ATHENS — Greg McGarity has heard the concerns. They come through e-mails, telling the new Georgia athletics director what they think of the state of the football program. He responds to several each day.
“There are certainly some that maybe do not really need a response,” McGarity said, “that might be worded in a way that’s disrespectful or shows a lack of class.”
A lot of angst has been produced from the Bulldogs’ 1-3 start, including the first three-game losing streak in two decades. It has also led to speculation about head coach Mark Richt’s future, but McGarity said the issue would not “play itself out in the media.”
He also refused to get into the game of issuing a vote of confidence.
But McGarity, who started at Georgia a month ago, granted that fans were “frustrated” and that “everybody’s concerned” about the team, including him.
“Probably in our private moments we’re hurting. But I think outwardly and publicly we’ve got to set the tone for everyone,” McGarity said. “And that’s gotta be positive, upbeat and what we can do to help. We all want to chip in and do what we can do to help us pull out of this tailspin. But you’ve gotta have confidence in people, and be confident that we can maybe right the ship and have a successful year.”
Richt is 91-30 in his 10 years at Georgia. He has three years remaining on his contract and is due a longevity bonus of more than $3 million if he were fired without cause. He also has a multi-million dollar buyout.
“I think the key thing is that we constantly evaluate all programs, all staff, all departments,” McGarity said. “It’s not one of these things where you just do it at the end of the year. There are certain marks that you sort of look towards. How are we doing at the halfway mark. How are we doing at the 75 (percent mark). …. So you sort of look at it as it goes on and you basically take note of things that occur, things that happen, so at the end of the year you do have a complete essay, so to speak.”
McGarity spent the past 18 years at Florida and had not met Richt until last month. But he has made efforts to learn more about Richt and his program, attending a practice per week.
When asked if there was any set record he was looking at, McGarity turned his answer into all that goes into the program, rather than just the head coach.
“You’ve got so many moving pieces to this. I don’t know how many people touch the football program,” McGarity said. “But you’ve got strength and conditioning, you’ve got recruiting, you’ve got player development, you’ve got the philosophical approach. There’s so many moving parts to having a successful football program.”
One part that hasn’t been there the first four games was receiver A.J. Green. The All-America candidate was suspended for selling a jersey, and is available to return for Saturday’s game at Colorado.
Still, McGarity said it was fair to judge the team despite Green’s absence.
“You know, as Mark has said, one person can make a difference, but at the end of the day one person can’t really dictate your season,” McGarity said. “It’s all how you look at it. A.J. doesn’t play defense, he doesn’t block, he’s not an interior lineman.”
Green’s suspension was just one bit of bad off-field news for the Bulldogs.
Freshman linebacker Demetre Baker on Sunday became the 10th football player arrested this year, and the third since August. Richt dismissed him from the team a short time later.
McGarity did not criticize Richt for that, saying the coach did the right thing by dismissing Baker.
As for on the field, there are eight games left in the regular season, as McGarity pointed out.
“If you keep having faith that we can turn this thing around,” McGarity said. “I think everybody’s got the faith that we can do it. It’s just making sure that everybody believes that we can do it. If we ever stop believing and we ever just say it’s not our year and it’s not going our way, then we’re not going anywhere as a program.”