In another life, Kyle Rae (MAC ’11) could have been a dentist. Instead, he studied accounting, and accounting paved the way for a dream career as an athletic director.
The path to his current position as associate athletic director of finance at Towson University began at Furman University, where he recognized that an accounting degree would give him an exceptional degree of flexibility and freedom to shape his career path. “I immediately liked the fact that accounting is a numbers game with concrete answers,” he recalls. “But what I was surprised to find was that it feels like a research paper. You can’t just come up with an answer. You have to know how you got there and how your conclusion fits into the bigger picture. That process intrigued me.”
The Wilmington native was delighted to discover the Jenkins Master of Accounting scholarship program in his home state at NC State’s Poole College of Management. Looking back, you can identify countless seeds that were planted during classes and interactions with teachers and classmates that later sprouted into useful knowledge. “In many cases, it took me five years to realize why it was so important for me to learn a particular planning system or financial concept,” she says.
For nearly two years after graduation, Rae built a knowledge base in accounting in the auditing department of Johnson Lambert, the company that funded his MAC degree in part as a company-sponsored intern. While he remains grateful for the opportunity to get his feet wet in the field, he realized that auditing was not 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 his education and professional experience. As he lined up both columns, he concluded that as a former Furman football player and lifelong sports enthusiast, it was a natural progression for him to re-enter the world of collegiate athletics.
Through a network connection, Rae landed a position as athletics business manager at the College of William and Mary. “I immediately felt that this was what I was meant to do,” she recalls. Every day she looked different. When she wasn’t involved in budgeting, planning, financial analysis, and travel logistics, she served as a broadcast announcer for various women’s sports teams.
Several years later, he jumped at the chance to work at the University of Texas at Austin, which housed the largest athletics department in the country. It was there that his role began to evolve from accounting to financial analysis, which he sees as two sides of the same coin. “I think accounting tells the story of what happened in the past, while finance tells the story of where we want to go in the future and how to get there,” he says.
“I think accounting tells the story of what happened in the past, while finance tells the story of where we want to go in the future and how to get there.
After a stint at Under Armor, which he credits with helping him hone his skills as a financial analyst, Rae accepted a position as associate director of athletic finance at Towson University, where he is responsible for the financial operations of 19 sports teams. While he is involved in some aspects of revenue generation, his day-to-day is primarily focused on budgeting, forecasting, and ticket sales. In recent 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 as a sports supervisor for the women’s gymnastics team, giving her a behind-the-scenes perspective on the impact of the decisions she makes. Without a doubt, having to make budget cuts or reject an application is the hardest part of the job. “I know how hard our athletes work, so I do my best to come up with creative alternatives instead of ending the conversation when something isn’t possible,” she says.
But the challenges of leadership have yet to dampen Rae’s enthusiasm for her work. “There is no better option for me than to be in an environment where colleagues are passionate about excellence in sports,” she realized.
“There is no better option for me than to be in an environment where colleagues are passionate about excellence in sports.
In the future, he aspires to become the athletics director for a Division 1 program. “In the meantime, I will continue to build on the network and skills I gained along the journey,” he says. “Fortunately, I have that accounting experience from NC State to form the foundation of everything I do. I trust that he will continue to help me go where I want to go.”