McGarity takes stock of Georgia athletics

semerson@macon.comDecember 11, 2011 

ATHENS -- On Friday, as reports circulated that Georgia head football coach Mark Richt was a candidate at Texas A&M, athletics director Greg McGarity said he spoke with Richt about a contract extension. McGarity said Richt wanted to stay at Georgia, and a new contract would be agreed to in the coming weeks.

Richt’s future was the over-riding story of this year for the Georgia athletics program but not the only one. McGarity, completing his first calendar year in his position, spoke on that and other issues on Friday afternoon.

QUESTION: Does it say something that after all this over-riding hot-seat story all year we’re sitting here talking about other big programs coming after Richt?

ANSWER: No, because you just don’t get involved in that. I mean, as athletic director, if you consume yourself with all of that stuff that’s out there, you can’t focus not only on football, but your other 14 sports and all your staff and things like that. So you can’t get wrapped in a bunch of stuff out there that’s just irrelevant.

QUESTION: You’ve talked about Jeremy Foley (McGarity’s former boss at Florida) having the philosophy, and you having the philosophy, that it’s good for coaches kind of to be on edge.

ANSWER: I think for everyone. I think the more you study leadership, the more you study successful companies, successful departments, anyone successful, they always feel a sense of urgency. They always have a burning desire to improve. I don’t care what your goals are. So for us to sit back and say we’re comfortable, that we’re happy where we are, then I think you’re talking to a department, an institution, a company that’s going to be having some issues down the road. So you never are comfortable. You never reach all of your goals. Hopefully you come close, but I don’t think one ever gets comfortable. I know Mark’s not totally satisfied with this year. I think he’s pleased. But he knows exactly what we need to do to get to this level, to maintain this level and to take it to another level. So that’s our charge, not just for football, but for every sport. So absolutely it’s essential if you want to have a successful organization that everyone has a sense of being on edge and having a sense of urgency to where that it’s important to work every day to make your organization better.

QUESTION: So is that also why you don’t want to give any coach this sense of a lifetime contract?

ANSWER: Sure it is. I’ve just seen it happen too many times. When you least expect it, people change for whatever reason. It could be family reasons, it could just be people change. They aren’t consistent year to year to year. Your parents may have health issues. So a lot of times, I’ve seen to where long-term contracts can effect someone. Human nature creeps in at times. That’s why these long-term contracts that you see in professional sports ... how much of an edge to think people have when they have a 10-, 15-year deal? It’s just something that I don’t really believe in.

QUESTION: Did you ever, in terms of going forward, discuss any changes (Richt) might want to make staff-wise or anything wise or is that all on him?

ANSWER: (Shakes head). That’s all on him. I don’t get involved in hiring and firing of assistant coaches. That’s up to the head coach basically to make those decisions.

QUESTION: What about, I know Todd Grantham’s agent came out and said he would like a contract extension. Is there anything in the offing there?

ANSWER: I don’t deal with agents. I mean, at some time Mark will deal with me on his assistants and we’ll go from there.

QUESTION: So there’s been no discussion of that?

ANSWER: No, no. It’s not the time.

QUESTION: Are you philosophically against multi-year contracts for assistants?

ANSWER: I don’t know. I haven’t really landed on that. I hadn’t really landed on that right now.

QUESTION: The SEC schedule: How close are we?

ANSWER: Well, we meet in Birmingham (this) week. So hopefully we’ll have more information from the conference office at that point in time. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty and it’s becoming crunch time to where we really need to know what the schedule is as we move forward and start our planning for next year.

QUESTION: I know there’s a lot of moving parts. Is anything set as far as Georgia?

ANSWER: No, nothing is really set. We really don’t know who we play in the West (Division). We’ve just got to find out exactly the piece of the puzzle there, because of with the institutions involved. You’ve just got to try to make everyone pleased and I think the discussions have not been centered around who plays who in the conference. The discussion has been in your non-conference opponents, and dates and things of that nature. You don’t see a bunch of athletics directors upset with who they play in their conference. There’s a lot of uncertainty with the non-conference scheduling piece, the date changes and things like that.

QUESTION: With Missouri coming in the East, is that at least a game that is set?

ANSWER: We’ll know for sure (this) week. I don’t think I can sit here and say anything’s a certainty, other than we know we’ll definitely be playing the other SEC teams in the East that we’ve been playing before.

QUESTION: Auburn, too?

ANSWER: Hopefully they would be our traditional rival in the West. So I’m hoping that stays as is.

QUESTION: Could the South Carolina game (traditionally the second week of the season) be moved to later in the year?

ANSWER: We’ve seen probably 10 different formats, and we’ve studied all of them, and it’s all over the map. I would not count on anyone preserving any weekends that we’ve had in the past. It’s some scheduling issues that have to be dealt with and at some point in time, we’ll be told that this is our schedule and we’ll go from there.

QUESTION: Could it be beneficial to have that game, the South Carolina game, later, or do you like it where it is?

ANSWER: I don’t think it matters. I think you gotta play them all and what order they’re played in, it really doesn’t matter. You might as well play them. We just know we’ve gotta play them and whenever that date is, line them up and go.

QUESTION: As people turn their attention to next year, people look at the possibility that Missouri could replace Alabama on your schedule next year, and at South Carolina, it could replace LSU with Mississippi State. Does competitive balance -- so to speak, if that’s the right word -- ever enter the discussion?

ANSWER: No, because if you ask 12, 12 to 14 SEC ADs now, if you gave them that option, then you’re never gonna have any movement in scheduling. So that’s the job of the conference to present a schedule or a series of schedules, multi-year schedules, that create balance and make sure that there’s an even balance there.

QUESTION: And are you all just focused on getting through next year’s schedule and then re-evaluate?

ANSWER: Yes. Yes. And then maybe (start over) next year and the year after that, so you go home and away, and then start out in 2014. So those are the types of dynamics that you’re working through right now. It’s like Jello, it’s all over the place.

QUESTION: Would going to nine conference games work back into it at some point?

ANSWER: No. That has not even been discussed, and I don’t think it will even be brought back up. I think schools have already scheduled out as far as 2016, so having to break those contracts ... a lot of money (is) run up in liquidated damages if either school pulls out of a game. I will never say never, but right now, there has been no discussion of any nine-game schedule.

QUESTION: With all this going on have you had any time to work on any non-conference future scheduling?

ANSWER: No, because we want to get this (settled). Then once we get it settled, we can crank it back up once we get (settled) on where we stand for the next few years.

QUESTION: I know scheduling the Boise State game, so much of the emphasis was getting a game in the Georgia Dome. The results notwithstanding, is that something that you want to continue to do if possible?

ANSWER: We’d look at it down the road. But we have Clemson in ’13 and ’14 and we have Ohio State in ’20 and ’21. So could there be a way between 2014 and 2020? Who knows? But I think it’s a little early to be talking about that right now. Our focus is to have the seven home games. That’s been a priority from day one.

QUESTION: This is a little off the beaten path, but has there been anything new in terms of starting any new sports, whether it’s lacrosse?

ANSWER: No. I think it all is a Title IX review. We have an annual review with our compliance of Title IX, and I’m sure if a time came to where we needed to add a sport, we would activate a committee to study that. But that’s not on our radar right now.

QUESTION: You get the question about men’s soccer, too.

ANSWER: I doubt very seriously it would be a men’s sport. It would have to be a female sport. The demographics here on this campus are 60 percent female and 40 percent male. That’s part of the Title IX prong there to try to mirror the demographics you have on campus. It wouldn’t make sense to add another men’s sport. It would just widen the campus further.

QUESTION: (Speaking of finances) I don’t think it’s ever an issue with SEC football, but the season you all had, that had to help the bottom line?

ANSWER: I mean, you think about it. Last year, after 6-7, we met our projections. We sold out, so there’s only so many seats that you have that you can sell. So really the only way we can generate additional revenue is if we raised prices, or raised donation levels. But right now, that’s not something we’re doing, obviously, next year. ... Last year, I think our fans responded tremendously to a 6-7 season. With seven home games coming this coming year, hopefully we’ll have the same response as we’ve had in the past, which is outstanding.

QUESTION: I know you all are happy with the Outback Bowl. The Capital One Bowl going with South Carolina, is that any kind of (snub)?

ANSWER: Oh, absolutely not. You really are at the mercy of the bowls. They have to make decisions. South Carolina had never played in the Citrus Bowl (now Capital One), or at least in the last 20 years. Steve Spurrier’s never taken a team to (that bowl). Really you get down to it Orlando, Dallas and Tampa are basically interchangeable. We love going to Tampa, we love playing in an NFL venue, in an NFL city, wonderful weather, and whether we were in Orlando or Tampa, it made no difference to us. We would’ve been perfectly happy with either one. Even though the payout is better (than) the Outback, the institutions don’t really see that revenue. Revenue’s pretty consistent between those three bowls that we’ll be getting. At the end of the day, we’re just happy to be going to Tampa.

QUESTION: There’s one thing, kind of sensitive, but when there is a high-profile athlete who has had problems off the field, do you ever get involved?

ANSWER: I monitor all student-athletes. I mean, I’m involved in all the academic reports, I’m involved in any discipline reports. Sure, you better have an idea of what’s going on. You see how the coach handles it, you ask questions of coaches. ‘How do you handle Situation A or B?’ You basically take that information and either respond. ... I always put maybe in my two cents worth to coaches. But it’s never over Xs and Os. It’s over things that I always felt like if you see something where your input may help. If you don’t bring things up, then you’re being negligent.

QUESTION: So did you ever get involved with the situation this year with (Isaiah) Crowell?

ANSWER: There’s so many things that go on all year. It was a relatively quiet fall. But there were situations where I was asking questions and things of that nature. Yeah, I kind of want to know what’s going on.

QUESTION: It does seem like with the exception of (one arrest), you have to be pleased with what’s going on with the football program.

ANSWER: Yeah, I think the lack of distractions has really helped everyone out because you’re not focused on those questions that the players may get on media days. The coaches are able to go to their meeting rooms and talk about football instead of off-the-field type things. You’re going to have those things that pop up, 125 young men (on a team). You’re going to have some people that choose to kind of step outside the lines. It’s all how you deal with it, how you act upon it, and set up some corrective measures so that they would not repeat those actions.

QUESTION: In terms of going forward with the head coaching future question, are you looking toward next year and saying you’re not gonna have to deal with these questions?

ANSWER: No, I just think they’re always gonna be there. I just think it’s just part of the job. You never want to get to the place where you feel like, well, that’s taken care of. You know, you never get comfortable, you never feel like, ‘That program’s in great shape.’ Because if you take that attitude, then that may cause you to back off a little bit as far as how you evaluate a program. ,,. (Mentions recruiting, academics.) ... You’ve always got to have the sense of urgency that we haven’t figured things out, that there’s a lot of work to be done. Once you get that close to tasting what it’s like, for those that really want to be competitive and want to strive to be the best, that’s the most difficult part, is coming that close to getting what you’ve worked for since January. Almost a year is what these kids have worked on to get to Atlanta.

And to come that close to reaching your second goal of the year, that’s a tough pill to swallow. But it also lights a fire under you to know that if we could’ve done A, B and C a little bit differently, we might be in a little different position and we might be going to New Orleans instead of Tampa. So I don’t think you ever sit back and say, ‘That program’s great, that program’s going to be set for the next five years.’

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