Burgess recalls good ol’ days on the railroad tracks
by Murray Poole
Tim and Carla Burgess at the Missouri game
Tim Burgess is a South Georgia native who
grew up along the Flint River doing what he loved
best – hunting and fishing.
Burgess also had a love for competitive
sports and prior to his teen years, competed in
most of them such as football, basketball and
baseball. However, as Burgess tells it, when he
reached his high school years, he was “too small
to play football, too short to play basketball and
not good enough to play competitive baseball.
“So that’s when I converted to tennis and
played tennis all through high school,” Burgess
related. “And I was on the ROTC rifle team in
Thomaston as well. I went to Robert E. Lee High
School and one of the unique things about that
high school was it had a mandatory ROTC program
so all the boys that went to that high school
were in ROTC. I was a captain in the ROTC and
I was on the rifle team. R.E. Lee had a very good
rifle team and we won the national championship
when I was a junior in high school.”
Burgess today is a very important manner of
the Bulldog Nation. He is not only the University
of Georgia’s senior vice president for finance and
administration but his early love for sports is reflected
in the fact he also serves as treasurer of the
Board of Directors of the Georgia Athletic Association.
Burgess, a veteran public servant with nearly
three decades of experience in Georgia government
– including four years as the state’s top
budgeting and finance officer – is a 1977 graduate
of Georgia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree
in political science. He also holds a master’s
degree in public administration from Georgia
State University. In addition to his role on the
UGA athletic board, Burgess also is treasurer for
the UGA Research Foundation, finance director
for the Arch Foundation, and chair of the UGA
Real Estate Foundation. He and his wife Carla
have one child, Nicholas, 9.
As a veteran member of the athletic board,
Burgess is justifiably proud to see the development
and enhancement of all the athletic facilities
on the Georgia campus, including Sanford
Stadium which today, with its capacity of 92,746,
ranks as the seventh largest on-campus stadium
in the nation. However, as you can see later in this
space when he talks about his favorite UGA sports
moment, Burgess also has fond memories of the
days when Sanford Stadium wasn’t so mammoth
… when the East end zone wasn’t closed in and
the UGA students camped out early on the railroad
tracks to watch the Bulldogs frolic down
below. Burgess was one of those students.
In the following question-and-answer session,
Tim Burgess talks more about his background
and his role on the Georgia athletic board.
What is your occupation?
“I’m the chief financial officer for the university
so I’m responsible for all of the financial operations,
reporting and auditing and accounting
functions of the university and the budget. But
probably more than half of my job is not financial;
it’s more operational because under my division I
have all the campus planning operations, all the
environmental operations, all the physical plant
operations to take care of the campus grounds
and facilities. The police department reports to
me and human resources and a couple of others
so I spend more than half of my time focused on
operational issues as opposed to financial issues.
How many years have you served on
the UGA athletic board?
I’ve served on the athletic board for six-anda-
half years now. Most members are on a threeyear
term and are appointed by virtue of various
things whether it’s the university council or the
alumni association; the president has a few appointees.
They all come with three-year terms but
mine is an ex-officio term. In other words, I’m on
there by virtue of my position as the chief financial
officer for the university and so I serve on
there as long as I have this position at the university.
Where did you grow up and what
made it special?
I was born in Albany but we moved to
Thomaston when I was about four. So I went to
school all through high school in Thomaston and
grew up there and it was from Thomaston that I
came to Athens to go to school. And I think for
me the thing about growing up in Thomaston
was that it was a small town, a rural town and the
Flint River was very close to there and I’m a big
hunter, a big fisherman, so I grew up along the
Flint River in a small town hunting and fishing
and doing those kind of things that a lot of people
grow up doing in small towns.
What has been the most exciting part
for you serving on UGA’s athletic board?
I think the most exciting part for me is to be
able to participate with a great group of other
board members who obviously care deeply about
the University of Georgia and Georgia athletics
and to basically serve in a capacity where I can
support and help both the university and athletic
program to be successful.
What has been the most exciting aspect
of your career?
Probably two or three things: one, I worked
in the governor’s budget office for 20 years and
was the state budget director for Zell Miller during
his second term. So working with Gov. Miller
– I worked with a lot of governors but obviously
working with Gov. Miller as his budget director
was a great experience. I was the commissioner of
the department of motor vehicles for two years
when we started up internet renewal and mailing
renewal of driver’s licenses and that was a great experience
to try and improve those operations. I
went from there to be the commissioner of the
Department of Community Health and had the
chance to run the Medicaid program for four years
and that may have been one of the more challenging
opportunities that ever presented themselves
to me. But then the highlight of it all was
the opportunity to come back to UGA after having
gone to school here in the mid-70s, to now
come back towards the end of my career to work
for and get back to my alma mater, the University
What do you think are the biggest
challenges for Georgia athletics in the near
Well, financially, obviously we’ve got to
maintain a strong financial footing. But we’re very
lucky, we benefit from decades of good, strong financial
operations with our athletic department.
And so we today stand as one of the better positioned
financial athletic departments in the country,
and now our challenge is to take that strong
financial strength and use it to our advantage to
grow and build strong athletic programs across all
of the sports that athletics supports.
How has the knowledge from your occupation
helped in the betterment of UGA
Over the years I’ve gone through enough experiences
that I usually have some past experience
to draw from when it comes to making a judgment
call about what level of risk is appropriate to
take. Taking a measured risk is always part of any
judgment call or any decision and the 30-plus
years of experience I brought when I came to
UGA has helped me to sort of always lean back on
those experiences and make sure the risks that we
were taking were measured and legitimate risks
in furtherance of trying to make sure that the program
grew and remained strong.
Your favorite UGA sports moment?
When I was in school here in the mid-70s,
there were two things I remember. One was the
chance to sit on the railroad tracks. Back then the
East end zone was open so a couple of games
while I was here, I actually went with a bunch of
buddies and camped out on the railroad tracks
and watched football games from the railroad
tracks, not because I couldn’t get a ticket but because
of the experience of being able to sit on those
tracks and watch football games from up there.
And then I think one game I always remember
from those days when I was in school here was
the year when Alabama came to play UGA in
1976, in my junior year. Alabama was favored to
win and Georgia won the game (by 21-0) and nobody
would leave the stands. The students and
everybody were just so thrilled about the outcome
of the game, when the game was over nobody
moved. We all stayed in the stands for what
seemed like an eternity after the game. It was such
an unexpected win and we played so well and
beat Alabama that the place just erupted and nobody
wanted to leave the stadium. It was amazing.