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 one of a two-part Q&A that will appear on ajc.com. Part 2 will appear Wednesday afternoon.
Q: What are your duties in Ireland and when you get back what are your priorities?
A: I have no duties in Ireland and I’m not going to Ireland. My father would be very disappointed — he was a proud Irishman – that his son didn’t take advantage of the opportunity and as he would say kiss the Blarney stone.
Some logistical issues weren’t able to be accommodated in such a short period of time.
So I’ll be staying here which is in some ways a good thing because it will give me some time to catch up on some issues and priority information to set the stage for not only next week but the coming months.
My primary task as I see it is to continue to provide leadership to the programs and the athletic association, and equally important is to set a platform of understanding and priorities and issues of consideration for the new athletic director when that person arrives.
Q: There were reports of disarray in the department before Mike left. Do you feel the need to unify things a bit if that’s an issue that you see?
A: I’m not sure those weren’t a little overplayed or exaggerated. We live in a world of chaos. In college sports, and sports in general, there are so many moving parts and so many changing priorities that sometimes people can lose touch with all the demands the athletic director and/or key staff face.
One of the advantages that I have is I know most of staff from previous assignments. Those that have joined the team in recent months I’ve gotten to know quickly as well.
There’s a sense of understanding, not only in style and approach, but I think we all have a mission that we clearly understand. We all wish Mike well in his new challenges at Purdue. We have a job to do here. We’ve already begun to set on the path to get that accomplished.
We have 375 student-athletes that are here to be educated. They don’t care if it’s an interim athletic director or who that person is. They want to get a good education and a great athletic experience. That’s part of our charge most immediately.
Q: Josh Pastner is a new guy on the block. Have you had a chance to meet with him and discuss his vision for the program.
A: Empathy is the right word Josh’s situation.
As you can recall, in April Brian Gregory arrived and in October Dan left. I filled that void at that time.
Josh arrived last April and here it is in August and the same set of circumstances face him.
As a result I understood the kind of natural anxieties he might have. I was in Florida at the time visiting Florida. We cut that short and turned back quickly. I met Josh that Sunday. We had a great conversation here on campus very quickly.
I look forward to working with him this year and getting his Georgia Tech relationship off on the right foot and helping him and the new athletic director when that person arrives, on board and in sync with his goals and aspirations for the program.
Q: Is there anything tangible that the fans are going to see, or that we are going to see, that you are going to be able to get done to help the football team or the basketball team before the new athletic director arrives?
A: There are a lot of people that have assignments that assist those programs. I’m just one of them.
I don’t think you can ascribe credit to any one person for anything that occurs.
I think that one of the things that might not be visible to all that I’m confident will be visible to Paul and Josh and Machelle (Joseph) and Danny (Hall) and the whole host of coaches we have is a sense of interest and concern for their success.
I have had historically close relationship with all our coaches and reestablished those quickly. For lack of a better phrase, they know I’m in their corner. I’ve got their back. I know what they are up against. I know the challenges that they face. It’s my job to help them be successful.
Myself as well as a whole array of support staff have been charged with the responsibility of making that happen.
When we win a game this week in Ireland, I won’t be there, I’ll take credit for it because I know I will be blamed for cold hot dog in section 221 next week.
My big thing is all right, we’ve understand we’ve had change. We’ve got responsibilities to accept and move forward. Our staff and coaches have accepted those responsibilities and we are ready to go.