Todd Stansbury shows his faith in Geoff Collins with decision to retain him

Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins instructs during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins instructs during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury ended any speculation surrounding coach Geoff Collins’ job security Wednesday night when he went on Collins’ radio show to confirm that he’ll be returning for his fourth season.

“I have my man,” Stansbury told Tech broadcaster Andy Demetra.

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Even as the losses have mounted in Tech’s 3-8 season, which concludes Saturday against No. 1 Georgia at Bobby Dodd Stadium, it was unlikely Stansbury would dismiss Collins after three seasons. It would have gone against his stay-the-course nature and his belief that winning at Tech requires a stable foundation. Further, he had expressed his support for Collins recently and did so again on the show.

Giving his perspective on the team and Collins during the second half of the hour-long show on The Fan, Stansbury called the season painful, frustrating, disappointing and unacceptable “for anybody associated with this program.” But he also praised the culture that Collins has created and offered his belief that the Yellow Jackets were close to getting over the hump.

“I know he’s going to review kind of what it is that we need to do, where we are falling short, where there are holes in what we’re doing, and we’re going to work together to get those things fixed,” Stansbury said.

Still, while the return was expected, it was not necessarily a given. Stansbury did have at his disposal the resources to make a change had he decided it was necessary, according to a person familiar with the situation.

That meant that high-level donors had enough concern about the state of the team that they were willing to foot the bill for a buyout that would have cost $10.5 million, according to the terms of his memorandum of understanding. (The total drops to $7.2 million after the 2022 season by the terms of the aforementioned agreement.)

That reality, as well as the fact that Stansbury felt it necessary to publicly back his coach and affirm that he is returning, set the backdrop for the next phase of Collins’ regime at Tech. Collins has Stansbury’s support – he said that as Collins figures out how to get things fixed, it will be his job as athletic director to provide the resources to make it possible – but the expectations on Collins to deliver wins have now risen significantly, not just from everyday fans but from Stansbury and those boosters whose financial support are critical to the functioning of his athletic department.

For many of those influential donors, Tech’s 55-0 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday was a breaking point and increased pressure on Stansbury and Collins to act. While some had given Collins the benefit of the doubt that the program was headed in the right direction, the humiliating loss was considered a dose of reality for those high-level boosters.

“Before, we could argue over whether we had a broken dam,” the person with knowledge of the situation said. “Nobody’s making that argument anymore.”

After the Georgia game, Collins is expected to start on his fix-it list. The reality that changes are coming to his 10-man assistant coaching staff is “baked in stone,” according to the person with knowledge of the situation. The changes could rise to the coordinator level, where offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude and defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker have led units that both to varying degrees bear some of the responsibility for the Jackets being arguably the second worst team in the ACC. Changes could happen before the weekend is over. Given that so many staffs around the country are headed for turnovers, with likely more to come, this could be a good time to search for a coordinator or assistant.

Stansbury’s decision to retain Collins may infuriate many fans dissatisfied with the coach – the expected takeover of Bobby Dodd Stadium by Bulldogs fans for Saturday’s game can be considered an expression of Tech fans’ discontent – and the product on Saturdays often has been lacking and troublesome to fans. But it can be reasonably concluded that Stansbury has relied on information and observations of what is happening within Collins’ team beyond a 3 1/2 -hour window on 12 Saturdays in a season (as important as that window is).

On Collins’ show, Stansbury referenced men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner’s “get old and stay old” philosophy and its applicability to the football team. Collins will lose few seniors off this season’s roster (though important ones such as offensive linemen Devin Cochran and Ryan Johnson and defensive tackle Djimon Brooks) and will have a more experienced (and presumably physically stronger) team next season, with a promising recruiting class coming in. That a person whose dream job may depend on a decision that much of his constituency won’t like should say something about Stansbury’s faith in that decision.

“(I’m) feeling really good about the kinds of young men that he’s recruiting to Georgia Tech because obviously this is a unique place,” Stansbury said, “but really feel like there’s obviously things we’re going to have to do, and we’re going to do what it takes to get our program to where we at Georgia Tech expect it to be.

It may be that changes on the staff and another season are what Collins, whose winning percentage (.273 with a record of 9-24) is the lowest in team history, needed more than anything. Then again, there’s reason to think that the issues run far deeper.

Collins has his opportunity to correct course and make good on Stansbury’s faith and trust. If he can’t, it likely will be trouble for both men.

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