University of Pittsburgh

Alumni Spotlight: Channeling Sports Into 100 Lessons for Managers

Monday, February 17, 2014

James "Jim" Earle (MBA '95), a former assistant athletic director for football operations at the University of Pittsburgh, draws on parallels between college football and business in his 2013 book 100 Yards of Success: Leadership Lessons from College Football.

"Most of the world doesn't realize how complex a football program is," Earle says. "There is so much organization and structure. While in Pitt’s athletic department, I started making notes on the things our football program did well because I knew that they could be translated into lessons for more effective leadership."

Earle's book is filled with anecdotes and football observations, with each lesson covering one yard on the football field. The reader moves through the lessons as if driving down the field for a touchdown, and it all begins with the first lesson: know thyself.

 "As a coach or leader, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. If you don't know yourself, it's difficult to lead others," Earle says.

The lessons from Earle's book — like " what gets measured gets done" — are meant to be implemented by leaders in all walks of life.

"College football teams measure everything — individual performance, team performance, the rank of the team's statistics in relation to the opposition. With measurement, it allows us to set goals and challenge the team. If we measure it, it becomes a priority," Earle says.

Earle's book follows up this lesson by emphasizing the importance of celebrating employees' accomplishments.

"What gets celebrated gets repeated: this is something that all football teams understand," Earle says. "Celebration is such a great feeling, but lots of organizations forget that part because they are so caught up in achieving goals and striving for the next goal."

Beyond his football expertise, Earle also has experience as a senior-level administrator. After serving for 11 years in Pitt's department of athletics, Earle became the assistant vice  chancellor for business at Pitt.  Here he manages a team of more than 130 people and oversees functions in housing, dining, the  campus stores, and ID center operations, which in one way or another, affect all students on campus.

"The thing I love most is leading  our team," he says about his job. "I love leading our department and working to make other people's lives better: the people who work for us and the students we serve."

In addition to earning his MBA from the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, Earle also earned a doctorate in higher education management from Pitt's School of Education in 2009. He credits the business school for teaching him values of collaboration and teamwork that have guided him throughout his career.

"My decision to go to Katz ultimately led to my opportunities at Pitt and has led to a 20-year career at the University and it provided me the experience to write this book," he says.

The book is available for sale online