ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia's assistant athletic director for event management, Matt Brachowski, has been involved with the NCAA Tennis Championships since 1995, has served on the NCAA Tennis committee and as its chair, and is looking forward to hosting another great event in 2012. In this Q&A we check in with Brachowski to discuss what goes into hosting the tournament in Athens, as well as some of the challenges and his best memories.
Georgiadogs.com: What is your role at UGA, and how long have you been involved with tennis?
Matt Brachowski: At Georgia I am the assistant AD for event management, and the NCAA Tennis tournament director. The first tournament I worked was in spring 1995 when Coach [Dan] Magill was still working as the tournament director. After he retired from the Athletic Association, Coach [Manuel] Diaz and I sort of tag-teamed the position for a couple years, and 2000 was the first time I was the tournament director. I've been the director on the men's side in 2000, 2001, and 2003, and was the women's director in 2004 and 2005, and for both championships in 2007 and 2010. From Sept. 2004-Aug. 2008 I was a member of the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Tennis Committee and was chair of that committee during the 2008 NCAA Championships.
GD: What is it like getting ready to host the tournament?
MB: Well, we've got to corral a bunch of crazy staff to make sure they're doing what they need to do! My role is to oversee the entire operation of the championships and stay in touch with the different departments to see what they need. We try to plan and direct everything so that the event can run well and be bigger and better than the previous year. We work with the ticket office, promotions, sports information, facilities, and everyone - bringing all the different parts together and giving everyone the resources they need to do their jobs.
GD: How about once it starts?
MB: Once we're on site, there's still the overview of running the operations of the event. I'll work with the folks on the ground - ticket takers, ushers, media staff - and help visiting teams and participants with everything they need. I want to be a resource. We're also the liaison to the NCAA and the committee to make sure their policies they want enforced for the championship are being met. Even though we're the host of the championship, this is still the NCAA's event and we have to follow the policies and procedures they set.
GD: What are the biggest challenges you've faced since you started doing this?
MB: The biggest challenges are always the things you hadn't thought of or hadn't had to face before. You have to deal with things in an efficient manner, and come up with solutions that will be the best for all parties involved. With an outdoor championship like tennis, you obviously try to do the best you can with weather, and even if it's a practice day, you make sure the 32 teams who need to practice can get court times some way, somehow. You have to help the teams as much as possible and do all we can for them. The other challenges are just being available. With this kind of event, there are a lot of long hours for the people working and you've got to be sure you're ready for the next day. There are usually some early wakeup calls, and we've finished matches at 2 or 3 a.m. and then you've got to be back in the morning. I think everything can be a challenge - it's how you deal with it either beforehand or how it occurs that dictates if it's something easily overcome or if it gives you more trouble than it should.
GD: Do you feel comfortable now that you've done this so many times, or do you still get anxious?
MB: With my personality, I never feel comfortable. I always think of things that need to be done, or what we can do to have a positive impact on the championships and the participants. It's never a guarantee you're going to get to host again, and we need to do what we can do to have a positive impact so that we're in a position to be awarded the chance to host again in the future.
GD: A lot of people say the tournament belongs in Athens. Does that make you proud?
MB: It makes you feel good when people recognize the job you do and think you do it well. There's a segment of the college tennis population that always comes to Athens and think it should remain in the discussion for a rotation or on a permanent basis, but in the last 10 years it's been a rotational basis. A lot of current coaches and players have gotten used to that, but there's also another segment that enjoys the opportunity to go to 2 or 3 different places over a four-year career and not play here every year. They want to travel and see different venues. There are also a lot of schools out there trying to improve their facilities so that they can host. Much like the Super Bowl or the All-Star Game, teams build facilities and want the chance to showcase them. I think that's good for the growth of college tennis.
GD: What is your best memory from the NCAA Championships?
MB: One that sticks out to me is one of the first years I was heavily involved - which was 1999. It just so happened to be one of the years Georgia was able to win on the men's side when it was a men's-only championship at that time. I remember during the ceremony after the event, Manuel had an interview or something and so the trophy wound up in my lap. I was just sitting on the court bench afterwards and with the trophy in my hands, I just had this feeling that I had had a little bit to do with it. With hosting, you try to take as much off the coach's plate as you can, and I felt like we'd let Coach Diaz focus on coaching tennis - that's his role and should be his role. For whatever reason I just felt a little self-gratification that I'd had a little impact on winning that year.
The 2012 NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Championships will be held at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., May 17-28.