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MAC Alum Kyle Ray '11 Combines Passion for Sports and Accounting with Dream Career

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In another life, Kyle Ray (MAC ’11) could have been a dentist. Instead, he studied accounting, which paved the way for his dream career as an athletics coach.

My journey to my current role as Towson University’s Associate Athletic Director of Finance began at Furman University. At Furman University, I realized that an accounting degree gave me a rare degree of flexibility and freedom to shape my career trajectory. “I immediately liked the fact that accounting is a numbers game with concrete answers,” he recalls. “But what surprised me is that it feels like research work. You can’t just get to the answer. I was intrigued by the process.”

The Wilmington native was thrilled to find the Jenkins Master of Accounting Fellowship Program at North Carolina State University Poole College of Management in his hometown. In retrospect, he can identify the myriad seeds planted during his classes, and confirm that his interactions with professors and classmates later sprouted into useful knowledge. “It often took him five years to understand why learning a particular planning system or financial concept was so important,” he says.

Nearly two years after graduating, Rae built his foundational knowledge of accounting in Johnson Lambert’s audit department. Johnson Lambert is a company that funded part of her MAC degree as a company-sponsored fellow. While he remains grateful for the opportunity to step into the field, he realizes that auditing isn’t his long-term goal. When he started exploring other ideas, his mentor advised him to plan out five things he wanted to do and five things he was qualified to do, based on his education and professional experience. When he put both columns side by side, he concluded that as a former Furman football player and lifelong sports enthusiast, re-entering the world of collegiate athletics was a natural progression.

Through networking connections, Rae landed a role as a track and field business manager at the College of William and Mary. “I knew right away that this was what I wanted to do,” he recalls. Every day looked different. When she wasn’t involved in budgeting, planning, financial analysis, and travel logistics, she was responsible for streaming her broadcasts online for multiple women’s sports teams.

A few years later, he jumped at the opportunity to work at the University of Texas at Austin. The university had the largest athletic department in the country. It was there that his role began to evolve from accounting to financial analysis. “I think accounting is about what happened in the past, and finance is about where we want to go in the future and how we’re going to get there,” he says.

“I think accounting is about what happened in the past, and finance is about where you want to go in the future and how to get there.

After honing his skills as a financial analyst at Under Armour, Ray became Towson University’s Associate Athletic Director of Finance, responsible for the financial operations of 19 track and field teams. Although he is involved in several aspects of revenue generation, his day-to-day is primarily focused on budgeting, forecasting and ticket sales. His ability to organize and make executive decisions has contributed to his success in this role.

Rae also serves as the sports director for the women’s gymnastics team. This gives Rae a behind-the-scenes perspective on the impact of the decisions he makes. Arguably, cutting budgets and turning down requests is the hardest part of the job. “I know how hard athletes work, so I do everything I can to find creative alternatives rather than ending conversations when something is impossible. ” he says.

But leadership challenges have not yet dampened Ray’s enthusiasm for the job. “There is no better place for me than being in an environment where my colleagues are passionate about sporting excellence,” he realized.

“Nothing suits me better than being in an environment where my colleagues are passionate about sporting excellence.

In the future, he hopes to become the Athletic Director of the Division 1 program. “In the meantime, I will continue to use the networks and skills I gained on this journey,” he says. “Fortunately, I have an accounting background at North Carolina State University that forms the basis of all my operations. ”