College Athletics: Brainerd grad working his way up college ranks

When Sean McCarthy was growing up in Brainerd, he concedes he wasn't a star athlete but aspired someday to be involved in college athletics. The 26-year-old appears to be assembling a resume that puts him on a path to attain his career goal of be...



When Sean McCarthy was growing up in Brainerd, he concedes he wasn't a star athlete but aspired someday to be involved in college athletics.

The 26-year-old appears to be assembling a resume that puts him on a path to attain his career goal of becoming a college athletics director.

During his high school and college days, McCarthy worked in the golf business at Madden's on Gull Lake and later interned with the former Minnesota Swarm pro lacrosse team, the Minnesota Vikings and the Metro Baseball League. He also worked for 2nd Swing, which sells new and used golf equipment and apparel.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota, McCarthy went on to obtain a law degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee.


He then interned at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in its athletic compliance department. A compliance department designs, educates and monitors NCAA and conference rules compliance on behalf of an athletics department.

During the 2015-16 academic year, McCarthy worked in the compliance/student services department at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, when the Wildcats won the NCAA men's basketball championship. While at Villanova, he was selected to attend and was interviewed at the Emerging Leaders Seminar at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

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Sean McCarthy High school: Brainerd (2009 graduate)

  • College: University of Minnesota (2012), degree in sport management; Marquette University (2015), Juris Doctor/Juris Doctorate
  • Occupation: Compliance coordinator, Texas Tech University
  • Age: 26

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In June of 2016, he was hired as an athletics compliance coordinator at Texas Tech, where he's entering his second year.

McCarthy said his duties at Texas Tech range "all over the place."

"I mainly review all practice and playing seasons, get schedules in order," he added. "I don't do game contracts. I make sure the number of practice days and practice hours meet all NCAA and Big 12 Conference regulations.


"I also handle reviewing extra benefits. There's new legislation coming out Aug. 1 that will require a 'Time Management Plan' for all student-athletes so they can balance all their activities. I'm helping with that, kind of overseeing that."

For the 2016-17 academic year, the NCAA Division I compliance manual consisted of 296 pages.

"There's the book itself," McCarthy said. "On top of that, you have a database of interpretations-you have to latch on to it and learn. A lot of it is getting comfortable with it, understanding the broad view, focusing on smaller bylaws and how it all fits together. You can never learn the whole thing. It's a work in progress."

McCarthy's duties include educating the Texas Tech coaching staff on the rules and regulations in the NCAA manual.

"Starting this year I will organize all the coaches' meetings, meetings with all the staff," he said, "trying to get them educated on what's out there, any new cases that have come out, talking that through with them, letting them know where the line is-'This is where it's OK, this is where it's not OK.'

"I try to strategically set up a plan for education based on the time of year, what each coach will be doing. (The manual is) too much for us to memorize. It's just getting the crucial stuff in front of the coaches."

When recruiting or ethics questions arise, McCarthy said coaches can call the compliance department at Texas Tech, which consists of seven employees.

"A lot of coaches have been doing this so long, they have a good feel for the rules," he said. "Things have changed pretty significantly the past couple years. They're living it day to day so they kind of know where they're at. If they have a question, or want to try something new, they will always call."


Going to college sporting events and games is one of the benefits of McCarthy's job.

"I try to get to every home game that I can, in all sports," he said. "Last year, we divided up recruiting by sport. This year, we're moving away from that. Definitely, in the sports you're responsible for recruiting, you try to show up for everything."

McCarthy's objective is to become a college athletics director.

"Whatever opportunity comes in front of me, I'm taking advantage of that," he said. "We'll see where the path goes to get to that end goal.

"(Compliance is) challenging because legislation is changing. It's unique that college has so many rules hovering over it, but I like that. I also get to interact with the student-athletes and coaches, which is nice, but not necessarily being on the front line like the coaches is also something I kind of like. There's still a lot of pressure, but not as much being in the spotlight or anything like that.

"It's enjoyable. At the end of the day, I get to go to work and I get to go to a football game some days. It could be much worse."

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