Ball State graduate Dan Tracy knew when he came to Muncie to pursue a master’s degree in Sports Administration that he also wanted to continue pursuing his passion for coaching football. Jamie Johnson, graduate coordinator for Sport Administration, said he was initially skeptical Tracy could balance the rigor of graduate school with the demands of coaching, but found Tracy to be true to his word — he was able to manage his time while serving as Muncie Central High School’s defensive coordinator. Tracy’s passion for coaching lead him to explore the topic more in-depth in his thesis “Examining Prior Experiences and Career Attainment of FBS Football Head Coaches” — which earned him the 2015-2016 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award.
“I had known upon entering the graduate program in sport administration that I had wanted to study the sport of football in some context, and then as I progressed in my own coaching career it became clear I was interested in the career progression of college football coaches,” Tracy said in an email.
He had always thought that the “easier” route for future coaches would be to play their sport in college; however, Tracy was unable to find studies that looked at the transition from athlete to coach among U.S. college football coaches.
“The opportunity to explore [an] under-researched topic that was of interest to colleagues and myself was intriguing,” he said.
Tracy’s study of literature on coaching career progression and development is the only one of its kind, Johnson said. Given the strength and significance of Tracy’s work, Johnson believes the thesis has great potential for publication. The work is currently being reviewed by the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, a respected journal in the coaching field.
“The quality of work exhibited in Dan’s thesis was equal to that seen at the dissertation level,” Johnson wrote in his letter nominating Tracy for the award. “Any of his four research questions could have stood alone for thesis work, but Dan aspired to provide a wide-ranging analysis that could inform multiple audiences and be practically relevant.”
Tracy gives some credit to Johnson, who guided and mentored him throughout the process.
“Dr. Johnson was always there to challenge me when I wanted to take a shortcut in the process and was there to calm and refocus me when the project became overwhelming,” Tracy said. “I am grateful to him for his leadership, mentorship and friendship over the last three years.”
Tracy also said he feels fortunate for his experience at Ball State, from his work and interactions with Johnson to colleagues at Ball State and Muncie Central and the faith community he found at St. Francis of Assisi University Parish and Newman Center.
“I will forever cherish my two years in Muncie and would encourage all who have the privilege to pursue post-secondary education to consider Ball State,” he said.
Tracy graduated in May of 2016 and now serves as a campus missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.