On a beautiful, sunny day sitting in a conference room atop UW-Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium editor Leotha Stanley and I got to meet with Marcus Sedberry, the Athletic Department’s Deputy Athletic Director. Sedberry has been in Madison for 16 months, since February 2022, and is committed to “positively impacting the space [he] occupies and the people [he] shares it with.” 

The youngest of 5 children, Sedberry grew up in Texas where his father served as both a high school athletic director and football coach at schools throughout the state, while his mother worked for the Social Security Administration. He credits his parents who served as Sunday School superintendents and church youth leaders, with instilling in him a strong sense of faith. His core values are “faith, family, competition, and service.”

He was also devoted to sports and headed off to the University of Nebraska where he was a member of both the football and track teams. Unfortunately, Sedberry suffered several stress fractures of the back that ended his athletic career. However, it did not mean the end to his dreams of owning his own business. From the time he was a high school student he displayed entrepreneurial skills. He sold snacks and treats out of his high school locker. At college he was a “dormitory barber” providing haircuts for teammates and others and continuing to sell snacks. During his time at Nebraska, he was on the leadership boards of five different student organizations.

During his time at Nebraska, he met Dr. Richard Lapchick, a renowned scholar of sports management from the University of Central Florida (UCF). He advised Sedberry that being a coach is not the only way he could remain involved in sports. After earning a degree in marketing and a minor in communication, Sedberry followed Lapchick to UCF where he earned an MBA in Sports Business Management and a certificate in sports management. He started UCF’s first student services department for student athletes at the very young age of 24.

From UCF Sedberry went to set up a similar student services program at the University of Arkansas and from Arkansas he was recruited by then Coach Chip Kelly to work with the Philadelphia Eagles as Director of Player Engagement. Unfortunately, when Coach Kelly was fired, Marcus was also terminated.  Prior to arriving in Philadelphia, he wrote and published a book titled, Be You: Ten Essential Qualities to be an Exceptional You (2010). Philadelphia Eagles Coach Chip Kelly had used the book with his student athletes when he was coach at the University of Oregon. From Philadelphia Sedberry went back to the University of Arkansas and soon after was recruited to help rebuild the athletic department at Baylor University. University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Director, Chris McIntosh tapped Sedberry to be his deputy in 2022.  Sedberry is clear that losing the position at the Eagles gave him an opportunity to reassess his priorities and place his family first.  Sedberry is married to Tai Sedberry, a pharmacist and they are the parents of two children ages 7 and 4.

The Deputy Athletic Director is akin to the organization’s Chief Operating Officer (COO). While the Athletic Director is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the COO is responsible for managing the organization’s day-to-day operations. He handles almost all the internal issues before they end up on the Athletic Director’s desk. He also serves as one of the department’s sport administrators with his primary focus on football. In his role as Deputy AD, Sedberry will need to handle the very hot topic of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) that is changing the landscape of college athletics. While a talented musician could earn money playing in a club venue or giving music lessons before NIL student athletes were prohibited by NCAA rules from earning money related to their athletic skills. Now, they can be compensated to appear in commercials, video games, or make public appearances. 

The other big change in college sports is the “Transfer Portal.” Students who feel that they can be better served at another college program can enter the portal and allow coaches to compete for their services. The portal is an opportunity for coaches to fill gaps in their program and it is an opportunity for student athletes to make a change if they believe the program they started in is not a good fit.  According to Sedberry, UW-Madison, “will not build our program off the portal. We will continue to be developmental” in our approach to student athletes. Thus, while UW may look at which athletes are available in the portal, it will continue to build its sports programs through conventional high school recruiting.

Given his list of amazing accomplishments, one might think that Marcus Sedberry is an older, more seasoned sports administrator. However, he is a millennial and an example of the many talents the millennial generation has to offer.  He states unequivocally, “My mission is to positively impact the spaces I occupy and the people I share it with.” From where we sit, he is definitely on mission!”