Like many people coming into college, it’s hard figure out where you’ll be in five years or what it is that you want to do with your life.Jay Larson, senior associate athletics director and administrator, at University of California was in a similar position.
Larson hails from Saint Francis, Minn., and when it came time to decide where to attend college in 1997, he chose to stay in-state and attend Minnesota State University, Mankato. Receiving a scholarship to play basketball was his primary motivation for attending MSU.His scholarship wasn’t the only factor which led him to Minnesota State. At the time of his decision, his father was a successful high school basketball coach and his brother was attending the University of North Dakota. His desire to play basketball at the highest level he could, along with Mankato’s close proximity to his family, were a few other factors that lead him to the Mavericks.
“The proximity to my hometown factored in, to be able to enable my parents and family to travel around the upper Midwest and watch me compete,” said Larson.
Due to an injury, Larson redshirted his freshman year but was able to get back on the court 1998-02. When it came to academics, Larson had a tough time choosing which direction to take. After changing his major six times, he eventually landed on a major in marketing and minor in political science. It wasn’t until his junior year in college that he decided he wanted to pursue a law degree.
“I was a son of a coach, so I always had an interest in athletics, but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to coach. I just kind of found myself reading more and more about the law and the sports law and the business of sport,” Larson said.
Mentioning further that it all came together and decided to get his business degree at Minnesota State and then pursue his law degree, where he would eventually receive after his time at the University of Minnesota.
After graduating in the spring of 2002, Larson jumped right into studying law at the U of M in fall of 2002 and completed his degree in 2005. After one year at law school, he landed an internship at the University of Minnesota’s athletic department in their athletic compliance office for two years.
Despite having a fulltime job at a law firm lined up for after graduation, he decided to not take the job and follow his passion. “I had a job lined up to work at a midsized law firm in the Twin Cities, where I also had done a clerkship,” said Larson. “I just decided to follow my passion I guess and I took a 50 percent pay cut by taking the job in the athletic department at the U and spent three years there working in the compliance office.”
After spending three years in the compliance office post-graduation, he was able to land a job at San Diego State University. Larson has always been a big proponent in following your passion and hasn’t regretted his decision.
When he was hired at SDSU, he was hired on as an assistant AD for compliance and eventually received the associate AD of compliance. With a lot of the people in NCAA having a law degree, Larson credits his law degree that has helped him in the compliance department.
One thing Larson notes that was rewarding during his time at SDSU was playing a role in helping the sport’s program. Naming Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Strasburg as a few athletes that was a spark in the right direction.
After spending about seven years at San Diego State, Larson landed a job at University of California working as a senior associate athletics director and administrator.
When talking about his time at Cal, Larson said, “University of California is a special place, it’s the No. 1 public school in the world,” Larson said. “We’re combining elite athletics, the highest level of college athletics, at an elite academic school and there are not that many in the country that are able to say that.”
Larson doesn’t like to put a timeframe on his future but said that working as an athletics director in the future would be something he would enjoy doing.
“I have a young family, three young boys and we really enjoy living here and I enjoy our football program is on the rise,” said Larson. “It’s been fun to be a part of and we’ll ride this out and just see what develops.”
The most important thing lessons he gained from his time with Dan McCarrell, who coached the Mavericks from 1984-2001, were learned by being a student-athlete. He explained that being a teammate is what helped get him where he is today.
“Be a good teammate really first and foremost, right? All great things in life are accomplished by teams,” said Larson. “To really learn how to be successful as an individual within the context of the team to help the team succeed is something that I really take away from as my time as a college student athlete.”
There were many people in Larson’s network that helped him be where he is now, whether that be coaches, boosters or friends.
Larson is excited to be where he is now in life and is looking forward to what’s to come.
“It’s been a fun five years for me personally, you know sometimes I still have to pinch myself.”
Contributed by Andrew Neururer, Athletic Communications intern