ATLANTA — Mike Bobinski is still a couple of months away from officially becoming Georgia Tech's athletic director. He's already talking up the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Bobinski was introduced Friday as the school's AD, though he won't move into the job full time until April 1. He comes to Georgia Tech from Xavier, a school that does not play football and where he served as athletic director for a dozen seasons.
This will be Bobinski's first time leading a BCS-affiliated program, which he said is one of the main reasons he took the job.
"That part is exciting to me," he said. "I've looked for this opportunity. I'm excited about the opportunity to rejoin the football community."
The Yellow Jackets are longtime members of the ACC, but they've been mentioned as a possible candidate to jump to the Big Ten should that conference decide to expand its presence into the South. Another ACC school, Maryland, already announced that it's moving to the Big Ten.
Bobinski smiled when asked if Georgia Tech might be joining the realignment frenzy.
"That's the ultimate loaded question," he said, before quickly stressing he thinks the ACC is an "unbelievable home for Georgia Tech. It's the right fit in today's world for us."
The Yellow Jackets' goals — both athletically and academically — are aligned with conference rivals such as North Carolina, Duke and Virginia, he added.
"That's the company Georgia Tech belongs in," Bobinski said. "It's the right alignment in a lot of ways. I don't have any inclination at this point in time that there's any different home in our future. Our goal right now — us and the rest of the members of the ACC — is be as good as we can be in football and strengthen the revenue base in and around the conference, so there's no temptation for folks to start to be picked off. We're all-in for the ACC."
Boosting revenue is vital for Georgia Tech's athletic program, which has taken on heavy debt to upgrade its athletic facilities. In the past decade or so, the school has expanded its football stadium, built new practice facilities for football and basketball, renovated the baseball stadium and opened a new complex for softball. This year, the Yellow Jackets moved into a new basketball arena, the McCamish Pavilion, and a new tennis complex was dedicated Thursday.
In its 2011-12 annual report, Georgia Tech listed a debt service of more than $6.5 million on yearly revenues of just over $60 million. A move to the Big Ten, which has its own television network and more lucrative broadcast deals than the ACC, would surely boost the Yellow Jackets' bottom line.
While Bobinski said the debt is "not an insignificant number," he doesn't think it's "something that gets in the way of what we're trying to accomplish." But, he added, it will be important for the athletic department to boost fundraising and get more fans in the seats. For instance, the football team has struggled to fill 55,000-seat Bobby Dodd Stadium, failing to sell out any games last season while averaging 43,955.
Bobinski wants to make more efforts to reach out to the student body and alumni, but realizes that he faces a difficult task playing in a city with three major league teams and in a state where rival Georgia has a much larger fan base and revenue potential.
"Over time, we've got to find a way to create a feel, create an energy and a program that people want to be a part of," he said. "The first prerequisite is having people in the stands."
Bobinski is very much aware that football is the sport driving all the major moves in college athletics these days, and insists he's kept an eye on things even when he didn't have a team of his own at Xavier.
"If you haven't stayed plugged in to college football and what's going on in college football, you've been asleep," said Bobinski, noting that before moving to Xavier he worked at three gridiron schools: Notre Dame, Navy and Akron. "I've stayed closely plugged in with that throughout my time at Xavier. I feel very comfortable and excited to be back in the realm of college football."
Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson said the school was looking for someone with the "highest level of integrity, someone who could reconnect with our fan base and alumni." He's confident the Yellow Jackets found the right person, noting that Xavier had one of the highest athlete graduation rates in the country, 97 percent.
A native of Long Island, N.Y., Bobinski graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in business administration and played four years on the school's baseball team. A certified public accountant, he initially worked in the business world, including a stint with the Walt Disney Co., before moving into college athletics at his alma mater in 1984.Just to make sure he blends in at his new school, Georgia Tech officials jokingly presented him with a gift at his introductory news conference — a book titled "The Complete How to Speak Southern."