Hello, hat trick.
La Salle University men's soccer head coach Rob Irvine graduated from the Master of Business Administration, Finance Specialization online program and netted his third graduate degree in May 2020.
"When I came to La Salle four years ago, doing another master's wasn't on my radar," he said. "We had an assistant coach, Travis Cantrell, who was one of my former players.
"I told him to take advantage of the perks of working for a university and get a master's degree. As I did, I said to myself, 'Maybe you can do this, as well.' We started the MBA program at the same time."
Irvine was speaking from experience. He earned a Master of Public Administration while a graduate assistant at Syracuse University and a master's degree in organizational dynamics while an assistant at the University of Pennsylvania.
"I've been really lucky because I selected all three master's degree programs well. I got a lot out of them," he said.
Two courses into the MBA program, Cantrell accepted a coaching position at FC Barcelona in Arizona. To continue with the program, Irvine switched from the hybrid format to fully online, stuck it out, and expanded his family. He and his wife, Andrea, now have two daughters — Olivia (3) and Alexandra (1).
"I quickly discovered doing the whole program online would be better with my responsibilities," he said. "I can't speak enough about the ability to work at your own pace. You get into a work rhythm like you do with your job. On certain days, you do certain things. You can learn on your own timeframe.
"The fact that all of the lectures are recorded means I can start and stop if I need to tend to one of my kids. You also don't lose anything in regard to the content. The added benefit you get is the flexibility, which is phenomenal."
Irvine was born in Leeds, England, and raised in Toronto. He played youth soccer at the national level in Canada before suiting up for Syracuse from 1994 to 1997.
After earning a bachelor's degree in advertising, Irvine played professional soccer for two years in the United States and Canada. He returned to his alma mater as a graduate assistant coach in 2001.
"I did that first master's degree not knowing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life," he said. "Was I going to go get a real job, or was I going to get into coaching? It was a one-year program I stretched out over two years because I was coaching soccer, too."
From there, Irvine got his first job as head coach at College of the Southwest, now University of the Southwest, in Hobbs, New Mexico. He coached the Mustangs for two seasons before spending eight years as an assistant at Penn and earning another master's degree.
"The coach I replaced at Penn had done the organizational dynamics program," he said. "Another coach and I went through the same program, which focused on leadership, coaching — all of the soft things within an organization."
Irvine was also head coach for two seasons at Kean University before arriving at La Salle in 2016. The knowledge he gained in the MBA, Finance Specialization online program is benefiting him in his current role, having also prepared him should he leave the pitch someday.
"I look at the MBA as giving me a business background, but it helps in my current job with balancing a budget and being strategic about where we're using our operational dollars," he said. "After coaching, it might help me in any future administration jobs.
"If I stay in athletics, I could do an athletic administration job. I have learned tools that are going to help me further down the road in my career, whether it's in athletics or outside of athletics. I plan to keep coaching."
In addition to coaching the Explorers, Irvine works as a scout for US Soccer. He took one course at a time in the online MBA program and spread out the months to completion to fit his schedule.
"After that first fall at La Salle, I dove right into it," he said. "I have a very understanding wife. The initial reaction when I told my family and friends was, 'Why are you doing this?' But you never know where your career path is going to lead."
Irvine knows that having three master's degrees is a bit out of the ordinary, but he wouldn't trade the knowledge and experiences he gained along the way. Having waited four years to start the master's program while at Penn, he knew not to make the same mistake down the road.
"I applied that lesson when I started working at La Salle," he said.
Switching to the fully online format in the MBA, Finance Specialization program was one of the best higher education decisions Irvine has ever made.
"You're combining the best of both worlds with great content and great instructors and the flexibility," he said. "I wish online classes had been available during my undergrad and my other master's degree programs, as well. It's amazing."
Learn more about the La Salle University online MBA, Finance Specialization program.
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