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Opinion Week: AD Todd Stansbury’s “State of Athletics” Address Proves He Was a Perfect Hire

The first six months of his administration is awfully confidence-inspiring for what Stansbury can bring to the athletic department in the coming years.

After being hired last fall and taking office in December, Todd Stansbury gave his first “State of Georgia Tech Athletics” address a few weeks back. In doing so, he explained his observations from meetings with each staff member in the department, the department’s “strategic priorities” moving forward, and the actions being taken already within the department to address each of those priorities. It’s a little more than an hour of video (mainly consisting of Stansbury speaking, with a few Powerpoint slides thrown in), but it’s very much worth listening to for those who haven’t yet done so.

As I listened recently, I heard several things that individually led back to the exact same conclusion:

Todd Stansbury was a perfect hire as Georgia Tech’s athletic director.

As an alumnus, Stansbury understands the uniqueness of Georgia Tech far more intimately than his recent predecessors.

Stansbury thoroughly understands the things that simultaneously make Georgia Tech an incredibly special place, while also posing some of the biggest difficulties that the athletic department faces.

He clearly recognizes the budgetary constraints that the department faces, at least relative to some of their primary competition in all sports. He also recognizes that those constraints are unlikely to change in a big, meaningful way, and instead has expressed his intent to focus time and energy on maximizing the resources available to his team. (More on that in a second.)

He continually references the impact that former Georgia Tech athletes have gone on to have in their corporations and communities, and that’s aside from the impacts they’ve had in professional sports. In realizing this, Stansbury knows that there are some highly valuable talents and skills available to his department between their current workforce and alumni base. By harnessing the special talents of those personally invested in the athletic department’s success, Stansbury stands to get higher effort and quality for a lower cost when looking to take on initiatives that would often require bringing in outside resources.

Those types of things give me faith that he’ll be able to enact change in ways that other recent athletic directors have been unable to effectively do.

He’s taking action and addressing things that were known issues.

This is probably more of a “breath of fresh air” type of thing than anything, after several years of Mike Bobinski’s reign as Athletic Director where progress on anything seemed minimal. The thing that will always stick out in my mind, personally, was Bobinski releasing a new “Strategic Plan” for the department after over 3 years in office. That plan basically boiled down to, “We should try working together.” It took him over 36 months to come up with that.

Here, Todd Stansbury has barely been in office for 6 months, and has already identified four things for the department to focus on improving — the things that we’ve been talking about, no less. The priorities are as follows:

  • Brand
  • Culture
  • Structure
  • Revenue Growth

Anyone who’s put any significant amount of time thinking about what Georgia Tech’s Athletics Department needs to improve upon across the board has probably settled on at least one of those points. They’re clear areas in need of development, Stansbury is stating that the department will be investing in developing them, and actions are already being taken to do so.

Amazing what an effective leader can accomplish in 6 months.

He’s visible and making clear efforts to market his message to the Georgia Tech alumni & fan base, and to the city of Atlanta.

I’d imagine that I’m not alone in thinking that, until recently, the GTAA could really have been doing a lot more to connect with its fan base and make themselves visible to the city of Atlanta. For years, the goings-on inside of the Edge Building seem to have been a relative mystery to all but the select few beat reporters and insiders who spend significant time there. Under Bobinski in particular, it’s been well-documented how absent he seemed to be. (His only regular publicity, as I recall, were weekly “Ask the AD” segments with Chuck and Chernoff on 680 The Fan, where he would mostly give his takes on larger issues not directly associated with Georgia Tech.)

The lines of communication that were formerly closed have been opened wide by Stansbury since he took office. The video that we’re talking about here — the one that’s embedded at the top of this article? That kind of thing is relatively unprecedented in recent history in the GTAA. It doesn’t just stop there, either. For those who haven’t been listening, the AD has been doing a monthly podcast — endearingly referred to as the “Todd-cast” -- with Andy Demetra, answering questions from fans and offering his unique perspectives on various issues. He’s active on social media, promoting his teams and connecting with student-athletes and fans.

Stansbury is taking every opportunity to connect with fans, market his teams, and preach Georgia Tech’s message to anyone who will listen, and it’s eventually going to make a huge difference in the perception and success of the programs that he oversees.

As an alumnus, Stansbury doesn’t view Georgia Tech as a “stepping stone” type of position.

This might be the most important point of all. In Stansbury, Georgia Tech hired a new athletic director for the third time in under 11 years, and did so without firing either of the first two. The predecessors moved on to athletic departments that were better fits for their skill sets and desires, and during their regimes at Georgia Tech seemed to make decisions that reflected the short-term interests that they had on the Flats.

That won’t be the case with Stansbury. The new AD pretty clearly doesn’t intend to make short-sighted decisions that will create long-term problems. As he stated in the video, he’s making decisions and treating the department like one that he’ll still be running 10 to 15 years from now — because he wants to be. Georgia Tech is home for him, and not just some stepping stone to another “destination job”. For Stansbury, this always was his “destination job”. Now that he’s here, it’s obvious that he’s incredibly motivated to make the most of it and provide results that won’t give Georgia Tech’s fans, alumni, student-athletes, or administration any reason to move on from him.

Todd Stansbury was about as close to a perfect hire as Georgia Tech could have made for its athletic director position.

From his first six months in office, we’ve seen basically every box checked by Stansbury as it relates to what Georgia Tech’s athletic department needed:

  • He’s an alumnus who knows the department and institute as well as an AD possibly could.
  • He considers Georgia Tech to be home, and isn’t looking to take jobs elsewhere. He’s purely acting in the interests of Georgia Tech.
  • He recognizes the things that need the most attention within the athletic department, and is already taking actions to address them.
  • He’s marketing his teams and his department while connecting with the fan base in every way possible.

Georgia Tech has a long history of successful, influential athletic directors that have had positive influence over their own athletic department and beyond. It’s still early, but indications so far are that they’ve hired another of the same ilk.