Georgia rewards Richt for ‘tremendous job’

semerson@macon.comFebruary 12, 2013 

ATHENS -- Georgia waited a year to see if Mark Richt deserved a raise. And after getting within a few yards of the national title game, the decision was made.

Richt was approved for a modest raise, from $2.81 million to $3.2 million, on Tuesday in a vote by the UGA athletic board. His contract also was extended by one year and now takes him through the 2017 season.

“(It was) just the tremendous job he’s done leading our program,” Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said. “Twelve wins. The manner in which he has done it. It’s just something we felt like we needed to do.”

The decision was made in rather quick fashion, compared to last year’s drawn-out process in which Richt was given a new contract. At that time, Richt didn’t receive a raise, but then the Bulldogs nearly won the SEC championship, and other programs bestowed huge contracts on head coaches.

Richt is now tied for fourth among SEC head coaches in annual salary. He has the same basic pay rate as new Arkansas head coach Bret Beilema, and is behind the three current SEC coaches who have won national championships: Alabama’s Nick Saban ($5.3 million), LSU’s Les Miles ($3.75 million) and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier ($3.55 million).

“I think you’re always concerned where your coach stands in the hierarchy. And someone that’s the dean of the SEC coaches, yeah we’re all in a good place,” McGarity said. “I think we’ve been representative where you kind of end the season. Three years (ago) we’re 6-7, and what we were ranked 20th last year, fourth this year, and we felt the trend is going the right way. We felt good about that.”

McGarity also pointed to the improvements in other areas of the program, including graduation rates and a lack of off-field issues.

“I have to knock on wood here,” McGarity said, then literally reached behind him and knocked on a wood stable. “But as of 6:37 we haven’t had a lot of distractions in our program. I think Mark wants a program that people feel good about. You may not win every game, but you feel good about walking around with a ‘G’ on your chest and people are representing you the right way.

“We had some choppy waters there early on. But the waters have calmed in that area right there.”

Outgoing Georgia president Michael Adams said his confidence in Richt “had never eroded” but granted that there were some in the room who had concerns along the way.

“Like most boards, we have had spirited discussions at times, and not everybody always agrees,” Adams said.

Incoming president Jere Morehead was kept in the loop on the Richt raise, according to Adams.

Richt released a statement thanking McGarity, Morehead and Adams, the latter of whom Richt said had “has always been in our corner.”

“I look forward along with our staff to preparing this team for the challenges of another season,” Richt said in the statement. “From what I’ve heard, our team is working hard in the offseason conditioning program and paying the price necessary to be successful in the fall.”

Meanwhile, a new deal for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo remains in the works but isn’t done, according to McGarity.

“I would expect there to be an adjustment there,” McGarity said of Bobo, whose current contract pays him $300,000 annually.

A multi-year deal for Bobo has been discussed in “broad terms,” according to McGarity.

The assistant football coach’s salaries and contract would not need to be approved by the athletics board. But McGarity said he would discuss it with Adams and Morehead.

Student attendance procedure

The board voted Tuesday to try a novel approach to fixing lagging student attendance. Starting with the 2013 season, which has some marquee home games, a bit more than 2,000 tickets a game will now be made available to young alumni.

That entails those who have graduated from the school within the past five years, and that includes undergraduate, masters, doctoral and professional students.

Of the 17,910 student tickets available for each game, since 2009 the average scan rate (or turnout) has been 11,800, according to Georgia.

“Needless to say that’s a hole in our stadium,” McGarity told the board, during public session Tuesday evening. “We’ve sold the tickets to our students but they’ve not shown up.”

Essentially, the seats available at Sanford Stadium (92,746 capacity) will be cut from 17,910 to 15,856. The balance will go to the young alumni. But any student who wants a ticket will still be able to get one. The trick is that turnout has been so low -- the highest recorded turnout for students was 15,450, for the 2011 game against Auburn.

So Georgia is basically “over-subscribing” the amount of tickets it will hand out to students and young alumni, the equivalent of an airline overbooking a flight. But it’s not expecting any issue with the fire marshal, based on the low historic student turnout. That’s even with home games against South Carolina and LSU scheduled for September.

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