UAB educational leadership alumnus E. J. Brophy, Ed.D., says that during his freshman and sophomore years of college, he cared more about improving his skills on the baseball field than in the classroom.

The Montgomery native first came to UAB in 1988 as a freshman on a baseball scholarship. He chose physical education as his major, was a catcher for the team, and dreamed of becoming a head coach, he says.

“I didn’t get the importance of academics until it was almost too late,” Brophy says. “I picked P.E. because I wanted to get into coaching. When I got into my junior year, my grades were not very impressive, but that’s when I realized that I could actually get a degree. It finally dawned on me in my early 20s that I could graduate and get the degree that my grandfather, a World War II veteran who graduated from the sixth grade, kept telling me was so important.”Dr. E.J. Brophy

Today, Brophy has maintained his interest in both sports and academics as the athletic director for the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). He says it is his doctorate in educational leadership from UAB that has helped prepare him for the demands of the job.

Following his epiphany in his junior year, Brophy says he became a more serious student. He took classes in health and skills development and studied methods for teaching children with disabilities. In addition, he says his professors taught him important life lessons.

“One thing that I will always remember about going to school at UAB was how professional and prepared and good all of the instructors were,” he says. “They led by example. They expected you to study. They expected you to dress appropriately and to be punctual.”

Brophy’s athletic career also flourished. He became an all-conference player. Then, during his senior year, the Philadelphia Phillies organization recruited him to play for its minor league team. Even with spring training and a heavy game schedule, Brophy says he managed to balance both school and professional baseball by taking one class at a time until he finished his undergraduate degree at UAB in 1995.

After four years in the minor leagues, Brophy says he once again aspired to become a college baseball coach. So in 1996, he worked as an assistant baseball coach at Samford University and at Wallace Community College. Two years later, in 1998, he landed an assistant coaching position at the University of Montevallo and completed the UAB Department of Human Studies’ master’s degree program in physical education.

“I felt that by getting the master’s degree, it would give me the best chance of becoming a head coach,” he says.
Then in 2003, the UAB Athletic Department hired him as the assistant director of athletic development. Eventually, the department promoted him to assistant athletic director for external affairs with responsibilities that included fund raising, managing the Blazer Club Scholarship Fund and donor affairs.

By then, with years of experience in coaching and sports administration behind him, Brophy set a new goal to become an athletic director. He knew, however, that he needed more education, he says. So, in 2004, he enrolled in the School of Education’s Educational Leadership doctoral program.

“It really fine tunes and hones your skills,” he says. “Things like planning, organizing, staffing and budgeting are extremely important when you’re in a position of leadership. You can’t fly by the seat of your pants. It just doesn’t work. For every moment you plan, it saves you 10 minutes when you’re getting ready to perform.

“Those are the things our instructors were so good at conveying to us,” he says, “the importance of preparation, our reporting structure, knowing the law, knowing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), knowing what you can and cannot do. All of those are tremendously important things.”

While studying in UAB’s Educational Leadership Program, Brophy’s career took off. In 2006, the University of West Alabama tapped him as its athletic director. Three years later, in 2009, he completed his doctorate at UAB. Then in 2011, he accepted the job as athletic director at UAH.

Today, Brophy is married to the former Cindy Wooten, who is a UAB early childhood education alumna. The couple has two children, Brooks, 15, and Bailey, 12.

As UAH’s athletic director, he is involved in everything from hiring coaches, fund raising and marketing to overseeing the construction of sports facilities, and says he is putting what he learned in his educational leadership courses into practice. But the part of the job he enjoys most, he says, is seeing young athletes winning not only on the field, but in the classroom as well.

“Without question, the most fun for me as athletic director is getting to see young people come to a school and trade their athletic prowess for a scholarship that puts them in a position where they can get their schooling paid for, graduate and see it change their lives forever,” he says, “where it puts them in a situation where they can get a good job, feed their families, enjoy life and become quality citizens.”