1. Selling tickets and raising Georgia Tech’s profile in the Atlanta sports marketplace will be no small priorities for new athletic director Mike Bobinski. He offered his thoughts on the matter Friday.
He called it important to “create sort of a feel, create an energy, create an environment around your program that people want to be a part of. You’ve got to have a positive vibe, you’ve got to have something that people feel invited to be part of.”
He noted the passion that he found the members of the search committee to have for the school.
“We’ve got to find a way, again, to tell our story in a positive way, reach those folks in whatever the most effective means are, but actually reach out to them,” he said.
He called it a daily process that requires more than brochures. He spent two years early in his career working in the finance division at Disney World, experience that was not lost on the search committee.
“If you have a pulse, you can’t help but learn so many things from how they do business down there,” he said. “It’s amazing. Attention to detail. They leave nothing to chance. It’s a heck of a place.”
He stressed again the importance of sending out a never-ending message of welcome to the marketplace.
“If we’re not inviting, if we’re not sending out an inviting message in everything we do, then we’re losing people,” he said. “We’re not capturing as many folks as we can. We’ve got to set that tone throughout the department. That is a Disney thing. That became part of my thinking when I was there.”
2. While he was AD, Dan Radakovich sometimes talked about how the mission of the athletic department was to be the “front porch” of the institute, a message that president G.P. “Bud” Peterson likewise has conveyed. Without using the same words, Bobinski said pretty much the same thing Friday.
He said how he was struck that the school strives to be excellent in everything and that the athletic department should mirror that excellence and strike to achieve accomplishments on par with the rest of the school.
“And I think if we can do that, we would really complement the place and provide amazing opportunities for our student-athletes and also really advance the name of Georgia Tech in a very positive way,” he said. “Maybe in a way that the great work that’s going on here still doesn’t get that notoriety. I think we can be very helpful. That would be my objective, to really sort of be in tune with that.”
3. As noted in the story, the search committee drilled Bobinski hard on the football matter and came away satisfied. Search committee chair Steve Zelnak mentioned one answer in an interview that he found insightful.
“He talked about working with coaches, trying to help the coaches, be it football and other (sports) to really focus in on a plan that takes you to the next level,” he said. “Kinds of things (such as), where do you recruit geographically? Where does Georgia Tech have the best reputation?”
Zelnak said that Tech may have a better reputation athletically and academically outside of the state and region than it does inside, not to mention face less competition from SEC schools. Bobinski mentioned Friday he’ll help coaches seek competitive advantages from his first day.
“You get outside (the Southeast), you find that Georgia Tech is very well-known,” Zelnak said.
Bobinski’s knowledge put former team captain Roddy Jones, a member of the search committee, at ease.
“He gave us his take on the landscape, so it let us know that he really meant what he said about being plugged in,” Jones said. “I don’t think it’ll be that much of a concern, him coming here and learning the culture, anything like that.”
4. Bobinski called the ACC “an unbelievable home for Georgia Tech. It is the right fit in today’s world for us.” Further, he said that schools like Duke, North Carolina and Virginia are the types of schools that Tech should be aligned with and also form the proper “competitive platform.”
“I don’t have any inclination at this point in time that there’s a different home in our future,” he said.
He did point out that the goal for Tech and the rest of the league is to make the football as strong as possible to help with revenues and prevent “temptation or inclination for any folks to start to be picked off. We’re at this moment in time all in for the ACC.”
The phrase “at this moment in time” obviously opens Bobinski up to the sentence-parsing masses.
5. Having coached at Kent State and played at Miami (Ohio), baseball coach Danny Hall has a number of mutual friends with Bobinski. When they met Friday morning, Hall said, Bobinski told him, “Dan Hipsher says hello.” Hipsher, an assistant basketball coach at Alabama, went to grad school with Hall at Miami and was later hired by Bobinski when he was AD at Akron.
“Everybody (that Hall spoke with) just says great guy and (he’ll) be a great guy to work for,” Hall said. “Just all positive.”
Hall said that when Bobinski met with head coaches Friday morning, he emphasized that he wants every sport to perform well.
“I think we can feed off each other and, honestly feel when I first came here, that that was the case,” Hall said. “I think one of the things that (former AD) Homer (Rice) did, he always felt like the athletic association was a family and, for whatever reason, I think we’ve gotten away from that, and I think Mike’s going to bring that family atmosphere back.”
6. A licensed CPA, Bobinski took a hard look at Tech’s books and doesn’t think of the debt load as a burden. During his tenure, Radakovich increased the debt load from $126 million to $226 million with the construction of multiple facilities. However, due to low-interest loans and fundraising, the debt service is expected to be 18 percent of the 2014 budget but then eventually return to 14 percent, where it was when Radakovich arrived.
“It’s reality, but it’s not something that is going to hinder our ability to be successful,” he said.
He acknowledged that it’s incumbent upon the department to find ways to help pay down the debt to free up money that can be spent on programs. He noted the unsold seats and said “there are other things that can be done here in the meantime to sort of help that financial picture. That’ll be my challenge, to help us get some of those done.”
Worth noting – while he was at Xavier, annual giving to athletics raised fivefold ($750,000 to more than $3.5 million). He also spent two years in the middle of his 14 years at Xavier as vice president of development, an obvious acknowledgement of his ability to secure gifts.
7. When basketball coach Brian Gregory coached at Dayton, Xavier was the archrival program. He got to know Bobinski through Xavier-Dayton games and Atlantic 10 league meetings. He saw from Dayton, 45 minutes away from Cincinnati, Xavier’s high graduation rate, support programs for athletes and the strength of the program. He called Bobinski a “first class and impressive guy.” The observations have been easier to make since coming to Tech.
“You take a step back when you’re not competing against them, and you have great respect for what they did,” he said. “In this business, that’s the most important thing, and they didn’t cut any corners. They did it with all sorts of players from all different areas and they had great success doing it.”
8. The committee was satisfied with Bobinski’s responses about a highly publicized game-ending brawl between Xavier and Cincinnati’s basketball teams last year in their annual Crosstown Shootout game. In his application, Bobinski called it the most disappointing experience of his career.
“He doesn’t try to shy away from things. He got right into it,” Zelnak said. “You sit around, you can try to place some blame with the other guys, but you’ve got to take care of your part of the responsibility, and that’s what he did.”
9. Once he begins, Bobinski plans to meet with coaches and staff and “people that are important to this program,” and begin to form a strategy with the help of the aforementioned “to help move things in the right direction. That’s my first and foremost expectation.”
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