ATHENS — Go ahead, call it an audition.
The University of Georgia athletic director seat will be vacated on Dec. 31, and deputy athletic director Josh Brooks made it clear he has visions of filling that seat well beyond his takeover date (Jan. 1) as interim AD.
Brooks went before a large group of media for a wide-open question-answer session via Zoom on Wednesday, fielding pressing and controversial questions in impromptu fashion.
An athletic director’s public speaking ability and command of department information and tone is pivotal, as is the vision for an accomplished athletic department like Georgia.
“We don’t consider ourselves sports supervisors,” Brooks said at one point, asked about managing coaches, “as much as sports facilitators.”
Brooks, a 40-year-old Louisiana native with a bachelor’s degree from LSU and a master’s from Georgia, made no secret of his hopes to succeed outgoing AD Greg McGarity and maintain the success and stability the UGA athletics department has enjoyed under McGarity the past 10 years.
“It’s anybody’s dream who is in sports administration to be a Power 5 AD, but beyond that, I love Athens,” Brooks said during a Zoom call on Wednesday. “I love this university. I love working for President Morehead. I love the people in this athletic department and on campus. My family loves it here. My kids were born here in Georgia. They identify as Georgia natives, and we love it here.
“I will serve this university however needed, however is seen fit. This university was here before me. It’ll be here after me. I’m just here to carry the torch any way. I love it here, and I’d love to stay here the rest of my life.”
Brooks liked Georgia enough to return for a second go round, as he originally served as the director of football operations under Mark Richt from 2008-2014.
After leaving UGA to obtain AD experience at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., and deputy athletics director at Louisiana Monroe, Brooks returned to Athens to handle internal and external operations and lead the athletic department’s planning for facility expansion and construction.
Richt endorsed Brooks for the job in an exclusive interview with DawgNation on Tuesday, saying he believes Brooks has what it takes to run a big-time program.
Brooks has, in truth, already displayed his talents in front of UGA President Jere Morehead and McGarity.
It has been Brooks out front of the planning and oversight of the $65 million West End Zone improvements and construction of the $80 million football building, which remains on schedule to be completed by its target date.
It was also Brooks who came up with such a successful pattern for socially distanced fans in Sanford Stadium that rival fans took to social media to complain that it simply had to be more than the 21,000-or-so listed in attendance.
Morehead has put together an extensive search committee to evaluate athletic director candidates from coast to coast.
But even the UGA president conceded on Tuesday that now is a time for stability, and Brooks is clearly a favorite of McGarity, who has mentored him.
“What I think is most important right now is to maintain stability in the senior leadership of athletic,” Morehead said on a Tuesday Zoom call.
“I think one of the great things we have right now is a really strong leadership team, and by installing both Josh [Brooks] and Darrice [Griffin] into the two leadership positions on an interim basis, I wanted to send a signal to the entire athletic organization that we are strong, that we are stable.”
Here’s a look at the conversation Brooks had with select media peppering him with questions about what the future could look like should he be selected as the Bulldogs next athletic director:
Josh Brooks, Interim Athletic Director designee
“Good morning everyone. First off, I just want to thank Greg [McGarity] and President Morehead for the opportunity to serve during this time of transition. It’s a great honor, and I am humbled to have this opportunity. On behalf of the athletic department, I would like to personally thank Greg and show gratitude for all that he has done in his time in athletes, especially his 10 plus years as [athletic director]. Greg is a servant-leader and someone who has never sought credit for all of the great things that have happened here. But, when something may have not gone well, he is the first one to step up and take the responsibility or shoulder the blame. Of all the great things that have happened here in the last 10 plus years, he always gave that credit to someone else, whether it be—you think about the championships we have won, the experiences that have been created for our students, fans, staff, whether it be the Notre Dame series, the Rose Bowl, [Jason] Aldean concert, the academic success of our student athletes, the staff he has built, the staff he has been able to retain. When you think about all of the facility enhancements we’ve done over the last 10 plus years, three hundred million dollars’ worth of enhancements. During that same. we have not added to our long-term debt, we’ve actually reduced it. If you think about it, the financial responsibility and what he has led, we are in as great of shape as any university in the country right now. I would say that there is not a university that is in better shape to navigate these difficult times that we are navigating, and that is all due to his leadership. Beyond that, the intrinsic things, the culture that he has created, the way he treats everyone—it doesn’t matter what position you have here, he treats everyone the same. He has been a great role model. I can say for myself personally, he gave me an opportunity 10 years ago, hired me away from football, promoted me to administration, gave me opportunities, challenged me, allowed me to grow and take chances, failed, succeeded, but learned through all of that. It was his mentorship and leadership that have made me the leader I am today, and without him I wouldn’t be sitting here today, and I am so thankful for his guidance and his leadership. On behalf of everyone and myself, I just really want to just say ‘thank you’ to Greg. Now, I would be happy to answer any questions anyone has.”
On whether he plans to change anything in the next coming months in terms of the approaches the athletic department takes…
“Thanks Chip [Towers]. I don’t think this is a time for change. What the strength of our department is continuity, and now is definitely not the time to be looking at what we can change. We have enough challenges in front of us navigating these times that we are facing right now in light of the pandemic and everything else going on. It’s really about keeping the ship on course. We have a great senior team. It’s really about keeping that continuity and keeping everything moving in the same direction. I would hope to keep providing the steady leadership Greg has and keep us on course.”
On to what degree he will use this opportunity as interim athletic director to show he can do the job…
“Hopefully, [Anthony] Dash, what I have done in my career has built up more than just what you would look at in a couple months. I have always tried to show that day in and day out. If this is an audition then so be it, but I come to work the same way every day. I will treat today or January 1st no different than any day—show up, treat people the right way, represent the university. Always one thing President Morehead and Greg have taught me during my time here is always keep the university at the forefront of every decision. Anything that we do, any decision that we make, let’s make sure it’s at the best interest of the university. As long as I am doing that and treating people the right way and representing this university, it will take over itself. Lord-willing, let the chips fall where they may.”
On what makes him believe he is ready to take on the role of athletic director at this point in his career…
“Seth [Emerson], I have always been young in my career as I have advanced. I am young, but I’ve had 20 plus years of experience in college athletics. I have seen athletics at every level—small schools, big schools. I have worked as a student-assistant, grad assistant coach. I have worked in football operations—that gives me the coaching side of it. I have worked in administration 10 plus years. I have been able to serve as an A.D., and know a small school like Millsaps [College], some people may say, ‘Well, that’s not really relevant.’ In all reality, it’s a lot more relevant than you think because you are dealing with student-athletes, parents, coaches, staff. A lot of the issues are the same. I have had a wide-range of experience. Especially my time here at Georgia, the last few years, Greg has really nurtured me and given me some peaks behind the road to really see what it is like in his shoes. I feel ready and I feel confident for this responsibility.”
On his thoughts on the importance of competing for championships with non-revenue sports…
“Thanks Mike [Griffith]. I think I’m wired the same way with Greg with that. I am a competitor. I want to win at everything. If we start a badminton team tomorrow, I want win a national championship in that. It doesn’t matter the sport, they’re all important to me. I can speak from my time as an A.D. before, when you are an A.D. every one of those teams feels like one of your children, and you want every one of them to win. Every win feels great. Every loss is terrible. The natural competitor in me wants to win championships in everything that we do. Obviously, we understand the importance of it and football and revenue sports provide our other sports opportunities, but at the same time, I want to win championships in everything.”
DawgNation exclusive with Josh Brooks, previewing UGA 2020 opener
On whether he has had conversations with President Morehead about his interest in taking on the role of athletic director full-time…
“There have been no meetings to this date, in terms of moving forward or what’s next in the process of the search.”
On his time at Millsaps College and what he gained from that experience…
“You know Marc [Weiszer], I took that job at Millsaps in 2014 with long-term thinking in mind. People thought I was a little crazy to leave Georgia and go to a Division III school, but sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself and that is what I did. It was great for me to get in the weeds of every single detail of a program where you have a smaller staff of 30 to 40 people. You can’t delegate. You have to get in the weeds, whether it’s setting prices and running a concession stand to how you are going to livestream a video game, set ticket prices, marketing, sponsorships, raising money. Again, that’s on a small scale, but when you don’t have people to delegate it to you have to get in the weeds—you have a better understanding. Those experiences got me out of my comfort zone, challenged me. I grew during that time, and when I returned to Georgia I felt so much comfortable discussing whatever the topics may be because I have lived it now. Again, it is different, I get it. The comma is in a different place than it is at Millsaps than it is here at Georgia, but at the same time, it’s all about relationships. It’s how you treat people. It’s about showing up and doing your job. I can’t tell you how much those experiences, how much confidence they have given me moving forward. Just the knowledge of seeing a program A to Z.”
On whether he wants the opportunity to be director of athletics and what that would mean to him…
“Of course. I would love that opportunity. It’s anybody’s dream who is in sports administration to be a Power 5 AD, but beyond that, I love Athens, Ga. I love this university. I love working for President Morehead. I love the people in this athletic department and on campus. My family loves it here. My kids were born here in Georgia. They identify as Georgia natives, and we love it here. I would love that opportunity, but at the end of the day, I will serve this university however needed, however is seen fit. This university was here before me. It’ll be here after me. I’m just here to carry the torch any way. I love it here, and I’d love to stay here the rest of my life.”
On whether there are any pending major decisions to be made before the end of the calendar year…
“Well, I have intentionally moved all those decisions up to mid-December. We’re going to try and get as many of those things hammered through, especially anything controversial, even if after January 1, we’ll still say that was a Greg McGarity decision so we can put that on him. No, Zach [Kline], there’s always things coming up down the pike. We’re in a world now where we’re getting curve balls every day, and we’re navigating this basketball season with the men’s and women’s teams, and every day is something different— a rescheduling of a game, a cancellation. There’s going to be a lot of things coming at us here, so there’s never going to be a boring month in athletics. There’s always something coming in athletics, but at the end of the day, Greg is always just a phone call away. He’s a mentor to me, and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give him a shout. I’m ready for whatever comes.”
On when there will be a concert in Sanford Stadium…
“We’re always looking at options for that, and obviously this year would’ve been great year for it, but in light of everything going on, it makes it difficult. I would be interested to see what the concert world looks like in the future, and I think that there could be a potential across the country where you see more concerts in larger venues because they could maybe go to a venue that seats 90,000 [and] put 20 or 30 [thousand], and it’ll reduce capacity and manage that. I know venues are struggling right now, so we’ll see how that plays out. But I’d love to do that again in Sanford Stadium because it’s just great for the town, it’s great for the school. I think it went really well, so I definitely will always keep that on the list of things.”
On when there will be beer in Sanford Stadium…
“We want to be responsible about that and make sure that whatever we do, we allow it the right way and a responsible way. We’ll see. You know, I think it’s becoming more popular in the conference, and we’re obviously learning from what others have done and how it’s going.”
On what philosophical differences he may have with the ways the athletic department has operated in the past…
“First of all, I would hope that I share the same core beliefs and values as Greg [McGarity] and try to emulate those as best as possible, but sometimes it’s not just about your beliefs; it’s about the executive team. I think what Greg has done here, is he’s built an executive team with people with different backgrounds, different skillsets, that he allows to have healthy confrontations and great debate, so it’s not just about what I believe. It’s about what our team believes and how we can navigate that. I don’t know if there are any major differences. Greg will tell you, I’m probably more vocal and outgoing on social media and things like that and more forward-facing in terms of that, but I would just hope to share the same values. Again, at the end of the day, it’s about keeping the mission of the university, first and foremost, in everything we do, because if you do that, you can’t go wrong.”
On how his time as the director of football ops has helped him as an administrator and how the experience could help as an athletics director…
“I think when you spend time on the other side of the aisle, as a coach or graduate assistant coach or director of football operations, you have a better understanding of needs versus wants. Sometimes, as an administrator, you may get a request from a coach and you may say, ‘Well, why do they need that? Is that really necessary? Is that going to make a difference between signing that recruit or not signing that recruit?’ When you’ve worked on that side of the aisle, you know what it’s like to fight for every inch of your program. When you’re a coach, everything matters, because you’re trying to uncover every stone. You’re trying to take advantage of everything you can to give your student-athletes the best chance to be successful. So, having that mindset and understanding that when a coach comes to me and explains what they need and why they need it, I have a great appreciation for it as an administrator, because I’ve been there, I’ve been on that side of the aisle, and I have a greater appreciation for it.”
On what another year of drastically reduced seating would mean for the UGA athletic department and whether the SEC has given any indication about the 2021 football schedule…
“The 21 schedule is something that has not been discussed recently to my knowledge. In terms of what next year is going to look like, it’s so hard to tell, Vance [Leavy]. I think to make any predictions wouldn’t be fair to anyone, to speculate on those things. I can give a lot of credit to what’s happened this year to people from Matt Borman and the development office and Tim Cearley and the ticket office. What they’ve done to help keep refunding the money in the system and converting it to triple points— that has been phenomenal. That crew has been working tirelessly since really September to make that happen, which has put us in a great position. As for next year, we’ll see. There are so many unknowns to work through, but you’ve got to give credit to our business office, as well, as we’ve managed expenses throughout all this. That management has also led to put us in the good position that we are in right now.”
On why social media interaction is important for him and for individuals in his position…
“For me, it’s a way for me to connect with fans and the good, the bad and the ugly. To not bury my head in the sand and be aware of what’s going on. Look, I don’t mind when someone calls me out on Twitter or says something I wouldn’t know, and when they do I’ll send them a direct message, send them my phone number and call them and talk through things. It gives me another opportunity to interact with our fans. To have a pulse. That’s one thing I’ve prided myself on throughout my time here is being interactive and responsive to our fans and listen to them. That’s one of the key things for me.”
On the amount of interaction he has had with head football coach Kirby Smart and the importance of their relationship…
“Our time did not overlap before I came here. We worked in a lot of similar circles, we knew a lot of common people. So, I think there’s a mutual respect there and you really try to be respectful of his time during the season. I work very close with Josh Lee and some other members of his staff to try and keep the small fire smalls and stuff off of his desk and just try and solve things before they get to him. I think there’s a great relationship there, I respect what he does. Obviously, we’ve been in similar circles, I’ve worked for Coach [Jimbo] Fisher and Coach [Nick] Saban so we’ve been in the same tree. A lot of respect for the way he runs his program, it’s first class. I’m very excited to work with him more.”
On whether it is accurate to say that the athletic director position at UGA has more to do with facilitating all sports rather than acting as supervisors…
“I think that’s part of the culture here for all sports. We don’t consider ourselves sports supervisors as much as sports facilitators, that’s the attitude that Greg [McGarity] has brought to the table, we’re here to serve. At the end of the day, without the student athletes and the coaches, there’s no need for me to be here, so it’s all about them. It’s less about what my opinion is other than try and be a good steward of all of our resources and how we operate, and facilitating and making their lives easier. It’s all about removing obstacles for them and making their jobs easier. Helping them recruit, helping them get the kids in the classroom to do well, be productive citizens and win championships on the field. It’s less about supervision per say, more about how do we facilitate and help them. That’s been Greg’s leadership model since day one.”
On his appreciation of the Chick-Fil-A model of customer service, the ways he tries to emulate that at Georgia and the fan experience ideas he has in store…
“I’ve always got ideas. I’ve got crazy ideas when it comes to…you know I always want to find different ways to make the fan experience better. We’re big fans of Chick-Fil-A, we’re big dans of Disney. We want to do things the way they do, the way they operate. I think we’ve made great strides the last few years. This has been a year where we’re really focused, with reduced capacity, we really take our time, greet people, treat them right and especially in light of that, I’d like to give a shout out. What we’ve been through since March, Ron Courson, Anna Randa in sports medicine, Mark Delafchell, Lisa Moss in facilities, Darrice Griffin and all her responsibilities. We’ve had a team of individuals since March that have been working tirelessly trying to navigate these waters and keep our facilities clean and safe, keep our student athletes and staff safe. The job they’ve done since March has been remarkable and it’s people like that. It all ties back into the culture that we’re trying to create around here of great customer service and treating people the right way. At the end of the day, just like how I say I wouldn’t be here without the student athletes, without the fans, these events aren’t the same. We want, when you come to one of our venues, or one of our games, we want it to be an experience that you don’t forget, or a positive experience that you tell a friend about or just something that makes you feel better. Sometimes this is escapism for some people from their daily lives. When they walk through the gates of Sanford Stadium, it’s a release for them, it’s a special moment and we want to make that even more special for them when they come here.”
On a defining moment(s) of his career with Greg McGarity and of his career…
“The thing I’ll always remember is the phone call Greg gave me when he first offered the job to me 10 years ago. It was a life changing moment. I was literally about to accept the job at Florida State with Jimbo Fisher and be his ops guy. I believed in Greg, I had only known him for a few months since he came I think in September of that year, but he showed enough of the type of person he was and for him to take a chance on me and change my life 10 years ago, I will forever be indebted to that moment, that experience. It’s every day with him, it’s how he treats you. From the other experiences, the Notre Dame series, how that came together, then to win both of those games, take over their stadium in South Bend and the light show that our team put together. That was a really special moment. For me, I don’t think anything will ever top the Rose Bowl. That game was just a special, special day. I’m just thankful to have those experiences and thankful to Greg for all he’s done.”
On how the pandemic has changed his preconceived notions about how he would handle different situations…
“It always brings up opportunities for us to reevaluate the way we spend money. We’ve had to take a lot and be more efficient with the way we operate. Sometimes you can look at it and say, we’ve been doing it this way for a while, this year we had to make adjustments, maybe there is some adjustments going forward full time, even post pandemic so we can be more efficient. It always adds those opportunities. On the other side, going back to the customer service, it’s proven to us that with the smaller crowds, we can really focus on the experience. Hopefully, we’re getting better through that and I think we have. Really, for all of us, it’s slowing down, and really appreciating the personal experiences. I think with my experiences with the fans, is the live experience is so special. Yeah, there will be some people who have sat at home and maybe are comfortable at home, but for those that have been there in person, it’s really hard to top a live event. Hopefully there will be a greater appreciation going forward and we can keep improving upon the service that we provide when people come to an event.”
On whether he anticipates having a great level of transparency and open with media and others, similar to the way Greg McGarity was in his position…
“I would hope so, (and) I believe transparency is a good thing. Accountability is a good thing, well, good and bad thing. I think if you do things the right way, accountability can be a great thing. So, I have no intentions of being different than Greg was in that regard. Hopefully, there can be an open door to give clarification on stories when it needs be and give the information as needed. I’ve tried to live my life as an open book and that’s why I’m a little more aggressive on social media. I want to help flip the story out there a little more. Be on the front end of telling our story to avoid the vacuum that could exist if you didn’t.”
Georgia AD search committee, led by Kessel Stelling, who serves as Chairman and CEO of Synovus and a member of both the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents and the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, will chair the committee.
Other committee members include:
- Paige Carmichael, Meigs Professor of Veterinary Pathology and member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors;
- Darrice Griffin, UGA Athletic Association Deputy Athletic Director for Administration;
- Mack Guest, Co-founder and President of LAD Truck Lines, President of the UGA Football Lettermen’s Club, and Emeritus Member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors;
- Sam Holmes, Vice Chairman of CBRE, Inc., member of the USG Board of Regents, and former Chairman of both the UGA Foundation and the UGA Real Estate Foundation;
- Kearis Jackson, UGA football student-athlete and member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors;
- Steve Jones, United States District Court Judge, member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, a UGA Foundation Trustee, and former President of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors;
- Swann Seiler, Manager of External Affairs, Southeast Region, at Georgia Power, Emeritus Trustee of the UGA Foundation, Emeritus Member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, and former President of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors;
- David Shipley, Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Law, Faculty Athletics Representative and Secretary of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, and Chair of the Executive Committee of University Council;
- Bonney Shuman, Co-founder and retired CEO of Stratix Corporation, UGA Foundation Treasurer, former member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, and former President of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors; and
- Bill Young, Partner at General Wholesale Company, member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, and former Chairman of the UGA Foundation.