Todd Stansbury outlines Georgia Tech’s position on collectives

Georgia Tech's mascot, Buzz, jumps off from Ramblin' Wreck before the start of the Georgia Tech home opener against Northern Illinois outside Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Georgia Tech's mascot, Buzz, jumps off from Ramblin' Wreck before the start of the Georgia Tech home opener against Northern Illinois outside Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Georgia Tech athletics director Todd Stansbury won’t dissuade any Yellow Jackets supporters from making a financial contribution to the “Swarm the ATL” collective or any other similar outfit. But he also wants to encourage supporters to help keep the athletic department engine running, too.

“At the end of the day, we’ve still got to pay for the scholarships and all the things we need to provide our student-athletes as well as our teams,” Stansbury said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “So, obviously, I want (donors) to support student-athletes how they want to and engage them in the appropriate ways, but I do not want that at the expense of their support of the core program, which is essentially providing scholarships and now, educational expenses, cost of attendance and all the other things that we do to make sure that our student-athletes are taken care of.”

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In the 2021 fiscal year (July 2020-June 2021), Tech received $7.7 million in outside contributions, part of the $86.2 million that the department generated in revenues, which just covered the $86 million in expenses, according to Tech’s financial report to the NCAA. Tech’s expenses likely will continue to climb in coming years. One new expense will be the academic bonuses that the department will pay to athletes beginning this fall, budgeted for $2.6 million.

However, giving money to a collective such as Swarm the ATL or, for more well-heeled donors, to set up an NIL deal with a Jackets athlete, has its own allure. In those instances, the money is going directly to athletes. Also, contributions to a collective, an organization funded by fans of a school that creates NIL deals for the school’s athletes, can have an impact on recruiting. Swarm the ATL organizer Stephen Weitzel told the AJC that “we’ve got to have engagement from the fans to make sure that we’re able to compete with the other teams in our division and in our league.”

Stansbury said that “we appreciate our supporters that are putting these collectives together to support our student-athletes.” He said the athletic department’s main role in the NIL sphere is to provide NCAA rules-compliance education to fans and companies seeking NIL deals to ensure that no rules are broken.

Stansbury said that “we are definitely hearing some horror stories” about the size of NIL offers being communicated by Tech’s rivals to prospects either in the transfer portal or at the high school level. Tech’s response, Stansbury said, is to sell the long-term value of a Tech degree, the professional and life skills that can be developed through the athletic department’s Total Person Program as well as the opportunities available through Tech’s alumni network. Tech athletes, too, have been compensated through conventional NIL deals, also. In data provided to the AJC in March, the athletic department reported that about a third of Tech’s 400-plus athletes had entered into NIL deals worth more than $175,000 in value.

“The good news is we’ve got a structure set up to help our student-athletes take advantage of their opportunities and will continue to put them in that position,” he said. “And we’ve got a history. One of our true strengths is the success of our alums, and so I think that this is another way for them to take advantage of some opportunities that already exist, as well as new ones.”

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