When the college football season ended, Georgia Tech starting quarterback Vad Lee said he wanted to transfer.
When the college basketball season ended, the Jackets’ best player, Robert Carter, also said he was going to transfer.
Not to suggest the campus on North Avenue seemed destined for a similar fate as Pompeii but Tech recently endured a 12-day period in which an assistant football coach suddenly resigned (“to pursue other opportunities” that haven’t materialized), a recruiting coordinator was fired (or officially was declared “no longer associated with the program,” two projected football regulars were declared academically ineligible and Carter left.
Not done yet. Four football players have been suspended this offseason for the first two games of next season for undisclosed violations of student-athlete policies.
Now I’m done.
“That’s enough. You’ve got plenty,” Mike Bobinski said Thursday, managing a chuckle.
Bobinski has been on the job at Georgia Tech only since April of 2013. So it wouldn’t be fair to blame him for the recent stretches of mediocrity in the football or men’s basketball programs. But things have gotten a little silly lately. Bobinski is convinced the recent cartoon-like run is more about coincidence than some indication that Tech’s two revenue-producing sports are spiraling downward.
“If I thought there was a real problem, I’d tell you,” he said. “I don’t think either one of those situations indicates that.”
The two situations he referenced were Lee and Carter. Lee was a touted recruit and a likeable kid in good academic standing. It just turned out he wasn’t very good at running Paul Johnson’s option offense and wanted out. He transferred to James Madison, a I-AA school, to avoid sitting out a season.
Carter also was the prize of a major recruiting battle for coach Brian Gregory, a starting forward for an injury-diminished Jackets team this season but projected as one the ACC’s top players next year. He shocked everybody — “It was a pull-the-rug-out kind of thing,” Bobinski said — when he said he wanted to transfer because it was the right thing for his basketball future.
Carter is being influenced by his AAU coach, Winfred Jordan, who has convinced him that sitting out for a year to just work out and then playing one season anywhere, possibly St. John’s, will improve his NBA draft stock.
Comment: Most are trying to say the right thing here because Carter is only 20 years old and it’s clear he’s listening to all of the voices in his ear. But when a player leaves his teammates in a lurch, and in such bizarre circumstances, it’s clear he has maturity issues.
“I think in the end, people are going to say, ‘He left the ACC and Georgia Tech to go there?’” Bobinski said. “There’s not a lot of logic I can draw from this. I’m not trying to be critical of him, but I know what I see.”
Back to Tech. If Bobinski sees a problem, it’s in mindset. He doesn’t doubt everybody in the athletic department wants to win. But he believes there’s a tendency to accept mediocrity too easily.
“One of our biggest challenges is how we view ourselves and how we do business,” he said. “We need to not be in the position of offering explanations to everyone. We need to find a way to move the needle. That’s such a fundamental thing. Those who believe and expect great things will find a way to get it done. Those who don’t, you will get what you get.”
Asked if staff members are making too many excuses, he said, “Excuses is such a tough word. Maybe rationalizations. You hear,‘We’re not this,’ or ‘We’re not that.’ That’s not productive thinking. It’s a comfortable way to say, ‘We can’t get any better.’”
Dan Radakovich, Bobinski’s predecessor at Georgia Tech, encountered similar frustrations. Either there were complaints about academic restrictions or the large shadow that the state’s flagship university in Athens casts over every other campus. With a hunger to win and not having to worry about selling seats, Radakovich left for Clemson.
“Factually, I was extremely well prepared and informed what the situation was,” Bobinski said. “But I would tell you the difficulty of making the turn and changing the mindset has been difficult.
“We have to get comfortable in own skin. You don’t get anywhere with comparisons. You decide who you are and you dedicate yourself to being the best version of yourself that you can be.”
Nothing prepares an administrator for such an avalanche of bad news in short time frame.
- May 2: Special teams coach Dave Walkosky “resigned.” It’s not known if his sudden departure was related to…
- May 7: News became public that Matt Griffin, Johnson’s director of player personnel, had been fired with cause May 1, over what’s believed to be expense account abuse.
- May 9: Running back Travis Custis and defense end Jabari Hunt-Days, both projected for key roles next season, were declared academically ineligible. (Custis intends to transfer to Hutchinson Community College and could return; Hunt-Days’ future is less certain.).
- May 13: Carter said he was gone.
“It all happened in a two-week period. I’m sure some people are thinking, ‘What’s going on over there?’” Bobinski said. “But it’s coincidental in timing. It gives everybody, including me, a ton of heartburn, but I really don’t think it’s evidence that the sky is falling.”
He maintains confidence in both Johnson and Gregory. He also said he never saw Tech as “a quick-fix place,” adding, “It takes patience. But I’m not great with patience.”
He probably would settle for just a quiet day right now.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.