University of Georgia President Jere Morehead says his committee’s search for new leadership in the school’s athletic department attracted “a number of prominent athletic directors very interested in the position.”
Even so, Morehead on Wednesday said the best candidate, Josh Brooks, already was on campus, even though he didn’t match the experience of more established administrators.
The 40-year-old Brooks was named Georgia’s full-time athletic director less than one week into his stint as the interim AD following Greg McGarity’s retirement. Brooks’ hiring was recommended by Morehead and received unanimous approval from the athletic association’s board.
The young Brooks takes over takes over one of the nation’s most successful athletic programs. His immediate challenge is to continue to lead Georgia’s department through the coronavirus pandemic. He said it will be important to attract fans back to games when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
“Now more than ever as we come out of COVID, we’ve got to step it up in terms of fan experience,” Brooks said, adding Georgia must make attending games “so much better than the home experience that they have to be here in person.”
Brooks held high-ranking positions at Georgia and Louisiana-Monroe, but he has limited experience running an athletic department. He was athletic director at Division III Millsaps College, in Jackson, Mississippi, from 2014-15, before his return for his second stint at Georgia.
“Obviously at the end that’s what it came down to: do you take a chance on someone who has tremendous potential or do you hire someone who is more of a seasoned veteran,” Morehead said.
Morehead said he was swayed by Brooks’ familiarity and work with coaches and staff already in place at Georgia.
“When I looked at that nucleus of leadership and all of the opportunities Josh would have to collaborate with them and to grow into becoming a seasoned athletic director, I just thought that was the right call for the University of Georgia,” Morehead said.
Brooks said he will be open to innovations while maintaining respect for tradition. An example of an innovation he supported was new red LED lights added to Sanford Stadium in 2019.
“When we started talking about colored lights in the stadium, there was some pushback,” Brooks said, saying dissenters argued against turning the stadium “into a disco.”
Brooks said he will be “very judicious” when making recommendations and that he was “not going to change just for the sake of change.”
“My humility is first and foremost,” he said. “I’m not going to be one coming in pounding my fist on the desk and saying this is how it’s going to be.”
Brooks is a Louisiana native who graduated from LSU with a degree in kinesiology and completed his master’s degree in sports management at Georgia.
During his first stint in Georgia’s athletic department, he served as director of football operations and associate athletic director for internal operations.
In those roles, Brooks was in charge of scheduling football games as well as overseeing bowl game operations. In addition, he planned a 2013 Sanford Stadium concert by country star Jason Aldean.
McGarity, 66, announced on Nov. 30 his plans to retire at the end of the year. Brooks, who had been senior deputy athletic director, began his stint as interim athletic director on Jan. 1.
McGarity served a variety of roles in two stints covering 25 years at Georgia, his alma mater. He also is a former administrator at Florida.
The budget of Georgia’s athletic association grew from $89 million to $153 million under McGarity, who oversaw $200 million in facility improvements.
Georgia also named Darrice Griffin the full-time deputy director of athletics, filling Brooks’ former role. She had been named to the position on an interim basis.