Wearing a gold tie that he’s kept for many, many years, perhaps in hopes of one day wearing it at Georgia Tech, and a ring commemorating the Yellow Jackets’ football national championship in 1990, Todd Stansbury sat in what will become his office as athletic director. He looked so comfortable, it was as if he didn’t leave Tech in 1995 to circumnavigate the globe with his wife Karen.
Between 1995 and Thursday, when he was introduced as the institute’s ninth athletic director, Stansbury first toured the Earth and then took what he learned as a student at Tech and linebacker under coach Bill Curry, and then as an athletic administrator under Homer Rice, and applied it to jobs at Houston, East Tennessee State, Oregon State, Central Florida and then again in Corvallis, where he spent the past 1½ years as athletic director.
Returning to Tech as AD is his dream job, which is one of the reasons that Karen said he kept a few gold-colored ties.
Just in case.
In an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Stansbury, 55, laid out his vision for Georgia Tech athletics, defined the challenges of the job and that athletics face, and described what he wants from coaches.
Q: I just met Karen and she said something really neat, that when you interviewed at Oregon State, you told the president that if Georgia Tech comes open, that is your dream job.
A: When we were talking contract, I was hoping to get Georgia Tech an exemption from any type of buyout situation.
Georgia Tech has been so much a part of my story, that I think when this thing came open, a lot of people assumed I would be interested and kind of thought this would be a good fit.
I don’t think anybody’s surprised that this turned out the way it did, other than a lot of times they don’t turn out this way.
Q: She had mentioned that you had a conversation with the Oregon State president yesterday, and he mentioned that he knew this was your dream.
A: Dr. (Edward) Ray was incredibly gracious. He basically said, ‘I get it, it’s your alma mater. Life’s too short to pass by on something that means that much to you.’
Q: Did you have the ambivalence that you really wanted it, but haven’t been here that long?
A: Most definitely. In fact, that was the thing that, when Mike (Bobinski) resigned, I’m just like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. He couldn’t hang on another couple of years.’ (laughs)
It was very early in the morning when my phone was blowing up. I woke up Karen and said, ‘You won’t believe what happened.’ I don’t think what she said could be printed in your paper.
Q: Did you call Dr. (Bud) Peterson, or how did this come about?
A: I pretty much stayed out of it knowing that I couldn’t pursue it, given my situation. It really was a case where if it was going to happen, hopefully the committee would come to me.
I had just gotten there. I have a long history at Oregon State. It was a little bit of a different-type situation.
This has always been the goal, but I didn’t feel like I was in position to pursue it the way I normally would have.
Q: Was this week the first time you interviewed?
A: Everything happened in the last three days. It went fast.
Q: They flew you out to talk to you?
A: No. We were in, ironically, at Division I athletic director meetings (in Dallas), which is an organization that Homer Rice started.
We just happened to be in the same town. It made it pretty convenient to have a conversation (on Sunday).
We went back, talked (for three hours), and went our separate ways. It just kind of came together.
Q: I remember, I was reading something about when you interviewed at Oregon State, you could have taken a tact of, ‘I know this place already, you guys know me.’ But it sounded like you went after it like you didn’t know anyone there.
A: The thing about it is, and what I’ve been pretty cognizant of is, there’s a lot of peoples that have various connections to places, but that’s not going to get you hired.
That might be something that adds to your qualifications. But at the end of the day, you have to be qualified for that job, regardless of whose name is on the diploma.
When I interviewed at Oregon State, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t just rely on the fact that I’d been there so long. What I told my staff at the time at UCF, is that what we did at UCF is what helped me get the Oregon State job.
I feel if I hadn’t done what we did at UCF, and what we had done at Oregon State, I’m not getting the Georgia Tech job.
Q: I know you brought some people from UCF to Oregon State. Do you plan on bringing some people with you again?
A: I would like to. I have to get a feel for the department and the people we have. Unfortunately, Corvallis is a magical place. Some of those people may never leave.
I definitely have a great team, and hopefully, some of them might be convinced to move back East.
Q: There’s obviously some financial challenges they face there. Did that give you pause?
A: That’s something you are always concerned about, but the state of intercollegiate athletics right now is there aren’t many institutions that don’t have some financial concerns. While it’s uncomfortable, unfortunately that is the way it is at most places.
Q: Do you think you will build a terrace here next?
A: At UCF I built a beach club. A beach club wouldn’t work at OSU, so we built a terrace. I don’t know what we will do here. We will do something.
Q: Was the beach club designed to appeal to younger fans?
A: Yes. Younger fans and the fact that everybody experiences games differently.
The idea of providing varied experiences in the same venue and knowing that you are competing against yourself on TV, it’s so important that you find experiences that cater to the young demographic.
You have to look at your real estate and what you can do with it and make sure it’s not one size fits all. That’s not how fans consume live sports anymore.
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