Jan. 14, 2013
with Jon Cooper
Paul Griffin hasn’t changed since his title changed to Acting Athletic Director on Oct. 28, when Dan Radakovich announced that he was leaving Georgia Tech.
He hasn’t really had time to.
Griffin, who has been a part of Georgia Tech athletics for 11 years and has been a part of athletic administration in some capacity for nearly 40, has been more than busy enough keeping the Athletic Association running smoothly.
But he has done a superb job in doing so and has seen the successful opening of McCamish Pavilion and the construction of the Ken Byers Tennis Complex, which will have its opening on Thursday, when the Georgia Tech Women’s Tennis Team hosts Syracuse (the men debut Friday, hosting Old Dominion).
Griffin took a few minutes to talk with Sting Daily about the Byers Complex, the improvements made to the 10th Avenue entrance to campus, the school’s generous alumni that have made this construction possible and the general positive feeling around campus as Georgia Tech athletics heads into 2013.
STING DAILY: This week is a big one on Fowler and 10th, as the Ken Byers Tennis Complex opens. For those who haven’t seen it, how does it look?
PAUL GRIFFIN: It’s coming together great. We’re down the homestretch. The teams will get there this week and begin practice and then the dedication ceremony is on Thursday the 17th, and our first home match, our women which christen the building. We’ll be ready to go.
STING: People coming onto the Georgia Tech campus from the North Avenue side see Bobby Dodd Stadium. On the Fowler Street side they see McCamish Pavilion, Byers, Mewborn Field and so many other new buildings. How important is that first impression?
GRIFFIN: I think it’s important. I think the Institute’s spent a lot of time and energy on that aspect as a whole and we’re not finished yet. It’s seen North Avenue widened and improved and the streetscape changed, as well as you’ve seen the same streetscape approach on Fowler and 10th. You’re also going to see in the next couple of months, landmark signs and images for Georgia Tech so you know you’ve arrived on the campus. Tech leadership has spent a lot of time in making sure that you feel welcome and that you’re entering the campus and I think that’s been accomplished in our athletic zone.
We’ve made a lot of improvements underground that have helped the city of Atlanta as well. A lot of infrastructure, as some of this is city-owned streets and property has been secured, if not improved, by our work.
STING: What does all of this new construction say about Tech’s alumni and their willingness to contribute to the university?
GRIFFIN: I think it’s one of the things that sets Georgia Tech apart. Even during these reasonably tough economic times, we’ve had major league gifts for a variety of our athletic facilities, starting with the Zelnak Center in basketball and then the Brock Facility after that and McCamish Pavilion and capped off now with the Byers Tennis Complex. All of those represent Georgia Tech alumni who have generously stepped forward and made an investment in the physical plan of our athletic enterprise. We’re very, very fortunate to have, not only alumni with means, but the inclination and generosity to share it with the Institute and particularly the Athletic Association.
STING: What’s in the immediate future?
GRIFFIN: I think we need to take a breath right now (laughs). But it never stops. I think the biggest thing for the Athletic Association is to go back and take a look at our physical plan and be sure that we program over the next 10, 15, 20 years the repairs and renovations that inevitably are going to occur. Things don’t last forever and you’ll need to repair them. For example, we haven’t even opened the Byers Tennis Complex but we know that within five to eight years we’re going to have to resurface the courts. That’s just the nature of it. That’s an expensive enterprise and we need to forecast those kinds of projects in our capital planning and budgetary process and the same thing along the line for all of our facilities, be it the floor at McCamish, which is not going to last forever and with the carpets and the lights and those things. You have to stay on top of it to keep the buildings fresh. It’s just like your home. You have to be mindful that it needs a paint job every once in a while. If you don’t plan for it, when it really needs a paint job you might not have the resources to get the job done. So you want to make sure that you’ve planned well for it.
STING: What kind of impact did Georgia Tech’s Bowl win have on energizing athletics?
GRIFFIN: In sports, most teams end their season on a loss, be it in basketball, where only one team wins the final game and everybody loses along the way or in football, where half the teams in the bowl games lose their last game. So it sets an attitude that carries on for seven, eight months. We hadn’t won a [bowl] game in quite a few years and I get the sense the spring in the step is a little spongier here now in January and attitudes are good and people’s perspectives are hopeful. We had what I would call an uneven season but we had a lot of success as well as some surprising disappointments. At the same time, I think we closed it with some hopeful tones. Playing in the ACC Championship Game and playing well, and losing to the Orange Bowl Champion, which is certainly no small feat and then going out and beating the preseason No. 1 team convincingly was a positive way to close the season.