As part of his report to the Georgia Tech Athletic Association board Thursday morning, athletic director Todd Stansbury showed the board members a video of a recent service trip taken by Yellow Jackets athletes to Puerto Rico to help in hurricane recovery.
As it turned out, the presentation became part of Stansbury’s sales pitch for the athletic department’s $125 million capital campaign, anounced Thursday. The centerpiece is a $70 million renovation of the Edge Center, Tech’s athletics headquarters and also the building where the meeting was held.
“I’m so excited that, after a year and a half (as athletic director), we actually saw a video that worked,” Stansbury said, half joking. “That shouldn’t be as much of a leap, but unfortunately, as you all have been part of, it has been, for whatever reason. But (Thursday), we were able to pull that off.”
Opened in 1982, the Edge Center is functional, but is perhaps past its expiration date. At a time in college athletics where perception and appearance count heavily, the Edge Center shows its age, is mismatched in parts and sometimes, as Stansbury noted, the infrastructure fails. In its current state, it has been deemed detrimental to recruiting efforts and not worthy of a school that sees itself as a leader in innovation and technology.
Stansbury unveiled to board members renderings of the space, a six-story building filled with natural light that will be functional, will be counted on to generate revenue and figures to pop with recruits.
“We talk about athletics being the front porch of a university or an institution,” Stansbury told the board. “Well, this building is our front porch, and so we feel that this is the kind of linchpin of what we’re going to look like for the next 20 years.”
The campaign’s end date is December 2020, but the Edge Center renovation, which would require the demolition of parts of the building, could begin as soon as funding for it is secured. It would be an 18-month process, which would necessitate coaches and staff whose offices are housed there to be moved elsewhere on campus.
“It’s going to be kind of a hodgepodge, but everybody knows what the end game is, so you can kind of grin and bear it,” Stansbury said.
The building, which is built into the northeast corner of Bobby Dodd Stadium, also will open up onto the stadium, creating premium seating for football games.
It is Stansbury’s hope that the building, with its glass exteriors, will be more welcoming to the campus community. (Former AD Mike Bobinski, who had likewise identified the need for a renovation, once likened the Edge to CIA headquarters. “You don’t know what’s happening in there,” he said.) Stansbury also wants the main floor to highlight the department’s Total Person Program, which helps develop athletes academically, personally and professionally. He has repeatedly stated that he believes the program, founded by former Tech AD Homer Rice, is a differentiator in the recruiting game.
“All the things that we’ve got that we think kind of sets us apart will be very, very visible,” Stansbury said. “Those will be front and center.”
The campaign, dubbed Athletics Initiative 2020, had a soft launch in January and has already raised $28 million. That includes money gifted for the football locker-room renovation. Other objectives include new locker rooms for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, additional improvements to Russ Chandler Stadium (baseball), $25 million for the scholarship endowment fund and $12 million for operations.
The campaign’s objectives are to impact recruiting, the development of student-athletes and success on the field. Stansbury has repeatedly sought to supply football coach Paul Johnson with facilities improvements and staffing additions, believing that they are necessary to help the Jackets win. The campaign is in the same vein.
“I think that, unfortunately, resources equate to wins,” he told the board. “There’s no way around it.”
Stansbury showed the board a chart with the budgets for the top third of the ACC ($144.5 million to $100.3 million), the middle third ($96.5 million to $87.3 million) and the bottom third ($86.9 million to $67.5 million). Tech, with a budget of $84.3 million for fiscal year 2018, is in the lowest tier. (Tech does field the fewest varsity teams among ACC schools.) Some Jackets teams do not have the full allotment of staff as permitted by NCAA. Scholarship funding for the swimming and diving teams and the track and cross country teams is set at in-state levels, limiting those teams’ coaches recruiting options.
“I think it definitely makes it challenging, so that they’re being asked to always fight above their weight class,” Stansbury said. “And I think that’s a tall task. That’s a tall task for day in and day out. And we expect to win.”
Tech ranked 12th out of ACC 15 teams in a recent AJC report that scored teams based on their finish in ACC competition. Stansbury said he would take the story with him to meet potential donors.
“My goal is with this AI 2020 initiative is really to move us into a different quadrant,” he said. “Say you’re (Nos.) 4, 5 or 6, well, when you have a good year, that means you’re 1, 2 or 3. So the idea is to move us into a different realm because of the resources we’ve got available.”