3 possible candidates for Georgia Tech athletic director

Georgia State athletics director Charlie Cobb.

Credit: AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

Georgia State athletics director Charlie Cobb.

While Georgia Tech fans are wondering who might be the next football coach of the Yellow Jackets, the question that school officials have to first answer is who the athletic director will be.

School President Ángel Cabrera and interim athletic director Frank Neville are leading the search, with the assistance of Parker Executive Search. With the intent of making the hire in time to allow the new athletic director to observe at least the end of the football season, the search is expected to be concluded by Nov. 1 and certainly could wrap up sooner, according to a person familiar with the situation.

When he was introduced to media members Sept. 27, Neville offered three qualifications for the hire – someone who represents the values of the institute, “who understands the complicated and fluid nature of the college athletics landscape” and “who knows about college football and can lead the football program.”

Three possible candidates are Army AD Mike Buddie, Georgia State AD Charlie Cobb and former Auburn AD Allen Greene. While their fitness for the first two qualifications is a more subjective matter, all three have been a part of winning football programs in their histories.

Buddie has been at Army since 2019 and has supported coach Jeff Monken’s ongoing success with the Black Knights. In Monken’s first eight seasons (five of which preceded Buddie’s hire), Army reached five bowl games after making one in the previous 17. Buddie was hired from Furman, where he hired a coach (Clay Hendrix) who has led the Paladins to four consecutive winning seasons (not including the shortened 2021 spring season) after taking over a team that had had three consecutive losing seasons. Before that, Buddie rose to the position of senior associate AD at Wake Forest, overseeing facilities projects and contributing to the building of coach Dave Clawson’s successful tenure.

Before his hire at Georgia State in 2014, Cobb was the AD at Appalachian State for nine years, where the football team won three consecutive FCS championships before transitioning to FBS. He also oversaw major facilities projects and hired coach Scott Satterfield, who led the move to FBS and won bowl games in the team’s first three seasons of FBS eligibility. At Georgia State, he has overseen the purchase of Turner Field and its transformation into Center Parc Stadium. He also hired coach Shawn Elliott and provided the infrastructure for the Panthers to make four bowl games in his first five seasons. Cobb’s knowledge of Atlanta (earlier in his career, he worked with the Atlanta Sports Council, the Peach Bowl and the Georgia Dome) and the University System of Georgia adds to the strength of his resume.

Greene left his position in part for a reason that Tech fans might identify with, his football hire (Bryan Harsin) apparently being a flawed choice. Greene’s rocky term also was seen as a reflection of a dysfunctional atmosphere within the athletic department that preceded him. During his time, Auburn did make two College World Series trips in baseball, and its men’s basketball team reached the Final Four. Before his hire at Auburn, he was AD at Buffalo, where he inherited coach Lance Leipold. With Greene’s support, the Bulls improved from 7-17 in Leipold’s first two seasons (Greene was promoted from within to AD during Leipold’s first season), to 30-16 in his final four.

One person who won’t be a candidate is Mark Rountree, who was Stansbury’s deputy athletic director. Following Todd Stansbury’s dismissal, Rountree resigned his position to take much-needed time off and to give the next AD the flexibility to hire his or her own deputy AD, he said in a text message.

Another is Clemson AD and Tech grad Graham Neff, seen as a rising star in the industry. The longtime No. 2 to former Clemson AD Dan Radakovich, Neff was promoted to the top spot in December after Radakovich’s departure for Miami. A person familiar with Neff’s thinking told the AJC that while he has been flattered for his name to come up as a possible candidate, he is committed to Clemson.