With a smile on his face, Georgia Tech interim athletic director Paul Griffin said no one was more surprised to back on The Flats than him.
“I’m glad I was able to find my way to campus,” he said.
Griffin was appointed as the interim athletic director by President Bud Peterson following the resignation earlier this month of Mike Bobinski, who accepted a similar position at Purdue after 3 ½ years at Tech.
Griffin worked at Tech from 2002 until late last year until retiring…or so he thought. While at Tech he oversaw several projects, notably the transformation of Alexander Memorial Coliseum into McCamish Pavilion.
This will be a different challenge for the honest, thoughtful Griffin.
Bobinski’s tenure at Tech likely won’t be remembered for much other than giving football coach Paul Johnson a contract extension, and for hiring men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner.
The football team went 3-9 last season and Johnson has expressed concerns that recruiting is being affected by facilities that aren’t keeping pace with others in the ACC.
The men’s basketball team hasn’t appeared in the NCAA tournament since 2010, which is an eon for a team with a rich history, a deep recruiting base, is in a large media market and that plays in arguably the toughest college basketball conference.
Helping those programs rebound and succeed are but two of the challenges Griffin faces before he steps away when the next athletic director is named.
Griffin spent more than 20 minutes on Tuesday answering questions about everything from facilities to the best skill the next athletic director will need.
This is part 2 of a two-part Q&A that will appear on ajc.com. Part 1 appeared Wednesday morning.
Q: As someone who has served a lot of roles within this athletic department, what does the next athletic director need to do best compared to the other skills they will need to have?
A: I don’t think that’s clear. I think the person can bring expertise in a wide range of specific areas of our industry and then surround themselves with other key talent to be successful.
If you say the next athletic director needs to be a world-class fundraiser, well that can be fine. They then surround themselves with complementary, not supplementary, skills, talent and personnel. Same can be applied to people who have been focused on a wide range of ingredients in our industry.
I’ll tell you one thing, though, that I don’t think people appreciate, and I can speak to this from my own personal experience who has been in this business longer than some of you have been alive, this isn’t the same college athletic program or college athletic industry that existed five years ago, not to mention 10, 20 30, 40 years ago. It’s an ever-evolving challenge.
If you identify one skill set is to be able to identity changing issues and priorities in a changing landscape, and being able to lead a complex organization, a very prideful organization, into a successful position for the future.
The world keeps changing. Your industry has changed. Our business has changed as well. We just need to stay ahead of it.
Q: Has Georgia Tech done a good job at that?
A: I think we have. There’s certainly some places where we’ve accomplished some things better than others and some we might not have reached what we think we should and some challenges left to be fulfilled. But that’s not unlike any sports franchise, be it professional, college or otherwise.
Georgia Tech is a very unique and unconventional member of the Power 5 conferences, but one that has a proud and rich tradition that it wants to keep moving forward.
Q: Any idea how long you will be in the job, and do you have any say about the next person who steps into the job?
A: Last question is zero.
This is a dynamic process. I’ve been in this role twice before at Georgia Tech. Everyone enters a search for leadership with great expectations and optimism for a prompt resolution. That never happens.
Whether it’s six weeks, three months, four months, what have you, I don’t think you can put a timetable on it. I’ve talked with some of the people involved in the search and assured them that they should be as deliberate and patient as they can be and as responsive to finding the best leadership possible regardless of whether that person is available tomorrow or not available until whatever time.
If I’ve got to extend my appointment and assignment into early ’17, we’ll find a way to make that work. The last time, if you recall, the appointment was made in January and Mike couldn’t arrive until April. If it’s a similar circumstance this time I think President Peterson we will keep the ship moving down the path in the right direction.
Q: The night before it was announced that Bobinski was leaving, coach Johnson said that Georgia Tech was falling behind the rest of the ACC in the facilities race and it hurts recruiting and other things. Do you agree with this statement and is there anything you can do in your time as interim athletic director to try to help catch up?
A: I don’t necessarily disagree with Paul if you keep score on facilities by bigness, glitz, glamour or what have you.
Ironically, the first Saturday of August, one of my former bosses asked me to come up and take a look at some of his glistening facilities that are emerging out of the ground and I did so. We had a great visit up in South Carolina.
Quite frankly, is that football facility or basketball arena – quite honestly they took a few things from McCamish Pavilion and implemented them into their Littlejohn Coliseum, which was interesting to see – but the football facility specific to your question has a lot of bells and whistles in it.
But I hope that the parents of prospects have a little bit more focus on priorities than whether or not you have a barbershop in your football facility.
Q: Specifically on that topic I think Paul was talking about a couple of years ago there were plans in place to upgrade the lockerroom. He felt that was crucial because that’s one of the first places that recruits walk into when they come to a visit on campus. He was a little concerned that that never went forward.
A: I can’t, I’ve not seen those plans, if they exist. I’ve not seen those kinds of things.
But back to a question that was asked earlier, part of my responsibility is to identify some of the pressing needs and that perhaps being one of them and the opportunities that we need to asses and benchmark and do what’s right for Georgia Tech in the context of what we are capable of doing. We’ve got excellent coaches. We’ve got excellent players. We’ve got a loyal fanbase, albeit perhaps not as large as some people think it should be. But I’ve got to tell you their passion, as you hear from them and I’ve heard from having spent the past three years in section 106, and hear from them in a different context, we can’t ask for more from them. We need to give our kids the opportunities to be successful.
Once again, it needs to be fundamental and significantly contribute to the success of that particular team. But I don’t disagree with Paul on a variety of issues.
In fact, one of the things that I think I can bring to the table in the next several months is Paul, and now Josh and Machelle and the others – I don’t mean to leave anyone out – we have an excellent working relationship. We communicate with each other regularly, clearly, directly and honestly. That’s why Paul and I seem to work well together. You know him probably better than you know me. We are probably more alike than we are different.