AD Todd Stansbury lays out his vision, priorities for Georgia Tech

September 22, 2016 Atlanta - Georgia Tech new AD Todd Stansbury waves to fans during Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets game against the Clemson Tigers at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, September 22, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

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September 22, 2016 Atlanta - Georgia Tech new AD Todd Stansbury waves to fans during Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets game against the Clemson Tigers at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, September 22, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury is like a lot of graduates of the school. A member of the class of 1984 and the holder of an industrial management degree, he feels fierce pride and deep gratitude to the school for how it prepared him for life after college.

“I came here for all the wrong reasons, but, because I wanted to play a game, I was able to earn a Georgia Tech degree and get an incredible opportunity, a launch pad that has provided me a totally different life than I would have had otherwise,” he told donors at a gathering last week.

Hired last September from Oregon State, Stansbury is ready to act. On the job since late November, Stansbury has been fact finding and learning more about the department, a process that included meeting with all 177 staff members in the department. He presented his vision for Tech at last week’s gathering, a presentation to major donors at McCamish Pavilion.

Stansbury emphasized four strategic priorities for the department – brand, culture, structure and revenue growth. A thread of that vision is to spread the story of Tech as a powerful institution capable of changing lives in the way it did his – to Atlanta, to donors and, not least, to recruits.

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At the heart of that plan is his creation of what he called an “ideation” team, which he likened to an in-house ad agency that will be unlike a traditional marketing office in that it won’t be tasked with promoting upcoming games, teams or season-ticket packages, but with spreading the Tech brand. The office will create content that can be shared on social media, on its website and publications and shown to recruits and donors.

“So that starts to resonate and people start to identify, You know what? Georgia Tech really does have a special group of student-athletes that go on to be incredibly successful,” Stansbury said.

In the presentation, Stansbury aspired to the reputation that Stanford has built. For elite high-school prospects with high academic standing in virtually any sport, the school in the heart of Silicon Valley that wins national championships by the bushel is invariably on the short list.

“We should be on that list, too,” he said. “And that is going to be (the ideation team’s) job.”

Part of how Tech should differentiate itself, Stansbury believes, is what former Yellow Jackets athletes are doing five and 10 years after graduation. Stansbury wants to sell that future through the stories of former athletes such as football player Pat Swilling, the former all-pro who is now a real estate developer in New Orleans, volleyball player Jaime Weston, the NFL’s senior vice president for marketing, creative and branding, and Jenny Lentz Moore, a former runner and swimmer who went on to fly fighter jets in the Navy.

Essentially, he wants the interlocking “GT” logo to have the same meaning to recruits, donors and fans that it does to him.

“I mean, you still go to pockets of the country that, when they see the ‘GT,’ they may think Georgetown,” he said. “I think that we need to become one of those iconic brands because we have a unique story to tell. I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of doing that.”

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It is something of a chicken-and-egg conundrum. Stanford can tell its story through the platform that 107 NCAA championships provide. Not counting its football national titles, which aren’t awarded by the NCAA at the FBS level, Tech has won one, in women’s tennis in 2007.

The more Tech wins and has the opportunities for stories like All-ACC center/mechanical engineer Ben Lammers’ to be told, the more its profile will rise. But first it has to recruit the athletes to win those games.

To that end, Stansbury informed the donors that he believed Tech’s annual budget needed to be increased by $10 million, to $87 million. With the additional budget, Tech could have full scholarship funding for all 17 of its teams (the track and field and swimming teams are not fully funded) and have more resources in areas such as marketing and a nutrition program.

Tech’s $77 million budget “sounds like a lot, but as a comparison, it puts us probably in the bottom third of the conference,” Stansbury said.

Stansbury noted the anticipated increase in television revenues with the ACC Network, but made the point that every other ACC school will receive the same increase, meaning Tech’s position won’t change.

Stansbury said he’ll have the ticket sales office be in “lockstep” with the development office, as ticket buyers should be filling the pipeline of future donors. But, he said, Tech has to find sources of revenue rather than just tapping the existing ones and added that “we’re looking at new business development.”

An increased budget would help Jackets teams put them where Stansbury said they need to be, “and that is, we need to be relevant in every sport and knocking on the door of (ACC) championships in every sport.”

He said it needs to be a priority, “so we make sure we have the resources to recruit the kids we need to recruit.”

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Stansbury also is seeking renovations to the Edge Center, the athletic department headquarters, particularly the nutrition center and the academic support area. He said that his goal is to begin the renovation of the football locker room, a project that has been in the planning phase for the past few years, after the 2017 season. He said a new locker room, last updated in 2003, would cost between $3 to $5 million.

“Right now, I’m in the process of raising the money, which I believe I’m going to be able to do fairly quickly,” he said.

The Edge Center projects will cost $10 million, which he said he hopes to do piece by piece as funding is secured.

After starting in late November, Stansbury said he has spent much of his first five months meeting with donors, many of whom wanted to know what Stansbury needed and how they could help. He now has his answers.

“So now, kind of the next five months will be going back to a lot of those same people and saying, ‘O.K., this is what I need,” he said.