ATHENS – Forty-two hours after Greg McGarity announced his impending retirement as Georgia’s athletic director, the Bulldogs held a video news conference Wednesday to introduce Josh Brooks, who will be taking over that job in the interim. But for anyone who has been around UGA athletics for the past decade or so, Brooks needs no introduction.
Brooks has been “out front” more than most senior athletics administrators. As McGarity’s “right-hand man” and No. 2 the past five years, it was Brooks who usually stood up in front of UGA’s athletic board to give the power-point presentations on the Bulldogs’ latest projects. He is the man responsible for brokering the home-and-home football series that sent Georgia to Notre Dame in 2017 and brought the Fighting Irish to Athens in 2019. He’s the guy most credited for bringing the Jason Aldean concert to Sanford Stadium in 2013 and you can thank him for the red L.E.D. lights that now enhance the Bulldogs’ light-up-Sanford, fourth-quarter tradition.
Brooks deflects praise and credit for all those things, which is another reason many think he will make an ideal successor to McGarity as Georgia’s permanent AD, whenever that decision comes. For now, though, Brooks said he’s “just here to carry the torch” and doesn’t feel like he’s auditioning to get the job.
“Hopefully, what I’ve done in my career has built up more than just what you’d look at in a couple of months,” said Brooks, a 40-year-old native of Hammond, La., and LSU alum. “I’ve always tried to show that day in and day out. If this is an audition, then, so be it. But I come to work the same way every day. I’ll treat today or Jan. 1 no different than any other day.”
UGA President Jere Morehead offered no timeline to find McGarity’s replacement. He said Tuesday he will accept the recommendation of a 10-person advisory committee that he formed to conduct a national search of, primarily, “sitting athletic directors.” How long that takes is anybody’s guess.
But Brooks definitely is a strong candidate. McGarity lured him back to Athens twice, once when he was set to go to work at Florida State and again after he’d left to be AD at Division III’s Millsaps College and then the No. 2 man at Louisiana-Monroe.
The fact that the Bulldogs trotted out Brooks for a Zoom call with media Wednesday reflects the confidence UGA has in him to do the job.
“We got him back again because we knew he was a vital part of our program,” said McGarity, who first hired Brooks as assistant AD for internal operations in 2012. “When he wasn’t here, we really missed his enthusiasm. He was like a pied piper; he had a lot of followers. Great leaders have a lot of followers, and he was able to cultivate a large group of student workers and others that just enjoyed being around him. His personality was contagious, and we really missed that. He’s brought that back to our program and is very popular among the staff. He’s just wired the right way.”
Brooks was brought to Athens by former football coach Mark Richt, who hired him as director of football operations in 2008. Holding a degree in kinesiology from LSU at the time, Brooks completed his master’s degree in sport management from UGA while in that role. All three of his sons with his wife, Lillie, were born in Athens, twins Jackson and James in 2009 and Davis in 2012.
Brooks made it clear that he very much wants the permanent job and said he feels well-qualified for it.
“I’ve been young in my career as I’ve advanced,” he said. “I am young, but I have 20-plus years in college athletics and I have seen athletics at every level, small schools, big schools, and worked as a student assistant and grad-assistant coach and in football operations. So, I’ve had the coaching side of it and I’ve worked in the administrative side of it. … I’ve had a wide range of experience, and I feel ready and confident for this responsibility.”
Brooks would definitely bring a younger sensibility to the position. He’s very active on his Twitter and Instagram accounts and said he would continue to be so as Georgia’s AD. He said his corporate philosophy aligns with Chick-fil-A and Disney in that he’s always hoping to enhance the “fan experience.”
“I think we’ve made great strides in that regard the last few years,” Brooks said. “This has been a year, with reduced capacity, that we’ve been able to really focus on that and take our time to greet people and treat them right. … We’re trying to create an environment and culture of great customer service, of treating people the right way, because at the end of the day … this is escapism.”
As for the other side of the job, which includes the hiring and firing of coaches and balancing budgets, Brooks said he believes McGarity has prepared him for that by closely involving him in those processes the past several years.
“I can’t tell you how much confidence those experiences have given me moving forward, the knowledge of seeing how a program works A to Z,” Brooks said. “So, of course, I’d love the opportunity. It’s anyone’s dream that’s in administration to be a Power 5 AD.”
For now, at least, Brooks has achieved that.