Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Newly introduced Georgia Gwinnett College athletics director, Darin Wilson, far right, speaks with school president Daniel Kauffman, center, and vice president for facilities and operations Eddie Beauchamp following a press conference on Tuesday.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- There were many features of a college athletic event at Georgia Gwinnett College on Tuesday.
There was loud, spirited music. There was plenty of cheering from about 100 GGC students, faculty and staff who were waving green and white pom-poms. There was even a dancing bear -- sort of (actually, a costumed Grizzly mascot named "General").
Most important, there was GGC's first athletics director, Dr. Darin Wilson, who was formally introduced by the 5-year-old school as the man to lead it into the realm of intercollegiate athletics.
"This is another great day for Georgia Gwinnett College," said GGC acting vice president for academic and student affairs Dr. Lois Richardson, who joined GGC president Dr. Daniel Kauffman and other college officials in welcoming Wilson on Tuesday. "You join a team of dedicated professionals committed to education the whole student for the 21st century and beyond. ... We are Georgia Gwinnett College. We are the first. We are the best. And we expect to win."
While Richardson's charge was mean in a light-hearted way, winning is something Wilson took very seriously, and did a lot of of, during his tenure at Union College in Barbourville, Ky., where he served as head baseball coach for five years before becoming athletics director in 2003.
"There is no doubt that Darin is the right person to kick start the Grizzlies' new intercollegiate athletics program," Kaufman said of Wilson. "And we are truly excited to have him join the Georgia Gwinnett team."
In his eight years as Union's AD, Bulldog teams 37 Appalachian Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships and six NAIA Region XII titles, as well as the college's first AAC All-Sports Trophy in the 2009-10 school year.
In addition, Wilson was was named AAC Athletic Director of the Year three times, including this year, and was named 2009-10 Under Armour AD of the Year for the Southeast Region in the NAIA by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
"It's interesting. I've heard more in the last 10 minutes about winning than I've heard all week," joked Wilson, who actually began his new job last week. "I can't begin to say thank you to all the folks who've made this first week an enjoyable and inspirational week for me. It's more than I could've imagined. There is so much support here from faculty, from staff, from administration, from students that I've met along the way, that I can't say thank you enough.
"What a great group of people to work with and a great group of professionals. And it's no wonder the program is already to this point in terms of planning and preparation and what they expect to see happen in the near future."
Near future may be the most descriptive phrase in Wilson's job description with Grizzlies teams in six different sports -- men's and women's soccer, men's and women's tennis, men's baseball and women's softball -- scheduled to begin play in the 2012-13 school year, with three other sports -- men's and women's basketball and women's volleyball -- possibly added the following year.
That gives Wilson as little as a year, in some cases, to hire coaches, secure possible NAIA and confernece affiliations and oversee the construction of facilities, among other tasks.
"The question of the hour that I've had more often ... over the last three week is 'Why?'" Wilson said. "Why take this position? Why come to an institution that's only been here since 2006? Why develop a program from scratch when you're already running a program of 23 intercollegiate sports? Why now? I think this is probably the reason -- the people that are in this room are some of the biggest reasons why I was attracted to Georgia Gwinnett College. On top of that, it's the ability to build a program from the ground up. I enjoy building. I enjoy growing.
"The good news is, you get to build it from scratch. The bad news is, you have to build it from scratch. What I've noticed over the past week is, There's a lot of things to get done."
The first thing to get done will likely be to break ground on a new athletics complex that will include playing fields for baseball, softball and soccer, plus tennis courts and other athletic facilities, which Wilson hopes will begin in a matter of a few weeks, once funding is approved by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.
The process of hiring coaches for the six sports starting next school year follow soon afterwards.
"The timetable will be very quickly," Wilson said. "We hope to have the actual announcments (of openings) up (on-line) within a week, and certainly we'll start vetting those candidates and have them on campus (for interviews) within three or four weeks, and then be hiring.
"We're a little bit behind in terms of hiring (coaches). We need to have that done ... because once they get here, certainly they'll be hitting the ground running full-steam ahead with recruiting."
Wilson also expects to have GGC's official application to join NAIA before the Oct. 1 deadline, with a vote by current members on the application expected by the organization's members at its convention in April, while he added that the process of seeking a conference affiliation within NAIA is already under way.