Ramblin’ with Athletic Director Mike Bobinski

Photo by Danny Karnik

Technique: How did you get involved in athletic administration and why did you choose that path?

Bobinski: It wasn’t something that I intended to do. When I was a college student I had a 100% focus on having a business career. That’s what I majored in and it’s what I actually began in when I first started. I spent my first five years in the working world, post-college in public accounting for a few years and the finance division with the Walt Disney Company.  I was headed where I thought I was headed and purely by chance I heard of an opening back in the athletic department in Notre Dame. Back in 1984 I began my career in intercollegiate athletics. Actually running the ticket office. That was my first job in the business and I sort of progressed from there.

Technique: What attracted you to Georgia Tech?

Bobinski: As I wrapped up a term as the chairman of the men’s basketball committee for the NCAA. I had been at Xavier for such a long period of time. Then I thought about places that fit me and my philosophy and how I believe intercollegiate athletics should be conducted, and that’s not a very deep list. A very concise list of schools that fit me. Given the places that I had been: Notre Dame, Naval Academy, Xavier. All places that are very much principled in academics and athletics.

When the Georgia Tech job became available. When I was first approached about possibly being interested, that’s the first thing that came to mind. This is one of those places that fits where academics are first and foremost. Being able to compete in the ACC and national level in athletics. Unique combination and one that really appealed to me.

Technique: What was it like being the head of the NCAA selection committee? How many basketball games did you watch?

Bobinski: I tried to keep track of that one year. You spend five years on the committee and was fortunate enough to be selected by my peers to be chair in my final year. I would tell you that I probably watched on average 30 games a week over the course of the season. It was in the 300 plus range. Maybe not every game wire to wire but enough chunks of games or portions where I could get a real feel in the teams what I was really interested in.

“I would tell you that I probably watched on average 30 games a week over the course of the season.”

When I got off the committee it was definitely a bittersweet feeling. There’s nothing like being on it and one of those bucket list things for folks in my profession. Every AD in the country would tell you if they have a chance to be on it they would. You miss it when you’re off it but you get back a chunk of time. My first year out, other than our own basketball games I didn’t watch anyone play. I was washed out at that point.

Technique: Next year we’re playing your alma mater, Notre Dame, in South Bend. How excited are you for the game?

Bobinski: I think for our team to have a chance to play in that environment up in Notre Dame will be a great experience for our guys. This new scheduling alliance that Notre Dame has with the ACC where they play five games a year is a really positive thing for us in the ACC. I know our team and our fans that are able to make the trip up there will enjoy the game day experience at Notre Dame. It’s got a great feel, it’s a unique environment and one you don’t see every day. That part excites me and it will excite me even more if we go up there and beat them.

Technique: Do you think Notre Dame will ever become a full time member in the ACC?

Bobinski: Notre Dame’s football independence is sort of in their DNA. They guard that fiercely and they value that greatly. It’s a big deal to them and I understand that. However, as intercollegiate athletics changes and evolves I don’t think you get Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame athletic director today to say that it would never happen or could never happen. As circumstances change and evolve, if access to the college football championship is improved by being a full time member of the conference. Then that is something you would have to think about. I think it’s possible, but I would certainly tell you it’s not going to happen in the next couple of years.

Technique: You’ve made several new editions to your staff including Brett Daniels who was in charge of brand management for the Dallas Cowboys. How important is brand management to the success of an athletic program?

Bobinski: Brett is a great addition to our staff as is Marvin Lewis, Chris Yandle and Lee Hendrickson. We’ve been able to add some really talented people to our staff. Brett spent 25 years with the Cowboys and obviously one of the most powerful brand organizations and name associations in the world. He understands that at a very high level and I think it’s something that important to us.

It’s important to Georgia Tech as an Institute. Having that clear identification and sense of who you are, who you want to be and how you want to be perceived is really important. How we manage our brand and it’s not just a visual image, it’s a deeper picture than that. When you say the name Georgia Tech in the athletic world you want it to mean something. That’s what your brand really is. People need to associate that with high quality academics, high integrity programs, great student athletes and successful teams. That’s what I want people to think about when they think of Georgia Tech.

“When you say the name Georgia Tech in the athletic world you want it to mean something.”

It’s important when we’re thought of in the athletic world that we are with the people we should be seen with. That is the Notre Dame’s of the world, the Duke’s, the Vanderbilt’s, Stanford. That’s who we are as an academic institution, as an athletic organization and we need to help people make that connection so that’s who and how they see us going forward.

Technique: Last year was arguably the best football season at Tech since 1990. How exciting was that in your second year as athletic director and how exciting do you feel like the future is for Tech football is.

Bobinski: The 2014 football season was absolutely a terrific one. Especially as you think about how the season evolved. The first three games we didn’t play our best football and we were able to come back and find a way to win. Through that process our team grew closer, came together and started to believe in each other on a pretty high level.

To me the Miami game here was the best moment in terms of sort of the possibilities for Georgia Tech football I’ve seen since I’ve been here. The energy the crowd, the unbelievable student support that evening and the postgame celebration with the students and our team. We came out of that game and two weeks later we stumble. Lose two in a row.

The resiliency of this team for them to be able to continue and really finish the year at a really high level was an awesome thing.

In 30 years I’ve been around of a lot of teams and that was right up there with the best I’ve been a part of, in terms of watching a group of people come together and really truly be a team. In the dictionary next to team it ought to say 2014 Georgia Tech football. We were truly a team and that was a great thing to see.

As far as the future what a season like that does is just really reinforce what the possibilities are. For those to say it can’t happen at Georgia tech then take a look at 2014 and tell me it can’t happen at Georgia Tech. It sets the stage for exciting years ahead. It sets us standard of performance and excellence that you now know is in us. Nothing but good came out of that season. I couldn’t be more excited for our coaches, players and everyone else involved.

Technique: What are your thoughts on the College Football Playoff and do you think it should be expanded to 8?

Bobinski: I’m personally fine with four. I think it should be really hard to get into the playoffs. There is always going to be another team or teams that think they could have and should have been in that mix. Only the best of the best should be in the playoff in my mind. I’m comfortable with where it is right now. The interest level, the television ratings, everything was at a record unbelievably high levels.

Technique: Outside of your job, what are your hobbies?

Bobinski: I’ve never been bitten by the got-to-play-golf-every-waking-moment bug. It’s a great game, and I play on occasion, mainly at work related events. I would tell you that I need to have more hobbies. I don’t have a whole heckuva lot. This job is one that takes up a lot of time. We have events in the evening and events on the weekend, and there is a lot that goes in this. I haven’t really done a great job developing it. When I do have free time, I love being on the water, I love reading books, I love music. There are a lot of things I like, none of which I spend enough time doing. But those would be my choices if I had a chance.

Technique: What’s your favorite place or restaurant in Atlanta?

Bobinski: I’m an equal opportunity restaurant person. There are a lot of great restaurants in the Atlanta area, and I love this area for a lot of reasons. I think there’s a great energy in Atlanta, and that’s part of what helps Georgia Tech be the place it is. There’s this great entrepreneurial spirit; there’s a lot of economic activity and energy. There’s tremendous unmatched diversity and healthy diversity in the Atlanta area that I really like.

From a restaurant perspective, Chops is pretty darn good for a steakhouse. Bones is pretty darn good. They’re like 1 and 1a. I’m kind of a traditionalist with that, but I’ve also eaten at some other great places. I love food, and I love a good meal, and there are a lot of great offerings in town.

“I love food, and I love a good meal, and there are a lot of great offerings in town.”

Technique: What is your favorite Tech memory so far?

Bobinski: It’s hard to beat the Orange Bowl. The postgame, being on the field at midnight on New Year’s Eve in the Orange Bowl. Celebrating that victory is hard to top. That was a pretty special moment watching our players and that sense of accomplishment and pride they had earned because we didn’t sneak by Mississippi State. That feeling and watching them enjoy that moment was something that would be at the top of my list. We were flat out the better team.

However, beating the team from Athens wasn’t too shabby either. That was a really special moment to see 90,000 plus people go dead silent at the end of the game. That was a heck of a thing and a great moment for our football team, but to cap it off with a bowl win on New Year’s Eve is the top of the mountain for me so far.