ATLANTA — Paul Griffin has come out of retirement to lead Georgia Tech’s athletic department through another transition.
Griffin took over this week as interim athletic director at a school in a bit turmoil coming off a 3-9 season in football, a coaching change in men’s basketball and reports of internal strife under predecessor Mike Bobinski, who left Georgia Tech after less than 3 1-2 years to take the same job at Purdue.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” Griffin quipped Tuesday, “no one is more surprised to be sitting in this room having this conversation than me.”
Griffin was a longtime senior administrator at Georgia Tech, overseeing many of the school’s athletic construction projects and also filling in previously as interim AD during the changeover from Dan Radakovich to Bobinski.
Less than a year after finishing up his tenure with the Yellow Jackets, Griffin is back on the Flats again — albeit only temporarily while the school searches for Bobinski’s successor.
“We have approximately 375 student-athletes who are here to be educated,” Griffin said. “They don’t really care about the interim athletic director, whoever that person is. They just want to get an education and have a great athletic experience. That’s part of our charge most immediately.”
While Griffin is in largely a caretaker role, he’s eager to allay any nervousness or uncertainty facing those who worked under Bobinski — especially new basketball coach Josh Pastner. He hasn’t even coached a game with the Yellow Jackets, but he’s already got a new boss.
After agreeing to serve as interim AD, Griffin immediately cut short a family trip to Florida to meet with Pastner.
“I understood some of the anxiety he might have,” Griffin said. “I look forward to working with him this year. I look forward to getting his Georgia Tech relationship off on the right foot.”
Griffin has a much longer relationship with football coach Paul Johnson, who has openly complained that Georgia Tech’s athletic facilities haven’t kept up with other Power Five schools.
“I don’t necessarily disagree,” Griffin said. “Part of my responsibility is to identify some of the pressing needs, that being perhaps one of them.”
In an interesting twist, Griffin visited a new football training facility at Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse Clemson, where Radakovich is the AD, just days before Bobinski left Georgia Tech. The Tigers’ complex includes a barber shop, bowling alley, miniature golf course and nap room.
Georgia Tech, which faces plenty of attendance and fundraising issues in the crowded Atlanta sports marketplace, simply doesn’t have the resources to keep up with schools such as Clemson.
“I just hope the parents of prospects have a little bit more focus on priorities other than having a barbershop in your facility,” Griffin said.
Johnson, whose relationship with Bobinski certainly seemed strained at times, appeared to take a shot at the former athletic director when asked about the change in leadership.
“I’ve worked with Paul Griffin before. I respect him,” Johnson said. “He’s a standup guy. If you’ve got a question, he’ll give you answer.”
There’s no timetable on Georgia Tech hiring a new athletic director, and Griffin said he’s willing to stay on as long as needed, even into early next year.
He won’t be making the trip to Ireland, where the Yellow Jackets open the football season Saturday against ACC rival Boston College.
“If we win the game this weekend, even though clearly I won’t be there, I’m going to take credit for that,” Griffin said, breaking into a smile as he looked ahead to the home opener against Mercer. “Because I know they’re going to blame me for the cold hot dogs in Section 221 next week.”