Georgia Tech athletic director preparing for ‘major shift’ in college athletics

J Batt discusses various changes in a sit-down interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia Tech fans cheer during Block Party prior to an NCAA college football game between Georgia Tech and Georgia at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, Saturday, November 25, 2023, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin /



Georgia Tech fans cheer during Block Party prior to an NCAA college football game between Georgia Tech and Georgia at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, Saturday, November 25, 2023, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin /

In May, a settlement was proposed, with a monetary tag of $2.8 billion, between the NCAA and the Power Five conferences that would allow universities to pay athletes while also having to compensate former players who competed between 2016-21.

While that settlement has an extremely long road to take before being approved, the writing is on the wall that college athletics will be changing sooner than later.

“I think it’s fair to expect a major shift in college athletics and how we’ll operate. I think there are as many unknowns as knowns as this point in time,” Tech athletic director J Batt said in a recent sit-down interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I will say we are going to look at it as an opportunity. Any time there is change, and particularly significant change, there is an opportunity for advancement.

“At Georgia Tech, we’re going to lean into our alignment, into our location at the center of college athletics and here in Atlanta, and find ways to take advantage of that change.”

Batt spoke with the AJC from his office inside Bobby Dodd Stadium on the opposite end of the soon-to-be constructed Fanning Center. Over his left shoulder, construction crews were hard at work removing the last remaining bits of stands above the now-demolished Edge Center, a growth pain that will decrease Bobby Dodd Stadium’s capacity by about 3,000 seats over the next two seasons.

Improvements to Tech’s main athletic facilities, among other venues on campus, will continue to take place, Batt said. But coupling those initiatives with making sure the athletic department has enough funds to compensate its Yellow Jackets has now become more vital than ever.

Working with The Tech Way, Tech’s collective for name, image and likeness, to help ensure Tech can be competitive in that specific space are continual priorities.

“You absolutely have to be focused on both. Investing in our fans and our fan experience is super important. And then generating revenue to enhance the overall revenue of the overall department, also important. Finding the ability to put together both and do a comprehensive approach is really important.

“We’ve got some things we’re not quite ready to share yet, but are gonna be coming fairly soon, some significant changes to the fan experience at Bobby Dodd Stadium which will be a big focus for us in the coming years. There will also be some intentional work done around McCamish — the behind-the-scenes practice facility, some significant investment in those spaces. And then some additional investment around our volleyball program at O’Keefe Gymnasium.”

The cost of those ongoing and potential projects, of course, is not cheap. But Batt has proved in his short tenure that revenue generation is a bit of his forte. It was about a year ago that Tech and Hyundai were finalizing a deal for the automotive company to officially add its name to Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Similar partnerships could be forthcoming. Frankly, those types of deals are a necessity for Tech to be able to keep up with the Joneses.

“Georgia Tech athletics is open for business. Revenue generation is absolutely at the forefront for us. It’s a huge priority, it’s something we work on every single day,” Batt said. “I think it’s important that we’re active in the Atlanta sports community, we’re active in the Atlanta sports business community, in the Atlanta corporate community. We are very active. We’re having a lot of different conversations, trying to be very creative and take advantage of our spot.

“Any partnership always has to align with the institute, the values of the institute, the values of the overall state of Georgia system, but we’re focused on it.”

As Batt and Tech look toward the 2024-25 season, the Jackets’ trajectory for success appears to be an the uptick:

  • Brent Key’s football team took a step forward in 2023 with a bowl game and a winning season.
  • Damon Stoudamire’s men’s basketball squad showed promise in his first season with marquee wins that grabbed national headlines, and his current recruiting class is one of the best Tech has ever seen.
  • Nell Fortner’s women’s basketball program took a step back in the win-loss column in ‘23, but she and her staff have a top-notch recruiting class arriving as well.
  • Tech volleyball, under the direction of Michelle Collier, has become an NCAA Tournament mainstay and is fresh off an appearance in the round of 16.
  • Hiroshi Tai won a national championship for a Tech golf team that made the semifinals of the NCAA tourney.

Batt said developing meaningful relationships with the all the Jackets, both through their triumphs and during their times of adversity is his favorite part of the job. The most-challenging part of his role as first-time AD is the constant strain of the unknown. And never before has there been so much unknown about how the NCAA will look in the years to come.

“It’s not simply change, it’s the rate and scope of change in the college athletics industry right now,” he said. “Change is a constant, no matter the industry you’re in. So continuing to manage that change and create opportunities out of change, I think that’s the thing that I’m constantly focused on. I wouldn’t say it’s a negative part, it’s simply something that requires constant attention and focus.”

The new Georgia Tech Athletic Director, J Batt, observes President Angel Cabrera speak during a press conference where he was introduced to press members on Monday, October 17, 2022.Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez