At first blush, a handful of coaches make for easy dots to connect – Army coach Jeff Monken and Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon (both of whom coached for Johnson at Tech and have succeeded on their own), Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield (46-16 in five seasons; Tech defensive coordinator Nate Woody worked for him), Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott (named the nation's top assistant coach in 2017) and one for the alumni – San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt (a teammate of Stansbury's at Tech).
Whoever it is, it will have to be someone who aligns with Stansbury’s vision for Tech to succeed with athletes who want to compete both on the field and in the classroom. It will have to be someone who can bring energy to the fan base and, as Johnson did, win with recruiting classes that won’t rate with the likes of Georgia and Clemson.
But the decision that Stansbury makes may represent more than simply who will be calling the shots for the Yellow Jackets.
“I’m not just talking about the offense they run, but big-time college football is a big-time business, it’s a big-time investment,” said Gregg Garrett, a major Tech donor. “I think Georgia Tech will have to take a long, hard look at themselves as a program and decide the path forward.”
In short, as Garrett saw it: How much of a player does Tech want to be in the hunt for ACC championships?
In his 11 seasons, Johnson constantly pushed for upgrades in facilities and additions to staff. He found a willing partner in Stansbury, who helped secure funding for a new locker room and led fundraising for additional staff positions. He has also initiated a $125 million capital campaign, which has raised $51 million with two more years to go.
But Stansbury, now beginning his third year at Tech, has also sought funding streams that would increase the athletic department’s annual budget by about $10 million in order to compete with the ACC’s best. It is about $80 million for fiscal year 2019. Stansbury believes such an increase would put Tech in the middle third of the ACC in spending.
“I think anybody would tell you that you can play above your weight class pretty consistently,” Garrett said. “So if you’re the 13th out of 14 schools, you can get to eighth or ninth. But if Georgia Tech wants to get in the top tier in sports, how do they get there?”
Garrett expressed his confidence in Stansbury’s desire to compete at the highest level and to seek out the financial support to make it a reality.
“I think the hardest thing for Georgia Tech, and it’s always been a challenge at Tech, is getting everyone from the athletic department to the hill (Tech’s administration) to be on board with what they decide and being willing to make a commitment to make it happen,” he said.
Ken Sugiura is a sports columnist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Formerly the Georgia Tech beat reporter, Sugiura started at the AJC in 1998 and has covered a variety of beats, mostly within sports.