ATHENS — Josh Brooks was in New York on Wednesday. He didn’t really want to be there necessarily – things are kind of busy back home – but he kind of had to be.
He’s a finalist for Sports Business Journal’s Athletic Director of the Year.
Brooks, the University of Georgia’s athletic director, is one of six Division I administrators up for the annual award. The others are Tennessee’s Danny White, Tulane’s Troy Dannen, Pitt’s Heather Lyke, Iowa State’s Jamie Pollard and San Diego State’s J.D. Wicker. The winner will be announced during Wednesday night’s awards ceremony at the Marriott Marquis Times Square.
Brooks doesn’t believe he’ll win. He is, after all, the junior statesman of the group. The other finalists all are older with more years of experience.
“It sounds cliché, but it really is an honor just to be included in the top six,” Brooks said in a telephone interview from a New York sidewalk. “And it’s not about me anyway. This is all a reflection upon the University of Georgia and our staff and athletes.”
At 41, Brooks hasn’t yet completed his 28th month as UGA’s “J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics.” But no AD anywhere could have had two more eventful years than the Bulldogs’ guy.
There were, of course, the back-to-back national championships in football. But Georgia also has been doing well in other sports. In fact, the Bulldogs have a chance of finishing in the top 10 of the Learfield Directors Cup all-sports standings, which means they’ll contend for the top spot in the SEC for the 2022-23 academic year.
There’s a bunch of stuff that still has to happen in baseball, softball and track, and the Learfield folks won’t update their standings until mid-June, but it’s a mathematical possibility.
“I’m doing a lot of napkin-adding right now,” Brooks said. “I’m tracking it like a hawk.”
There has been other stuff to track, as well. For instance, Brooks has overseen coaching changes in seven of UGA’s 15 sports during his short tenure. He also has dealt with falling ceiling pieces that shut down the school’s basketball arena and is actively exercising damage control in the wake of a high-profile, alcohol-related crash involving athletes, department employees and university vehicles.
Meanwhile, there could be more personnel decisions to be made in short order. Georgia’s baseball season just ended abruptly in the first round of the SEC Tournament with no chance of an NCAA bid under 10th-year baseball coach Scott Stricklin. Gymnastics’ season similarly was poor and has been for a while under sixth-year coach Courtney Kupets Carter.
Brooks declined to discuss those situations. Over the next 24 hours, his chief concerns are not getting tomato sauce on his shirt or tie and getting back to Georgia in time for Thursday morning’s end-of-year board meeting retreat on Lake Oconee in Greensboro. A private jet will be required, Kirby Smart-style.
Once at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, there mostly will be good news to share. The board is expected to approve a $173.6 million budget for Fiscal Year 2024, which starts July 1. Current and emeriti board members will be provided updates on $90.2 million worth of construction projects at Sanford Stadium and the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. They also will be provided an update on the five-year, $300 million fundraising campaign, which apparently is proceeding undeterred despite the increased emphasis being given to name, image and likeness initiatives nowadays.
Also expected to be shared are details of multimillion-dollar improvement projects for UGA’s baseball and softball stadium complexes.
“It’s basically going to be a bragfest, with great information on our academic numbers, our fundraising numbers, where we sit in the Learfield Cup,” Brooks said. “So, it’s going to be an infomercial on a lot of things.”
Brooks said he does not plan to update the board on the status of two pending lawsuits being pursued by the father of Devin Willock, a football player who died in the Jan. 15 car crash that also killed a football recruiting staff member and injured two other individuals associated with the football program. That, he said, is considered an ongoing legal matter.
It is quite possible, however, that the board will have questions for Brooks about the driving habits of Georgia’s NIL-supported football players. A fourth member of the football team was jailed this week after he was cited for reckless driving because of excessive speeding. Senior wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint was taken to jail after being clocked for driving 90 mph in a 45 mph zone. His arrest followed those of Jalen Carter, Jamon Dumas-Johnson and De’Nylon Morrissette on similar charges in the past three months.
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