Jay McAuley recently was named chairman of the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association.
For Jay McAuley, life has been about taking full advantage of opportunities when they arise.
It was that way during his playing days with the Texas Tech University football team. It was that way when he left the oil business in the early 1990s to become a high school football coach. It was that way when he got out of coaching.
Most recently, the opportunity presented itself to be a part of a historic and visible organization that, in a way, ties his life together. In March, the 1986 Texas Tech graduate was named chairman of the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association (CBAA), the sponsoring agency for the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic held each January at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“It is a really humbling thing with the history of the Cotton Bowl and all the great people who have led it through the years to one day be a part of that list,” McAuley said. “It's pretty special for me.”
As chairman of the CBAA, McAuley, who is the president of the Texas Health Resources Foundation in Arlington, will coordinate all facets of business affairs for the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, scheduled for Jan. 2. He also will manage the game's activities as a member of the College Football Playoff.
“There's been a lot of great work done by the folks here in the past,” McAuley said. “I just want to build on that reputation.”
Finding his way
Reputation is something McAuley has built in the past 30 years based on the relationships he's made, whether it was in the oil business, coaching or fundraising, which is how he became involved with Texas Health Presbyterian Foundation in 2004, now called Texas Health Resources Foundation.
It's a skill he credits to his time at Texas Tech, whether it was in the classroom as he earned his bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering or on the football field as a member of the Red Raiders' special teams from 1981 to 1984.
“In everything out there in Lubbock, it's a group of people who are genuine and know how to relate to each other,” McAuley said. “Texas Tech teaches you that and watches the way you are and how you handle things.”
After graduating in 1986, McAuley entered the oil business while earning his master's degree from Southern Methodist University, but was soon affected by the downturn in the business, leaving him unemployed. A friend asked if McAuley would be interested in giving coaching a try.
He just happened to be at his high school alma mater, St. Mark's School of Texas in North Dallas.
“At that time I would have jumped at being a dishwasher because I needed the income,” McAuley said. “Certainly, I knew the environment and knew a lot of the people there. That definitely attracted me to the job.
“I jumped in there and had 12 great years doing it.”
Along the way, McAuley learned a great deal about an aspect of life at a private school that would lead him to his next career path – fundraising. He said when he came to St. Mark's the school was just finishing a major capital campaign, and he coached through the entirety of another, holding the additional title of director of major gifts and director of development at the school.
At the end of that second campaign, McAuley felt the tug to try something else, to leave coaching. It just so happened that less than five miles away, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas was beginning a major capital campaign and needed someone to run it. Timing and opportunity, again, came together for McAuley.
Today, as president of Texas Health Resources Foundation, he manages a staff of 32 that raises money to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability for 14 Texas Health hospitals in North Texas.
He has served in his role as president of Texas Health Resources Foundation since 2013 after joining the group in 2004 as vice president for strategy and special initiatives, where he coordinated the Legacy of Care Campaign, the largest fundraising effort in the hospital's 40-year history.
“In the fundraising business, when a campaign is wrapped up it's very similar to maybe a great run of football success where you have three or four years of great athletes,” McAuley said. “It was just a time where if I was going to make a move I should. It was a great opportunity.”
Life and football
A couple of years after joining Texas Health Resources, a friend encouraged to join the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association's board of directors. He has served as vice chairman of the Cotton Bowl Classic's executive committee for the past five years until his election to a two-year term as the CBAA's 39th chairman.
Of course, the biggest challenge for bowls these days is maintaining their stature in the wake of so many bowl games being played each year. But the fact the Cotton Bowl is in the rotation as one of six New Year's Day games that are part of the College Football Playoff has helped the Cotton Bowl maintain its status as not only one of the oldest and grandest of college football bowl games but, now, as one of the most important.
“I think the biggest challenges are to sort of keep up with the demand for the product,” McAuley said. “If you look at the history of bowls, legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant didn't look at bowl games as if they were anything more than a reward for a team for a great season. Now, bowl games are often make or break for very successful coaches. That may speak to the sort of challenges out there for bowls themselves. You have to fit in that model and develop and change every year.”
McAuley said he doesn't feel any added pressure to make the Cotton Bowl more successful based on its status as one of the College Football Playoff games and that being in the CFP rotation has only helped.
“The Cotton Bowl, almost from its inception and throughout history, has been a thoroughbred,” McAuley said. “The other bowls that make up the New Year's Six are also thoroughbreds in their own right, so I wouldn't classify it as pressure. I think the years we weren't in that championship rotation were years we continued to do the great work we've always done. To be back in that top echelon is absolutely fantastic.”
A big part of what has helped shape McAuley since leaving Texas Tech were the people and experiences from his days as a student and football player. He met his wife, Jennifer, at Texas Tech and the couple has been married for 29 years. He is still in contact with at least one coach from his playing days, Taylor McNeel, who was the special teams coach during McAuley's time. McNeel remains one of McAuley's closest friends and mentors to this day.
And having played football at Texas Tech was influential in him joining the CBAA, which has led to today and his ascension in becoming chairman of the association.
“Being established as one of the New Year's Six bowls and being part of the national championship rotation, we want to make sure we continue to grow in our space and be the best we can possibly be,” McAuley said.