one who had moved—not them—so it was critical for me to reach out and stay involved. They still saw each other regularly at meetings, conferences, and events, most of which I wasn’t attending. I had to—and wanted to—work hard to stay in the loop.
Fast forward a couple of years to when the Bowl decided that because they were off probation, they didn’t really need a General Counsel anymore. Luckily, I had done things while working there to lay the groundwork for another transition, serving as the Chief Operating Officer of the 2016 Arizona College Football Playoff National Championship. This led to my next role as CEO for the 2017 Phoenix Final Four. Those positions were possible for me, in part, because I had maintained my relationships in college athletics.
My most recent career transition has been to the world of Academics—an equally daunting transition. When considering the move, I focused on what I really liked about my prior positions. I remembered how much I enjoyed working with our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at the Horizon League, and also how much personal gratification I received when someone who worked for me (at the league, the Bowl, or either of the Local Organizing Committees found a new position that was a step forward in their career. I realized that this gratification was something I could accomplish through teaching. Sharing my practical knowledge with students, helping them create their own career paths, and seeing them succeed gives me a new sense of fulfillment. I continue to stay involved with college athletics as a consultant. I contributed to Arizona’s successful 2024 Final Four bid, and now with future hosting aspects. I work with our sports commission to bring great events to Arizona and I work to find new clients that I can help serve. I still go to the Final Four every year, and have added trips to the Learfield/SBJ Intercollegiate Athletics Forum and the CFP National Championship. So now, in addition to keeping in touch with colleagues from the Horizon League, various schools, conferences, and the NCAA, I’ve added contacts from the Fiesta Bowl, other Bowl organizations, CFP staff, and Final Four and CFP host city leadership to my list! The people are what matter, and I have been lucky to meet so many interesting and amazing men and women.
Career transitions can be scary. But they can be a lot easier when you remember to keep one foot—especially when wearing a really great shoe—inside the door!