Hire of next Georgia Tech AD ‘critical’

The ACC Network will go online in two years, creating a deeper revenue stream for the conference and its members. In football, the race to add staff and build facilities seems to be speeding up. Georgia Tech is coming off a football season in which the team and fans swallowed hard on the reality that bowl seasons are no given.

It is in this landscape that Tech will hire its new athletic director following Mike Bobinski’s hire at Purdue on Tuesday.

“Moving forward, it’s a critical hire, I think,” said Gregg Garrett, a major donor to the athletic department. “I know the athletic association is in a very important part in its evolution. Intercollegiate athletics at the power-five conference level has become very different in just a very short period of time.”

The NCAA's power conferences have separated into their own rulemaking entity. Conference networks have been particularly lucrative for the Big Ten and SEC. In 2011, nine coaches made $3 million annually, according to USA Today. Last year, the number was 34.

Garrett sees the departure of Bobinski to Purdue as a “win-win” for Bobinski and the school. Purdue is a school that Bobinski told reporters “resonated with me. “ Further, Purdue is in arguably the most powerful conference and is in the Midwest, where he went to school and lived most of his professional life.

Garrett said he had a good relationship with Bobinski, but observed that “he was never a fit for what Georgia Tech needed, and I think Mike sensed that. I think the fan base sensed that.”

To Garrett, for the next hire, a strong fundraising background “has to be very close to the top of the list.” Also, the ability to inspire the staff and fan base.

“What I’m trying to say is they’re behind,” Garrett said. “They’re not so far behind right now that they can’t catch up, but they’re probably at that tipping point where they can’t waste any more time. It’s a critical hire.”

The challenge for Tech is that fund-raising and unifying the fan base have been puzzles that the school had sought to solve long before Bobinski’s arrival. Bobinski, in fact, was Xavier’s associate vice president for development for two years between longer stints as the school’s AD.

Garrett suggested that Tech look not only within the field of college athletics administration but into other industries. Syracuse made such a move in July, hiring ESPN executive John Wildhack, who had the added benefit of being a Syracuse graduate. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick was an Indianapolis attorney who also chaired the Indiana Sports Corporation before taking the job at his alma mater in 2008.

Such a hire would carry its own risks, but could provide a different perspective and bring different skills.

“It’s more about running a big-time business, so I think you’ve got to go out there and look in the business world for someone who could do this job and move it forward,” Garrett said.