Last week was a busy one for Mike Flynn, the Georgia Tech Athletic Association (GTAA)’s assistant athletic director for public relations and communications. National Signing Day meant unveiling the football team’s latest set of prospects, there was work to be done on the recruiting trail and like the rest of the Association’s staff, he is learning to meet the vision of his new boss: athletic director Todd Stansbury.
But for a man who decided in high school that his future lay in sports public relations, the job description couldn’t be more apt.
“I didn’t exactly know what it entailed [in high school], but I knew I wanted to work in public relations. I played sports growing up; I knew that I wasn’t going to play sports in college, so I chose to be a public relations major right off the bat. I just sought out ways I could get involved,” Flynn said.
That involvement took Flynn up the ranks from covering intramural sports to playing a major role at an ACC institution. In between, Flynn logged 13 years at FCS football power Appalachian State. The Mountaineers won three national championships under Flynn’s watch and in 2007 played the David to then-No. 5 Michigan’s Goliath in what many consider to be the greatest upset in the history of college football.
For Flynn, directing public relations for the Mountaineers in the wake of their shocking 34-32 victory was a formative, ultimately unforgettable experience.
“We worked a lot that week, to be honest with you,” Flynn said with a laugh. “Our coach at the time, Jerry Moore, … said, ‘We’re going to talk to every single person who wants to talk to us.’”
Between live shots of the campus on ESPN’s SportsCenter, coordinating interviews and fulfilling his day-to-day responsibilities, it was one of the most strenuous weeks of Flynn’s professional career. But it prepared him for the bustling environment of Tech’s athletic and communications departments, which have been shaped in recent years by technological trends such as the rise of social media.
“Obviously, student-athletes are going to look at our website and social media, so we want to put our best foot forward,” he says of the Athletic Association’s online presence. “Not only are we communicating with alumni and the media and fans, you always have to have in the back of your mind that everything that you’re doing can be seen by recruits.”
While many of the identifying of the Athletic Association’s public relations have stayed the same during the transition from former athletic director Mike Bobinski to new athletic director Todd Stansbury, Flynn says the latter has brought with him an increasing focus on the university’s image.
“When you have a change of leadership at the top, there’s going to be a re-prioritization of what your focuses on and what your brand is. Todd’s vision for our brand is twofold. It’s what athletics here at Georgia Tech do and the experience of a student athlete does to set up a student-athlete for success beyond graduation. What our alumni are doing after graduation is without peer.
“The other thing that we’re going to focus on is that Georgia Tech has a history of being the most innovative athletics department in the country. Things like the Total Person Program, sports nutrition and the Performance Center all have their roots here at Georgia Tech,” Flynn said.
Along with Tech’s on-field success, Flynn believes that the school’s creative streak will define participation in and support of Tech athletics.
“That is absolutely something we will focus on, how Tech finds innovative ways to support our student athletes,” Flynn said.