College Athletics Career Track

Your progression in a college athletics career can take as many routes as the job types, and more.

Coaching at a Collegiate Level takes a Significant Amount of Time to Build Up

The types of jobs vary so much, from working with the players in sports as a coach, to helping the entire student body in recreational activities; from academics as a physical education teacher to the business of athletic department public relations; from maintaining the stadium to practicing medicine as a personal trainer. And even if we look at just one career goal, Head Coach, your own career ladder depends on the rungs you find and choose. These are some of the possibilities:

  • College Athlete-Graduate
  • High School Coach
  • College Assistant Coach
  • College Coach
  • Head Coach
  • Head Coach at a larger or more prestigious college

A lot depends on how much drive and determination you have to succeed and to move up.

In both the academic and the sports world, competition is stiff. In combination, the inherent competitive nature of athletics and the inherent fiscal difficulties of most schools are tough. You just need to be tough enough to get where you want to be.


Above all, make sure your dealings with all people and within your resume are honest. You’ll never have to worry that you will embarrass yourself, your school or the institution of college athletics. And in the long run, it will make all the difference personally to you. Along with your resume, you will need references. This is as much a part of “networking” as meeting new people. Be sure you keep in touch with your references, and never let them be caught off-guard when somebody calls to ask about you.

Dr. Reginald Overton, Assistant Athletic Director at Virginia State University, advises, “Remember that the interview process is an information gathering device. . . a two-way street.”

Moving up or moving on, there are lots of places to go hunting for that next position:

Classified Ads

“Read between the lines,” as an article in the May-June 2006 issue of Coach and Athletic Director suggests, and investigate any appealing possibilities.

College Placement Offices

Check everywhere at your school (placement, counseling, athletic department) as a student, graduate, teacher, coach, alumni – or as a visitor to all the campuses in the area.


Sports Agents, employment agencies and specialized headhunters looking for teachers, coaches and others in the field may charge you fees, but they may also want you as a long-term client.

Academic and Athletics Periodicals

On the academic side, check out Chronicle of Higher Education; for sports, NCAA News, Athletic Business and Coach and Athletic Director.


If you are sincere, and keep in touch with others and do things for others – not for yourself, but for them – you are helping yourself in the long run. Take the advice of Charles Ambrose, President of Pfeiffer University and NCAA Executive: “Volunteer at local schools.”

Everything from shaking a proud parent’s hand to winning a big intercollegiate game on national TV is a part of your college athletics career.

Here’s an interesting career track to follow. Fred Honebein was a rower at Orange Coast College and at UC-Berkeley. Then he won the 1994 World Championship and finished fifth in the 1996 Olympics. In 1997, he went back to the University of California to coach the women’s novice rowing team. From there, he went to a position as Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator for the men’s rowing team at the University of Washington for six years. Next, he was Head Coach at Oregon State for two years.

After a long search, the University of Pennsylvania recruited Coach Honebein to become their Heavyweight Rowing Coach in July, 2006. He replaced Stan Bergman, who’d been the Coach there for 22 years. Bergman moved up to Director of Rowing Affairs. Steve Bilsky, Penn Athletic Director, says, “More than anything else, we were looking for someone with distinct leadership qualities, who would motivate our rowers both as students and athletes.” Sounds like the definition of, “Coach!”

Your career track will take you just where you want to go, if you’re in control. You can go just as far as you want, whether to a comfy spot at the local college or the top spot at a major university. Robert Hemenway, Chancellor of the University of Kansas, told The Chronicle of Higher Education in April, 2006, “You need to be involved in intercollegiate athletics” to be in his kind of position.

Robert Khayat played football and baseball on a scholarship at the University of Mississippi before his career as a pro football player. Now he’s Chancellor of Ole Miss, working for the welfare of athletes on the Presidential Task Force On The Future of Division I Athletics. Sidney McPhee was an Oklahoma State Advisor for first-year athletes in the 1980s; now he’s the President at Middle Tennessee State. Sam Case, high school and college wrestler, was the Wrestling Coach at Western Maryland College before he became Provost and Dean of the Faculty. “Coaching is the best training for what I do now,” says this member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Inducted alongside Cal Ripken Jr into the Little League Hall of Fame in 1996, Robert Sloan was a Coach after he was disqualified by his age (16) from playing. He’s the President of Baylor University now, and he sees the two institutions the same way: “It’s about the development of the total person.”

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