File Photo Georgia Gwinnett College athletic director Darin Wilson, shown at his introduction last year, is preparing the Grizzlies for their intercollegiate athletics debut in the 2012-13 school year.
Georgia Gwinnett College athletic director Darin Wilson is preparing the school's athletic program for its intercollegiate athletics debut during the 2012-13 school year, which begins with a soccer doubleheader on Aug. 25. Wilson sat down with sports editor Will Hammock this week to discuss the progress being made and what's ahead for GGC.
WH: The first question I had was about the construction of athletic facilities. How excited are you to have that going and where does it stand right now?
DW: We're extremely excited and ready to move dirt as soon as we're approved to. We're waiting on the final bond sale and the ground, lease and rental agreement has been approved by the Board of Regents. Hopefully very soon you'll start to see dirt moving over there by Collins Hill Road.
WH: What are the tasks that people don't know about with a start-up athletic program? What are things that have to be done that people may not see or think of?
DW: I think that's a great question. I've been here almost 9 months and as I reflect back over those nine months, probably the most important thing that we've done that maybe you don't think of right off the bat is relationship-building. How important building relationships has been, not only externally, which is where you'd expect it to be with the chamber, the high schools and the local community, but also building relationships on campus. Because literally when you bring intercollegiate athletics onto campus, it touches every facet of the institution, whether it be development, admissions, financial aid, the president's office, facilities and on and on. Relationship-building has been huge. The other thing for me is just having a multiplicity of things going on at once and trying to balance all of those. As we talk, we're ramping up to Aug. 25 for our opening soccer games. We've got to make sure everything's in place for Aug. 25 but also make sure everything's in place for these student-athletes to come in for preseason workouts for every sport we have.
WH: It's a nice luxury to have such a nice intramural field for soccer, too, in case you need it.
DW: We're very fortunate. We've got nice fields right here that are lit that we'll be able to use as a fall-back plan if our facility's not ready. Certainly we hope our new soccer field is ready (by Aug. 25). It's going to have synthetic turf and we're excited about that. We're really fortunate that we'll have great facilities coming. With that being said, to have a great fallback plan with a great, fully functioning soccer facility on campus, we'll be ready to go if those aren't ready.
WH: From an athletic hiring perspective, what's left as far as coaching hires?
DW: We've got a few more assistants to hire. We'll be looking to officially hire baseball and softball assistants. We're still waiting to hire tennis coaches. We should hire tennis within the next month. We're excited about the staff we have in place. We've already assembled a great staff and hope to continue to add to that.
WH: How do you feel about the progress your coaches are making in Gwinnett, as far as community connections and making the rounds locally?
DW: They're out every night. Baseball, soccer and softball, they're at games every night. Whether it's right here in Gwinnett or in the surrounding area. They've really been hitting the recruiting trail very hard. We've been very well accepted in the county, which has been wonderful. We've had a lot of interest from a lot of different people. I'm really pleased with where we stand with our rosters as we move toward the summer.
WH: I know you think GGC sports camps are important. When can people expect to see information on those camps?
DW: We hope to have those up and fully functioning by early summer. We'll release those dates soon. We hope to run some soccer camps, both men and women, as well as baseball and softball camps this summer. Probably toward the latter part of the summer we'll be running some tennis camps, too.
WH: Are camps a big function of a college like this, in terms of getting your name out there?
DW: Absolutely. You've got two things here that are unique. You've got a new college, which most places don't have, and on top of that you've got a new athletic department, which most places don't have. So we're trying to balance both of those and getting our name out almost simultaneously, letting people know that we're here. The athletic department's here and we're going to be a fully functioning, comprehensive athletic department as we hit the fall. And the camps are a natural extension of that. It gets our coaches out in the community and gets the kids in the community on campus for the most part. We're real excited about the camps.
WH: What are you expecting in terms of attendance at your athletic events? Do you think it will be mostly students? Do you think it will be more of a community thing?
DW: We hope it's both. We've got to do a great job of marketing and advertising, making sure people know when we're playing and where we're playing. That's going to be part of our job. Hopefully we can get our schedules out there. We hope we've got a lot of community support. From a student standpoint, we definitely think we are going to draw students. But it's also going to be important to draw the local community to our games.
WH: After the first year of sports (baseball, softball, soccer and tennis), is basketball still a part of what's coming up next in Year 2?
DW: We'll see. We've just been accepted into the NAIA. We're going to look at conference affiliation next and make some decisions there in the upcoming weeks, as well as the next sports. We've got to look and see strategically in the next three to five years where should we be at. Certainly both basketballs have been mentioned. Volleyball's been mentioned. I've had calls from about every different sport you could think of in Gwinnett County. We've got to look at the NAIA and see what sports they sponsor and make a smart decision in terms of what we would add next.
WH: How many conferences are you looking at? Several? Two?
DW: There are a couple of different conferences that have expressed interest and that we will look at. Not to name names, but we'll look to see what's the best fit for Georgia Gwinnett and go from there.
WH: What's the timetable on that?
DW: That's a good question. By being accepted into the NAIA, right now we're automatically in the Association of Independent Institutions. And the NAIA looks at the Association of Independent Institutions as a conference. Technically we're in a conference. So there really isn't a timetable. We could stay independent as long as we'd like or we could look to affiliate with a conference that's somewhat local. It's just too early to say where we're going.WH: I've had a couple of people ask me this one. GGC won't be competing for a conference championship, but you'll still be able to compete for NAIA national championships?
DW: We have a one-year waiting period. So we'll compete this year across the board in all sports with a regular season and next year we'll compete with a regular season in all sports and hopefully in postseason as well.
WH: Where do you stand on athletic equipment, uniforms?
DW: We've got a lot of that stuff almost complete now. Both of our soccer uniforms are designed. We're hoping to roll those out in the next month. Baseball and softball uniforms are pretty well designed. That rollout will be closer to late summer. Tennis the same type of time frame, late summer. We'll do some unveilings of our uniforms and the school and the town should be impressed by what they see.
WH: You've got to feel good with how everything's going so far.
DW: I feel great. A lot of it depends strategically what we do the next three to five years when we really get a strategic plan in place for what's next, what sports are next. Some of that will be dictated by growth. Some of that will be dictated by funding; obviously funding's very important, being a state institution where you're not using any state dollars or tuition dollars for athletics. It's all either student fees or privately raised money. As far as my excitement level and enthusiasm, I'm very optimistic about what the future holds, but also trying to take things one day at a time as well and enjoy this process. As I've said many times, very few people get to do this. There are always some hurdles along the way, but we're trying to enjoy the process as well.