Athletics News

#TGW: Swarming Throughout the City

Todd Stansbury spoke to the ACVB on Wednesday morning at the Atlanta History Center.
Sept. 28, 2017

Jon Cooper | The Good Word

There's been an undeniable energy surrounding Georgia Tech athletics since last Sept. 22, when Todd Stansbury took over as director of athletics. It's an energy that is growing and is inspiring people to step up and lead.

Stansbury spread some of that energy on Wednesday morning at the Atlanta History Center as a featured speaker at a breakfast held by the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB). It was the first time a Georgia Tech director of athletics addressed the group.

"I think it shows the recognition that we can be a player," said Stansbury. "I was appreciative of the opportunity because a lot of times intercollegiate athletics is looked at through a fairly one-dimensional lens. So getting show the breadth of what we do bring to the community was a great opportunity for us."

It's an opportunity that can't be understated, according to Jim Terry, a Georgia Tech alumnus (Class of `72), long-time executive for Coca Cola and a consultant for the athletics department for the past four years.

"Look at the ACVB Board of Directors list. It's the `Who's Who of Atlanta,' Terry said. "You get the Georgia Tech brand exposure to the business and civic leaders in the city of Atlanta. Gary Stokan (president and CEO, Chick-fil-A Bowl and Atlanta Hall Management, Inc.) was [in attendance], the gentleman that runs The Fox (Theater, Allan C. Vella, president and chief executive officer) was [there], Chris Coan chairs the ACVB, (vice president and general manager of business and government markets for Gas South). It gives us brand exposure by Todd getting up there and talking about how Georgia Tech's going to be more involved in the community. We're in Atlanta, Ga. and if you're going to take advantage of that, you have to be more visible in the city.

"Athletics is the front porch of the Institute," Terry added. "The ACVB is hospitality. They work with every major sporting event in the city, along with the Atlanta Sports Council and the city. But it can be something as simple as Georgia Tech football being featured in their fall magazine. It can be something like that but you have to work with them in order to get that in the magazine. It doesn't just happen."

In his nearly 20-minute address in front of about 100 leaders of Atlanta industry, Stansbury made it clear that Georgia Tech not only is a player in the Atlanta community but a would-be leader. That's something he learned in his 22 years away as he "zig-zagged across the country," serving as A.D. at East Tennessee State, the University of Central Florida, in Orlando -- like Atlanta, also a tourist-driven city -- and Oregon State University. In that time, he realized just how high Georgia Tech sets the bar.

"At other places, I've always wanted to lead the parade of excellence," Stansbury said. "At Georgia Tech, I just wanted to be in the parade of excellence because we are surrounded by it."

Stansbury talked about how Georgia Tech wants to lead the parade of excellence around the city of Atlanta and how it's uniquely qualified to do so. "Differentiation" was the key word and came in three key points.

The first was innovation, including Dr. Homer Rice's "Total Person Program," the initiative of scholarships through graduation and even how the Homer Rice Sports Performance Center housed the athletes' testing center during the 1996 Olympics.

"We need to be the center of innovation as it relates to sport. Anybody that has an idea that has any application with sport needs to come to us first." he said. "We have an incredible history in sport innovation."

The second point was the student-athletes themselves and their contribution to the community.

"That is kind of going back to Homer's Total Person Program," he said. "The focus is not on just graduating our student-athletes because that's the price of admission. It's what are they doing five and 10 years after graduation? That's where our focus is. That's one of the things that we believe is one of our differentiators."

The final point was Atlanta, itself.

"There are certain things that we can't do that our competitors can do because of what's required just to go to Georgia Tech. So we have to look at what we can do that they can't," he said. "One of those differentiators is Atlanta. They can not duplicate our location. So as we look to elevate our brand and tell the Georgia Tech athletics story, our location is one of our primary differentiators on what separates us."

Stansbury pointed to Tech's newly created ideation and branding office.

"Their job is not gameday, they are not tied to a sport, they are not having to worry about the day-to-day selling of tickets or any of those things. They are tied to the brand," he said. "Their only job is to create content and tell the Georgia Tech story."

An important part of that story is alumni contribution to the community. Stansbury pointed to former student-athletes Mark Teixeira (baseball) and Kofi Smith (football). Teixeira, a 14-year Major Leaguer and seemingly certain future Hall of Famer, is a real-estate developer with projects in Atlanta while Smith is the CEO of Atlanta Airlines Terminal Corporation and, at 35, was the youngest CEO for a major international airport.

Stansbury also cited how important it is to keep current and future GT student-athletes from learning the lesson he did about having to leave Atlanta before realizing how special a place it is and coming back. Keeping them in Atlanta in the first place would benefit them and the city.

"We create talent. We're in a unique position in that our alumni base is getting younger and wealthier all at the same time," said Stansbury. "Fifty percent of our alums having graduated since 2000 and right now 42 percent of our alums are millionaires when the national average for college graduates is 10 percent. I'll tell you this: If the opportunities are here in Atlanta, more (alumni) will stay in Atlanta because I know from my own experience being a student here, the only reason you leave here is because there's an opportunity somewhere else. But if it's apple-to-apples, you're staying here."

Stansbury pointed out how the local business community got a taste of the contribution Georgia Tech student-athletes can make over the summer, as 87 took on meaningful internships.

"They were with your companies -- Southern Company, Delta, Coca Cola, AT&T, Home Depot," he said, also making reference to the student-athletes who spent the summer in Houston with NASA. "These are opportunities for our student-athletes. That's a differentiator." >{? The Institute plans on taking even greater advantage of its location, doing what they're calling a rebranding of the internship program.

"We're calling it `The Fifth Street Bridge Program,'" Stansbury said. "The idea is that if you go somewhere else, you have to drive a couple of hours to get to these opportunities. You come to Georgia Tech, all you have to do is walk across the Fifth Street Bridge. That is a main differentiator and I think it also shows the opportunity that we have because we're in Atlanta, but, on the flipside, that Atlanta has because we're here and the ability to attract our talent to your companies."

Stansbury concluded that this partnership is as much about giving back to the city as it is bringing in fans for sporting events.

"We want to be great partners. We want to be good citizens. What can we do to help?," he said. "I think we've got examples of organizations or events that we've been a critical partner in but, even beyond that, our student-athletes look like Atlanta. They have a platform. So we're looking at what kind of community service are we engaged in? How do we leverage the impact that our student-athletes can have on this community, with kids in this community, that can make us a significant player helping elevate the youth of Atlanta? How can we partner with our business partners in their initiatives? When we talk about partnering with Atlanta, it's more than just trying to sell you a ticket, it's more than just trying to bring another event. We want to be true good neighbors, developing good citizens, providing you with the talent you need to make this city the great city that it is."

The speech was the ACVB's first taste of Stansbury's plans for Georgia Tech and Atlanta while issuing another jolt of energy to the already enthused fan base.

"The alumni base is really excited about Todd and his leadership and his plans," said Terry. "Everyone is energized, whether it's the student-athletes, the academic staff, the people in sports medicine -- everybody in and around Georgia Tech athletics is really energized and excited and I think Todd conveyed that [to the ACVB]."

Stansbury enjoyed getting to feel that enthusiasm afterward.

"The Georgia Tech alums in attendance did come up afterwards and voiced the pride they have in the Institution and also how proud they were of Georgia Tech athletics and what we bring to the community and what our student-athletes bring to the community," he said. "I think it's important because I want to make sure that our business partners across our community realize that we want to be active citizens, good neighbors, be aware of all the things that we do bring to the table. Not only our events, of course, which I know are of real interest to the ACVB, but also the fact that we're producing talent that their companies [should be] interested in employing."