From the Outside Looking in: Unpaid Internships in College Athletics

Is Duke reaching or is this just another way for one to get their foot in the door?

Screenshot taken from https://twitter.com/Deadspin

On Tuesday, May 16, 2017, Deadspin published an article titled ‘Duke Athletics Graciously Offers Full-Time Job That Will Pay Exactly Nothing,’ publicly bashing Duke for having a position that sounds like a tremendous opportunity. The Athletic Facilities, Game Operations and Championships Assistant will act as the primary game day manager (or secondary manager) for sports.

The job responsibilities include coordinating and carrying-out communication between visiting teams and officials through the creation of guides for assigned sports, scheduling the usage of athletics facilities through Virtual Event Management Systems Software and assisting in athletic events that take place on Duke University’s campus.

According to Arin Segal’s article ‘Opening a Conversation: Should All Internships Be Paid?,’ “All of these arguments for ‘paying your dues’ are valid and in an industry where everyone wants to get in some have found that credit-only internships weed out those who lack ambition. Look around your classes and remember that thousands of other students are trying to break into the same industry and grab those same internships.”


Similar to the sentiments Segal shared about her experience pertaining to paid versus unpaid internships, I have my own experience that encompasses all sides of it.

I was a Division I track and field student-athlete at a Group of Five school. It took until my third year in college to realize what I wanted to do with my life. I credit the NCAA Career in Sports Forum that I attended in 2012. One of the most important pieces that I took from that forum was to go get your dream. However, they made sure to remind us that there are thousands more who have the same dream. They wanted us to look deep within ourselves and ask what we would do to get the job that we want.

I still have the binder they gave us, the notes that I took and business cards of those I networked with. I went home that summer and created a plan with the advice that we were given from the forum.

When I returned to school that year, I started with an internship in the compliance department. Over the next two years, I interned with the associate AD, in strength and conditioning, facilities and ops and sports info. Simultaneously, I was competing full-time on my Division I track and field team, chairing my schools and conferences Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, coaching on the side and had a full course load.

I would leave my apartment at 8:30 a.m. and return home between 7–8 p.m. each day, while competing on the weekends.

The reason that I’m telling you about my experience is because I want you to understand that if you want to set yourself apart, you have to do things that others will not.

Contrary to what Deadspin said, the opportunity that Duke University has presented for a lucky individual will set them apart in the next step of their college athletics journey. I can guarantee that by this point, there are probably more than 100 individuals that have applied to that position and will have a side job to make ends meet. Those applicants understand that the grind and pressure of the job will result in diamonds later on in their life.


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