The first time someone gave the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC) alum Dr. Cedric M. Brown a football, something magical happened.
“I was gifted to be able to run and gifted with athletic ability,” recalls Dr. Brown, who excelled in sports throughout his youth and eventually received a full scholarship to play football at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale.
All was going according to plan for the passionate athlete until an injury changed his course.
In his third year at SIU, he suffered a broken neck due to head-to-head contact with a running back. His spine had to be mobilized in a halo apparatus for 90 days, and he underwent rehab. The doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to play football again. He quit school by the end of the year and lost the scholarship.
“I was feeling sorry for myself,” he admits.
For many, that would have been the end of their story. For Dr. Brown, it was just the beginning.
Eventually, he would return to the field — twice. The first time was in 1994 when Dr. Brown was playing semi-pro football in Indianapolis for the minor-league Kokomo Mustangs organization. It wasn’t long before he was being noticed. He joined an American football league in Germany and played for the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns for the 1996 season before suffering a hip injury during a game. That injury would put a true end to him playing the sport. But it also would launch him into the next phase of his professional journey and give him the push he needed to make up for one of his biggest life regrets—dropping out of college.
“I’m 10 years from where I should be because of that decision,” he admits. “But it makes me hungrier and more motivated because I made what I believe is a poor decision to leave school.”
Fueled by a desire to finally complete his college education, Dr. Brown returned to his home state of New York and enrolled at Lehman College in the Bronx. In 2000, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Recreational Education. Not long after, he earned a master’s degree in sport pedagogy from South Dakota State University, where he was also a graduate assistant.
Dr. Brown returned to the figurative field once again in 2001 when he launched a successful career in high school and college athletics. Throughout the course of his career, Dr. Brown has held numerous positions as an assistant coach, head coach, and administrator and has been involved in college basketball on some level for two decades. According to Dr. Brown, he was the first African American head men’s basketball coach at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, and he has served as an assistant coach for an NCAA team, a notable highlight in his career.
There was one thing still missing, however.
Despite his many career milestones, Dr. Brown had yet to achieve an NCAA head coach position, and he began to reconsider his path.
“I started to think about my next steps in my career, and athletic administration is what it was going to be,” he explains.
It wasn’t long before Dr. Brown took the necessary steps to make that happen.
First a Doctorate, Then a Director of Athletics
From 2015 through 2018, Dr. Brown served as an assistant basketball coach at Lewis and Clark Community College (LCCC) in Illinois. It was while there that he received the advice from a mentor and motivation from his mom to take his career to the next level.
“My mentor told me that by me pursuing my doctorate degree, I immediately became a ‘one-percenter,’ he explains. “I had been a student-athlete, assistant coach, head coach, I was a young African American male, and now I am pursuing my doctoral degree in the area in which I have experience as a player and a coach and some administrative capacity. He said, ‘Now you’re going to be a hot commodity.’”
His mentor was right.
In 2021, Dr. Brown received a PhD in Organizational Development and Leadership with a Specialization in Sport, Fitness, and Wellness Management from UAGC. Not long after receiving his PhD, Dr. Brown was hired once again at LCCC, this time as Director of Athletics. With more than three decades of coaching and administrative experience behind him, plus the time he spent playing sports as a student-athlete and a professional, not to mention his academic resume, Dr. Brown was well-equipped to become a leader and mentor.
“I never knew my previous time would — four years later — culminate into a leadership role,” he admits. “It’s been a surreal type of experience.”
Paying it Forward
Dr. Brown jokes that his favorite part of working with student-athletes is they keep him young.
Next, he says, utilizing his knowledge and experience to have a positive impact on students’ lives is the best reward for his service.
“I am blessed to be an alum of UAGC,” he says. “I wouldn’t change anything about my college experience because it has molded me into the leader that I am today. It’s given me the opportunity to give back in education by doing something I love to do, affecting the lives of young people.”
One of his favorite movies is ‘Pay It Forward,’ and it’s a belief he holds true.
“That’s what I think the biggest thing for me is in being a servant leader is to help somebody to achieve his or her goal, and I tell them all the time, ‘You don’t owe me anything; You just need to pay it forward,’” he explains.
Dr. Brown says listening, trying to be a better communicator, and looking at situations through various lenses to make informed decisions are effective leadership strategies he learned at UAGC and have helped him in his career.
“Being able to come out of my silo and look at different things and ask questions and allowing other voices to be heard is important to the work I do now, and it’s important to the work I’m going to do in the future,” he notes.
He adds being a man of faith has also contributed to his career and personal life.
“Without God in my life, none of my success would be possible,” he says. “I am blessed because of my faith. I am a man of faith that depends on that faith to be a servant leader. Because of my faith, I believe I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now, and better things are coming for me down the road.”