Newfound Passions to Newfound Careers, the Journey of Matt Jacobs

By: Amari Dryden, @Amari_Dryden

Matt Jacobs, Associate Athletic Director for Butler Community College

Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Matt Jacobs, the Associate Athletic Director for Butler Community College in Kansas. Matt worked in the newspaper industry for a couple years before finding his passion for marketing. He was able to combine his passion for marketing and his passion for sports to become the first assistant athletic director at Butler. He was gracious enough to offer up his wisdom on what it is like to work in a community college’s athletic department and how you are always doing something that isn’t necessarily in your job description.

What has your journey been like going from your collegiate careers at Kansas State and Friends Universities to now being the Associate Athletic Director for Butler Community College?

“When I started, I wanted to be in the newspaper industry so I went to school to get a degree in print journalism; I then started working for the Manhattan Mercury writing sports. It was a fun job getting to cover high school sports and Kansas State sports. I was the beat writer for Kansas State baseball the year they didn’t have a home field (1999). They were getting their new stadium built so they had to play all of their conference home games on the road. We played games in St. Joe, Missouri and Wichita, Salina and Hutchinson, Kansas.”

“I left the Manhattan newspaper to come back to my hometown of El Dorado and I was the sports editor at the El Dorado Times for one year. Then I became the managing editor after one year and did that for about three years. I got a chance to work for the collegiate marketing department at Butler, not in athletics but for the entire college. It was the first time I’d ever thought about working in marketing and thought I would love to get a degree in marketing and see where that takes me. That’s when I went to Friends University and did night school.”

“I’d go work all day in the marketing department and then go to school at Friends in the evenings. I learned a lot there about marketing which made me realize I missed sports. I thought wouldn’t it be great if there was a job that combined my newfound love of marketing and public relations with my longstanding love for sports.”

“About the time I was starting to figure that out about myself, the college was realizing it needed to add another administrative position in the athletic department. This position would do marketing, media relations, compliance and some of those other things the athletic director was having to do that was keeping him from doing his own job. They started looking at how they could create the funding for the position and how the position would be structured.”

“In the meantime, working in the marketing and PR office, I had taken on more and more things athletic. If there was anything athletics needed done on a marketing or PR standpoint, I always volunteered just because I love the athletic side of things so much. When the position finally became available, it seemed to be a pretty natural fit for me to apply. I did and I got the job. I felt very privileged to be the first assistant AD at Butler.”

As the Associate Athletic Director for a community college, what does your job entail?

“My job has evolved over the years. At first, it was about media relations and overseeing the department budget and a little bit of compliance. Over time I’ve been able to hand off some of the budgetary stuff and day-to-day operations to other people. I’ve been able to find help with some of the media relations tasks. I’ve been able to hire a part-time photographer who also has skills in writing and web development.”

“In turn, it’s freed me up to do more work with compliance and we’re doing way more with ticketing than we have in the past. We built a brand new football stadium in 2012. Once we built it, it came with a digital 24 by 42 foot HD video board so I’ve been learning how to run that and put content on it. In the fall, it certainly takes up a lot of my time. We’re also streaming our live events so I’ve learned how to get those events online and all the technology that goes into that. Broadcasting games online is one of the things I love to do the most. I do the play-by-play for sports such as soccer and softball and color commentary for football and basketball.”

“The job has changed a lot in the past nine years I’ve been here but it’s just doing whatever I can do to help our coaches win. That’s what I ask myself when I come to work every morning: “What can I do to help our teams, coaches and student-athletes be successful?”

What inspired you to work in the sports business profession?

“I’m not really sure what led me to working in sports. I loved to play sports even though none of my other siblings gravitated toward sports. My dad and I shared that. He ran his own business and I would go and beg him to come outside and hit me fly balls and he would say he had too much work to do but I kept pestering him so he’d eventually agree. I played sports growing up all the way into high school.”

“I got to college and had a scholarship to be on the student newspaper staff so I decided to do that instead of walking on to play baseball. When you leave the field, there’s always a winner and a loser on the scoreboard. That was always one of the things I thought about when I was covering news and politics. There’s a lot of competition going on in politics but it wasn’t always easy to see who was the winner or loser at the end of the day. That’s something I missed and one of the reasons why I wanted to get back into sports.”

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

“I love doing the play-by-play broadcast. I love getting to interact with our student-athletes and that’s one of the things about being at a two-year level school. I know people who work at the bigger four-year schools and I don’t know that they get the same interactions I get with student-athletes at this level. I like the fact that we’re a very successful program here across the board. Our football is well known. They’ve won six NJCAA championships since 1981. That’s probably our best known sport but we’ve had considerable success in every sport especially since I’ve been here. That’s always very gratifying to see as well. It’s a lot more fun to write a game story when your team’s winning as opposed to losing.”

How have your experiences in journalism helped you in your job today?

“I still write a lot for our website and feature stories about a football player in every issue of our game day magazine. We also do a Q&A session for game day in all of our other sports such as soccer, softball and basketball. The one thing I’ve taken from my journalism career is the ability to investigate, and by that I mean if there’s a problem or something we need a solution to, one of those skillsets I’ve acquired over time is the ability to keep asking the right questions. It’s not only helped me in troubleshooting issues but negotiating contracts and things of that nature. It’s helped me understand what the real situation is rather than just what people will tell you.”

“Tenacity goes along with that. In the newspaper industry if you’re going to be timid and passive, you’re just going to get run over and you’ll never get the story or scoop which is the same in athletics. If you’re not willing to go after it and do what it takes, then things are going to pass you by as well. Those are some of the good things I took out of my journalism career that have certainly helped me in athletics.”

When working in the athletic department at a community college, what can or should someone expect?

“We are not going to have the kind of money to do a lot of the things Division I schools do. There are a lot of perks that come with the money of Division I that we just don’t have here. One of the most important things to us here at Butler from the athletic director down to the coaches is what can we do to help our student-athletes have a great college experience.”

“We’re not going to fly them all around the country but when it comes to educating, taking care of them in the training room, or making sure they have access to tutors, those are the kinds of things we focus on. Our student-athletes have a great experience when they come to Butler.”

“One of the things I love hearing is when kids are ready to transfer on and they say I wish Butler was a four year school so I could spend four or five years here. That tells me that we’re doing a good job of making them feel wanted, respected and that they are truly student-athletes.”

What are some challenges you face in your job?

“Resources are one of those challenges. There are a lot of things we would love to do with our teams. I try to think of our department as a small division I because that’s how we want to operate our athletic department. Sometimes moneywise we just can’t do that. There are all kinds of things I would love to do like put a video board in our baseball stadium or build a big enough indoor complex for our football team so we can have an entire football practice field instead of half of one. We just don’t have the chance to do it financially. We do have some incredible donors who are behind us. There’s a lot of great things we’ve done but there’s always more you want to do.”

Parting wisdom?

“Don’t be afraid of long hours. Understand that this is a career field that a lot of people want to get into. You have to do something to stand out and hard work is part of that.

With that said, you can’t work all the time. I could be here until one or two in the morning every night of the week if I wanted to but you still have to be good to your family and get away and recharge. Be willing to work hard but also have balance.”

“The other thing I would say is to never stop learning. I jump at the chance to learn new things, like the online ticketing system or how to run the video board. Sometimes it is very challenging and pushes me outsize of my comfort zone. But it makes me more versatile and makes the athletic department better at the same time.”

We would like to thank Matt for his time and insight and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors!

You can follow him on Twitter here, or connect with him on LinkedIn here!