MAC Alum Kyle Rae ’11 Combines His Passion for Sports and Accounting in Dream Career
In another life, Kyle Rae (MAC ‘11) could have been a dentist. Instead, he studied accounting, and accounting paved the path to a dream career as an athletics director.
The journey to his current role as an associate athletic director of finance at Towson University began at Furman University, where he recognized that an accounting degree would afford him a rare degree of flexibility and freedom to shape his career trajectory. “I immediately liked the fact that accounting is a numbers game with concrete answers,” he remembers. “But what I was surprised to find was that it feels like investigative work. You can’t just arrive at an answer. You have to know how you arrived there and how your conclusion fits within the bigger picture. That process intrigued me.”
The Wilmington native was thrilled to discover the Jenkins Master of Accounting fellowship program in his home state at NC State’s Poole College of Management. Looking back, he can identify countless seeds that were planted during classes and interactions with professors and classmates that later sprouted into usable knowledge. “In many cases, it took me five years to realize why it was so important that I learned a particular planning system or financial concept,” he says.
For nearly two years after graduating, Rae built a base layer of knowledge in accounting in the audit department at Johnson Lambert, the company that partly funded his MAC degree as a firm-sponsored fellow. While he remains grateful for the opportunity to get his feet wet in the field, he realized that auditing wasn’t his long-term goal. As he began to explore other ideas, a mentor advised him to map out five things he wanted to do and five things he was qualified to do based on education and professional experience. As he lined up both columns, he concluded that as a former Furman football player and a lifelong sports enthusiast, it was a natural progression for him to re-enter the world of college athletics.
Through a networking connection, Rae landed a role as an athletics business manager at the College of William and Mary. “I immediately felt like this is what I was meant to do,” he remembers. Every day looked different. When he wasn’t engaged in budgeting, planning, financial analysis and travel logistics, he was serving as an online streaming broadcaster for multiple women’s sports teams.
Several years later, he jumped at the opportunity to work at the University of Texas at Austin, which housed the largest athletic department in the nation. It was there that his role began to evolve from accounting to financial analysis, which he views as two sides of the same coin. “I see accounting as telling the story of what happened in the past, while finance is telling the story of where we want to go in the future and how to get there,” he says.
After a stint at Under Armour, which he credits for helping him hone his skills as a financial analyst, Rae accepted a role as the associate athletic director of finance at Towson University, where he is responsible for the financial operations of 19 athletics teams. While he is involved in some aspects of revenue generation, his day-to-day is focused mostly on budgeting, forecasting and ticket sales. Over the past few years, his ability to analyze data, organize it into a digestible format and make executive decisions has fueled his success in the role.
Rae also serves in a sports oversight role for the women’s gymnastics team, which gives him a behind-the-scenes perspective on the impact of the decisions he makes. Without a doubt, having to make budget cuts or say no to a request is the hardest part of the job. “I know how hard our athletes work, so I do everything I can to find creative alternatives instead of ending the conversation when something isn’t possible,” he says.
But the challenges of leadership have yet to dampen Rae’s enthusiasm for his job. “There is no better fit for me than being in an environment where colleagues are passionate about excellence in sports,” he has realized.
In the future, he aspires to become the athletics director of a Division 1 program. “In the meantime, I will continue to leverage the network and skills I’ve picked up along the journey,” he says. “Fortunately, I have that accounting experience from NC State to form the base of everything I do. I’m confident that it will continue to help me go where I want to go.”
This post was originally published in MAC Program.