Birth of GGC Grizzlies - Nice AJC Article TodayJuly 25 2012 at 8:14 AM
The birth of the GGC Grizzlies; countdown to game one. By Doug Roberson
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
What was known as the Kudzu Hill on Collins Hill Road will soon be a $13.5 million dollar athletic complex. Six earth-movers are flattening the ground for a soccer field. More of the massive machines are atop a nearby hill, moving mud that will soon be stadiums for baseball and softball.
.Less than a mile down the road is a tennis complex, featuring more than a dozen courts, that was recently purchased by Georgia Gwinnett College.
They are the pieces in what athletic director Darin Wilson hopes to build into a competetive athletic program. The Grizzlies will start their first sports season with a soccer doubleheader on Aug. 25.
Sitting in his corner office that doubles as a make-shift equipment room with a bag of soccer balls in one corner, Wilson talks about what is going on at Georgia Gwinnett College, one of the state's fastest growing colleges.
"I've had a lot of people sit right there that have never been on campus," he said. "Each person is blown away. They say 'I can't believe this place is here.'
"It's an interesting moment from my seat. As well as Georgia Gwinnett College is known here, athletics will help sell the name [elsewhere] from athletic side or academic side."
Georgia Gwinnett College is located in Lawrenceville. Its main building, featuring two intertwined green Gs atop a glass tower and often called "the spaceship," can be seen as commuters head up and down Highway 316.
The college started in 2006 with an enrollment of 118 students. It will have 9,500 undergraduates in the fall, pushing it into the top 10 by size in the state.
The birth of a sports program has been a product of the growth. Student fees of $80 per student per semester have funded an athletic department with a $1.7 million operating budget.
Wilson was hired last year from Union College, where he had spent 18 years as a baseball player, coach and then athletic director, to lead the new department.
"Who else gets to do this? Who gets to come in and build this from scratch?" he said explaining why he left Barbourville, Ky.
He's been involved in everything from choosing the athletics' logo to designing business cards to choosing uniforms. But he said the most important thing he's done is build relationships. He hired two head coaches and an assistant who were formerly at Georgia State to lead three of his teams. He wanted coaches with experience because he reasoned that it will be easier to be the second coach, after the program has started, than being the trailblazer.
He joked that he gave each coach an office, a laptop, a phone and one word of direction: "Go."
GGC will start with six sports: men's and women's soccer, baseball, softball and men's and women's tennis. Wilson can see the addition of men's and women's basketball, volleyball, men's and women's golf and men's and women's cross country in the next few years. Much will depend upon fund-raising efforts.
Football is a long way off.
GGC will play in the NAIA, a different organization than the NCAA. Among the Georgia NAIA schools are Life, Point and Southern Polytechnic universities and Savanah College of Art and Design.
GGC offers scholarships, though none of the sports are yet fully funded.
The goal, however, is the same: win national championships.
Wilson said the expectation is that in five years GGC athletics will be competing for national championships in its peer group and graduating students who are continually giving back to their communities and the university.
Though there are more than 10 colleges that play in the NAIA in Georgia, tennis coach Chase Hodges said the unfamiliarity with the organization and the college is the biggest challenge in recruiting. However, the fact that the college is new and the tennis complex, which includes a weight-lifting facility and hard and clay courts, is making selling easier.
GGC will host Tennessee Temple on an intramural field near the student-housing complex (with more than 1,000 beds) on Aug. 25 in the program's first games. The soccer complex, which coach Steven DeCou said will rival some Division I program's, could open as early as October. The baseball and softball stadiums should open in February. The stadiums are being paid for by bonds that will be paid down by the college's foundation. GGC is in the process of putting together a capital campaign. Wilson said a fund-raising fgoal hasn't been set.
The rosters are being filled with players from all over the country. Some are transfers from junior colleges, others are from Gwinnett County. The baseball team, which obviously hasn't played a game, already had a commitment drafted and signed by the Cleveland Indians earlier this year.
Though there are only a few athletes on campus now, so they don't have much to do in the way of instruction, the coaches are as enthusiastic as Wilson about the future.
"The potential here is huge," Hodges said. "There's no telling how big the school can be. In five to seven years everyone will know Georgia Gwinnett. The name recognition will be outstanding."
- In 6 years, they grew from 118 to over 9,500 students? WOW! - Anonymous on Jul 25, 8:37 AM
- No Need to Drive Dom, You already work there. - Anonymous on Jul 25, 2:39 PM
- Re: No Need to Drive Dom, You already work there. - Anonymous on Jul 25, 3:54 PM