Al Trujillo, who chaired the search committee that helped find new athletic director Todd Stansbury, shared his thoughts on the process and the the hire, which was announced Thursday.
Trujillo is a 1981 graduate of Georgia Tech who is the president and chief operating officer of the Georgia Tech Foundation. He led a nine-member search committee that was assisted by Turnkey Search.
Stansbury’s experience also includes stops at Houston, East Tennessee State, Oregon State, Central Florida and then again at Oregon State, where he has spent the past 1 1/2 years as athletic director.
Q: Can you please share some of the characteristics that the committee was looking for when vetting candidates and why those characteristics were important?
A: Absolutely. There were a number of obvious characteristics, or general things you look for in the next athletic director. But specifically we were looking for the next leader to understand the academic dimension, the academic mission of Georgia Tech, not just for our normal students, but especially for our athletes. That was a key element, someone who understood it to the core. When you come to Tech, the academic piece is who we are. You embrace it.
Secondly, we were looking for someone who had A.D. experience. We considered a number of candidates, including non-traditional candidates. We had great interest. But at the end of the day if we could find someone who sat in the chair of a major athletic college program that would have been a big plus as well.
Someone who understood football. There are many sports. Georgia Tech has many of them. But at the end of the day football, fairly or unfairly, carries a lot of the load relative to how people perceive. Ideally, someone that had great experience being responsible for a football program.
Tying it all together: someone who wanted to be at Georgia Tech, who embraced everything about Georgia Tech. Yes, the challenges of being in Atlanta. Yes, the challenges of being in the arms race. Yes, the academic challenge. But instead of being turned off by that, understood it, embraced it and believed that it will make our student-athletes better citizens afterward.
After going through great interest, which was very encouraging, we interviewed a finalists group and it was clear that Todd Stansbury would be our next athletic director.
Q: Can you share the number of finalists?
A: I got a lot of advice, a lot of names. Probably close to 100 as individuals. We, as a committee, distilled that broader list to credibly about 30 individuals who had a number of the characteristics I just mentioned. That list was distilled down further to approximately 6-7 individuals. From that, three were chosen for interviews and discussions with Dr. Peterson, who would make the final decision.
Q: In your opinion, what is job No. 1? What is the first thing Stansbury needs to tackle?
A: You could say the obvious things: you’ve got to fund raise, the academic mission, facilities. All those elements are true and you could say generic. If you were asking me about this role at any other school I would give you the same answer.
Wrapping all of that up is someone who wants to be here and part of that will be revealed in how he can inspire the community. First, internally to this building and the staff, and then externally to the broader sort of Georgia Tech community. That element, which really crosses all of the aspects I referred to, is a very important piece for Georgia Tech.
Q: Conversely, is there a part of this job that you hear about that is a little bit overblown in terms of it being a challenge?
A: There was a lot written about morale. There are certain elements that I’m sure that are true, but overall I think the community is looking to be inspired and excited about athletics being a significant part of who Georgia Tech is today. I’ve certainly received that feedback from a number of people who have been great Georgia Tech supporters in the past, and great supporters in the future.
They feel athletics is completely consistent with what Georgia Tech is today, one of the top, most elite research institutions in the world. We think being excellent in academics and excellent in sports is not in conflict. In fact, they are completely compatible.
It makes the challenge a little harder than it may be at other schools, but as I said to a number of the candidates, “no one has ever knowingly come to Georgia Tech because it was easy.” You fill in the blank for what the activity is. You certainly don’t come here because the academics are easy. You don’t come here as the next athletic director because you thought the job was easy. In that struggle is where the right things can happen.
I’m certainly a product of that and feel passionately about this school and what it did for me and giving that same opportunity to the next generation.
Q: Last question, how do you define excellence for Georgia Tech athletics? What is the bar you expect football and men’s basketball to reach?
A: To be very, very competitive. We should reasonably expect to win every week. Does that mean we are going to win every week? No. But we should feel confident that we have the opportunity to compete on the field and be successful like we all are in all other things.
We are successful in all other things, why should we not expect the same thing in athletics? Yes against challenges and resources and things that will make the challenge a little tougher. But I think we believe, and I certainly believe and the search committee believes, and President (Bud) Peterson believes that being successful in athletics and being successful at Georgia Tech are completely compatible and not inconsistent. That’s the core belief.