ATHENS — Greg McGarity once worked out of a converted storage closet in the Georgia athletics building. Now when he walks into his new office now, he first has to go through glass doors that read “Director of Athletics” and “Greg McGarity.”
“It’s kind of hard to describe,” he said Monday. “When you see your name on the door, you’ve gotta kind of pinch yourself to say, This is really happening.”
McGarity was supposed to start his new job, running the Georgia athletics department, on Wednesday. But he actually arrived in Athens on Thursday, attending a staff retreat with school president Michael Adams. He stayed in town through the weekend, going househunting with his wife.
He spent Monday meeting with some coaches, having a staff meeting, and moving more into his office. (The walls so far have no posters, but there is a photo of Uga on the table.)
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McGarity spent the past 18 years at Florida, but he grew up in Athens, attended Georgia and worked for years in the athletics department. Part of the time was in the former storage room, which signifies quite a rise, now sitting in the big office. But he didn’t want to make it seem like he had achieved a career or life peak.
“I’m nowhere close to that,” he said. “We’re at the bottom of the mountain now, trying to climb up. And trying to help others join you in that climb to the top.”
To that end, McGarity arrives at Georgia with a number of issues on his plate:
n The rash of arrests affecting the Georgia football program. The number in 2010 reached eight on Friday when tailback Washaun Ealey was picked up for three misdemeanors.
McGarity called the number “too much,” and added that “we want to do a 180 on it across the board.”
McGarity said he wanted to delve into possible reasons for the spate of off-field problems. He got a glimpse of it already, walking in downtown Athens, remarking that he didn’t know there were that many new bars — and opportunities for athletes to get in trouble.
“I want to learn exactly why is this happening?” McGarity said. “I want to find out an accountability, how we deal with students being accountable. How we deal with students who elect not to do what the coaches tell them to do. That’s what I need to learn, before I can really make an assessment.”
But he did sound a fairly strict note.
“I don’t like the excuse that ‘Well it’s gonna happen. College students, that’s gonna happen. That’s just part of the deal.’ I don’t buy that,” McGarity said. “It’s a privilege to play intercollegiate athletics. It’s a privilege to play intercollegiate athletics at the University of Georgia. It must be treated that way.”
n Georgia received a letter of notification in July from the NCAA informing that it would be on campus for an “inquiry.” The school has said nothing since then, other than head coach Mark Richt indicating there was no worry about a player having to be held out.
McGarity said he didn’t know the status of the inquiry, and planned to be updated in the next day or two.
“Am I concerned? I think you’re always concerned about an inquiry until a verdict is rendered,” McGarity said.
n McGarity said he didn’t plan any immediate staff changes and would spend the first several months “listening” and “learning.” He would step in if he saw something that should change, but otherwise didn’t want to carry a heavy hand yet, if at all.
“What you don’t want to do is come in and say, ‘Well this is the way we did it at the University of Florida, and this is the way we’re doing it here,’ ” McGarity said. “That would be a huge mistake. Because there’s a lot of talented people on this staff. And there are probably ways that may be just as good or maybe better than the University of Florida.
“So it’s gonna be important for me to learn what everybody’s doing and then at some point in time talk about changes and how we may do things and approach things.”