“Put yourself in good places, surrounded by good people, work hard, and good things will happen.” This was the career advice Robert McBurnett ’78 had for current Aggie business students when he spoke recently to a large audience of freshman at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School as an executive guest lecturer.

McBurnett drew on experiences from an unusual career in accounting: he has spent the last 21 years working in professional sports, first with the Houston Astros and then with the Tennessee Titans. Currently he is the vice president of finance and CFO of the Titans.

McBurnett lecturing to students
Robert McBurnett ’78 has spent 21 years working in professional sports and is currently the vice president of finance and CFO of the Tennessee Titans.

McBurnett says he’s not the typical accountant. “I’m a stubborn, go against the flow, swim upstream kind of guy. I’ve never done anything normal in my life,” he told students. He says he was drawn to the field of accounting not because he was thrilled by numbers, but because he “wanted to find out what makes a business tick,” and he wanted to learn to become the person in a business making the important decisions.

He has accomplished that goal in his current position, where his responsibilities include treasury, financial reporting, budgeting and internal controls for the major NFL franchise. Prior to joining the Titans, McBurnett worked with the Houston Astros as controller, chief financial officer, and eventually vice president of finance. Before joining the sports world, McBurnett held financial positions at several Houston-based companies, beginning his accounting career with Deloitte (then called Deloitte, Haskins & Sells).

McBurnett says his current focus is planning for disaster. Though it might not strike the U.S. first, “I’m convinced a pandemic is going to happen,” he told students. And when it does, the Titans will be prepared for the consequences, if McBurnett’s plans are successful. He says he was inspired to work on these future disaster models after seeing how Hurricanes Katrina and Rita impacted the New Orleans Saints. “If there is a pandemic, they’re probably not going to let us get 60,000 people together in one place to watch a football game,” he said. That’s why he’s examining ways to keep the franchise, and the sport, alive through extreme circumstances.

His resume is filled with success, but McBurnett says some of the best opportunities he’s had during his career have come from failure. He shared with students about the lessons one can take from being fired, and reminded them that each position is an important stepping stone to the next. He also stressed the value of the “other education” as he told students that the first job he landed in professional sports was due in large part to his experience as a trainer for baseball teams in high school and college—a hobby he eventually gave up because he thought academics were more important.

McBurnett and his wife, Christy, live in Sugar Land, Texas and have two adult children, Jaclyn and Robby.