Know newly-promoted Darrice Griffin for mark on Lady Bulldogs, women's sports

After Greg McGarity's retirement, Darrice Griffin will be promoted to senior deputy athletic director. She plays a significant role for the Lady Bulldogs.

Georgia senior deputy athletic director Darrice Griffin works at her desk inside Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. (Courtesy of Kristin M. Bradshaw — Georgia Sports Communications)

ATHENS, Ga. — All Joni Taylor has to do is pick up the phone when there’s an issue. Darrice Griffin turns her athletic administration cap into a superhero cape.

“Hey Darrice, this is what’s going on,” Taylor, Georgia’s women’s basketball coach might say.

Ten minutes pass. She resolves the issue. No ifs, ands or buts. Hurdles are a rarity. Griffin, too, can be easily reached. She’s a lifeline for the Lady Bulldogs, and has lended a helping hand to the athletic department in many facets.

On Monday afternoon, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity announced his retirement after a decade-plus at the leadership helm. Georgia President Jere Morehead made tweaks to the athletic department’s structure and promoted Josh Brooks to interim athletic director, effective Jan. 1. Consequently, Griffin has been promoted to senior deputy athletic director, formerly held by Brooks.

Griffin’s highest title at UMass was deputy director of athletics. She served in that capacity for six months before accepting the job at Georgia to start the 2018 calendar year.

“She’s a superstar on the rise,” McGarity said Monday in an address to local media that lasted around 45 minutes in length. “I’m glad the President (Morehead) did what he did on the interim basis. That’s a great 1-2 punch.”

Griffin has been an unknown yet integral piece of Georgia athletics since she assumed the role. She has her hand placed in numerous pots and gives each athletic staffer and coach plenty of assistance. Griffin will become the second-highest ranking official in Georgia’s athletic department — until further notice — and has earned the recognition. Griffin breaks a barrier, too, as one of a select few Black women in high leadership positions.

Griffin is a candidate to remain in the role of senior deputy athletic director. She could be considered for the lead role, although Brooks is considered a favorite and would receive a vote of confidence from McGarity. Griffin is a member of the 10-person advisory board appointed by Morehead to lead the athletic director search.

McGarity said the responsibilities of being a No. 2 are significant. Griffin would represent the school if Brooks has other duties. She wouldn’t be in the lead chair, “but almost there,” as McGarity put it. Although Griffin’s duties temporarily change, the youthful administrative leader won’t shift from the sports she represents. She’s an advocate for female athletes and plays a key leadership role within the Lady Bulldogs’ program, alongside Taylor and the coaches.

Taylor knew the shoes would be big to fill. No knock on Griffin, but nearly every person affiliated with Georgia athletics loved Carla Williams. Griffin, formerly at UMass and Columbia, came in as a newcomer who had to quickly fit in and lead women’s athletics.

Three years ago, Williams, the longtime athletics figure at Georgia got her big break. She was hired at Virginia in 2017 as the first Black athletic director in the Power 5. She was a former Lady Bulldog and three-year starter for Andy Landers (1987-89). She served as an ambassador for Georgia and served as a supervisor to former football coach Mark Richt.

Williams had her following, but Griffin fit like a glove. Georgia, especially it’s women’s basketball program, never felt like it missed a beat.

“She is smart. She is a listener. She is an active thinker and someone who is very diligent about her responsibilities,” Taylor said. “She's someone who our student-athletes feel like they can go to for the big and the small things. She's always present.”

Taylor and Griffin are two of three Black representatives of Georgia’s athletic department. Melvin Robinson, the director of facilities, is the other. Griffin, in turn, leads a lot of efforts. She has an open-door policy with student-athletes. Any issues are asked to be reported to her. She encourages student-athletes to attend efforts such as the diversity council and other advocacy groups.

Formally, some of Griffin’s responsibilities include the deputy Title IX director. She is part of day-to-day oversight with human resources and strategic organizational advancement.

Griffin’s reach goes beyond the job description, too. She’s a friend, mentor and resource to the women’s basketball players and student-athletes across all programs. You can find her — in the pre-pandemic era, at least — perched in the corner of Stegeman Coliseum and observing behind the Lady Bulldogs’ bench. She also traveled with the team on certain occasions.

“You know when you're around someone who is a problem-solver and who knows how to manage situations,” Taylor said. “Her are not only made for the best interest of the program, but for everyone involved.

“She is a bright star in administration.”

Along with the job, Griffin enjoys talking ball, too. She’s a former standout at Texas Tech and 2004 Gatorade Player of the Year in Texas. She spent time as a director of basketball operations at Columbia.

Griffin pops in and out of Lady Bulldogs’ practices at the training facilities frequently. Each of the Lady Bulldogs have her phone number, and they can text or call Griffin at any time.

“She first came here and made sure she had a relationship with every single one of us,” senior Georgia center Jenna Staiti said. “She made it clear that if we need anything, then come directly to her. She does a lot for our program and loves women's basketball. She's a big fan of ours.”

Griffin gives Taylor another place to turn. She has made McGarity’s job easier over the past few years. They all see her career headed on the same trajectory.

Unfortunately, for them, Georgia might not be able to have an issue fixed by Griffin in 10 minutes time for too much longer. It’ll savor those moments for now.

“She is on a quick path, so I hope we can hold on to her for as long as we can,” Taylor said. “She's going to be running her own program really soon.”