Todd Stanfill was approved as the new Muscogee County School District system-wide athletic director on Jan. 20 of this year, taking the place of Gary Gibson. Gibson took at job as the Taylor County superintendent in November of last year.
After two months on the job, Stanfill has settled in and has his eyes toward the future, planning to help move athletics in the county forward.
Stanfill sat down for an interview with Ledger-Enquirer high school sports writer David Mitchell earlier this week to discuss his time on the job, challenges facing the county and how to improve athletics going forward. The full interview can be read on our website at ledger-enquirer.com/sports
So what's it been like on the job so far?
I think part of it was just expecting a huge learning curve, a big period of time where I would just be kind of feeling my way through things. It was kind of like, you've got about three days and then here we go. But the athletic directors that I work with at the high schools and middle school level have been just tremendous. They've been very helpful. The same way with the principals. It's been a real spirit of cooperation, which has just been great.
When you came in, did you sit down with (Gary) Gibson to hash out the expectations of the position. Did you get any words of advice from him?
No, I didn't. As a matter of fact I haven't really even talked to him about it. He's got a new job, and it was purely out of respect for him that I just didn't bother him. He's got big fish to fry where he is.
What from your past has really helped you to hit the ground running here?
Having worked in Georgia the majority of my career, that was a huge help. Understanding the Georgia High School Association, having worked in the area for several years, that all helped me. I knew most of the people I was going to be in contact with on a daily basis.
Did you have a good idea of the specific challenges when you came in?
I think so. I haven't had anything come up that's been a big shocker. A lot of the times the challenges are the same, it's just different faces. One of the things that makes this a great situation, though, is you've got athletic directors and you've got coaches that care about the kids and care about doing the right thing for the schools and that makes things so much easier. Those aren't battles I have to fight.
What's new for you?
The big thing, I would say, is this is the first time for me to ever work in a multiple high school or multiple middle school system. That brings on an interesting situation. I've never gone to a game without that total connection to the kids participating, but it doesn't take long to get with it. It was a blast watching our basketball teams compete in the state playoffs. Following the Columbus girls and the Kendrick girls as they made it to the state championship games. Man, I've been waving pom-poms in the bleachers. Nobody wanted them to win more than I did.
What are some of the challenges you think Muscogee County athletics faces?
Again, we're no different than anywhere else. But some of the immediate challenges are making sure that our schools have quality coaches at all levels, and, of course, financials. Doing everything I can to make sure our kids get what they need, our schools get what they need. Outside of that, it's just routine things. Those are the two big ones, though.
Touch on that a bit. What do you know about what was specified for athletics in the last SPLOST? How are athletics going to be helped financially?
I don't know all the ins and outs about that at this point. Hopefully, there's more to come. We definitely have some needs. You take, for example, Kinnett Stadium. There's I don't know how many football games played out there and track events and soccer matches at the high school and middle school level. We really need turf on that field. But that's just a small part of what we need. Our high schools and middle schools need a lot, as well. Hopefully, some of our needs will be met through that.
Is there anything specifically on deck for improving Kinnett, or is that just in a holding pattern right now?
I'd say it's kind of a wait-and-see mode right now, but there are things we can do to make that more user friendly without relying on a lot of money.
You mentioned the coaches, would you like a bigger part in the hiring of coaches?
The coaches and athletic directors at the school level, they work for the principal and I completely support that. They're aware that if they need my assistance in that, I'm happy to help. Otherwise, I'm just there to support the people that are in place and do everything I can to help them do their job.
Where do you get the sense that athletics stand right now in the broad scheme of things, given the ebbs and flows of finances?
I think athletics is just as important now at the school level as it ever was. One of the things that I, coming into this district and seeing how things work, our coaches at all levels do a great job with the resources they have. They'll continue to do that. They're dedicated to what they do, they love what they do. Nobody goes into this to get rich. They're dedicated, quality people, and we'll continue to thrive.
Middle schools of course are a part as well. How important is it to you to keep a strong foundation in middle school athletics?
It's your feeder system, though we don't necessarily have feeder schools. It's just as important to have quality coaching at the middle school level. That's the foundation. If we're doing our job at the middle school level, then it makes coaches' jobs in high school that much easier.
Does the future look bright for middle school sports?
Yeah, I think so. Again, just like high school, they're doing a great job with the resources they have. Their participation numbers are great. The support is there. I think our middle school programs are in great shape.
Speaking of support, how can you guys help get more people out to football games at Memorial and Kinnett?
We're looking at some things. Trying to be more spectator friendly. We're taking a look at all of our ticket prices now. I don't know where they'll end up next year, but I certainly don't want people paying more. We want people to be able to afford to come to our games. We're looking at some possibilities for some different price structures next year. We don't want to price ourselves out to where our students' families can't afford to come to games.