There’s a perception out there among some fans that UGA, and specifically its outgoing president Michael Adams, haven’t supported Mark Richt enough financially. Adams spoke to that issue, without being asked, after the athletic board meeting on Tuesday night:
“I think there’s confidence in the building blocks that are in place here. Look at the facilities, look at the practice fields, look at the stadium additions, look at what we’ve done to be competitive with assistant coaches. (We) may not be the top in every little category, but across the board I’m not sure anybody provides any more total support than we do. … One of the things I’m proud about is you build great programs brick-by-brick and stone-by-stone over a period of time.”
But I’m pretty sure that won’t put the issue to rest for many fans.
Here’s what I can tell you: Yes, a full-length indoor practice facility would be nice. And yes, as long as the NCAA isn’t going to regulate off-field staff, perhaps it would behoove UGA and Richt to shell out for more.
But I don’t get the sense Richt has been demanding it, and been denied it.
Perhaps, once Adams has departed the scene, people around the program will open up a bit more on and off the record. But I can tell you that I’m not aware of Richt having made a specific request for something and been turned down for financial reasons, at least since Greg McGarity arrived.
Look, I’ve covered an athletics department that had a reputation for doing it on the cheap: South Carolina, under its former athletics director, was often criticized for things like refusing to send a pep band to the NIT championship in New York, or making the soccer team bus to a game rather than fly. I’ve never really heard of that type of thing at Georgia under McGarity. And McGarity has made pretty clear in my conversations with him, without coming out and saying it, that finances aren’t a major issue here. They have a reserve fund of nearly $70 million, after all.
A lot of what I think is actually at work here is a philosophical difference. Nick Saban and Alabama do things one way, relying on squeezing out every possible advantage and every possible dollar. Richt falls more in line with Steve Spurrier, whose philosophy tends to lean towards: Oh, we can survive without that.
… but it does seem to beg for some sort of response, so allow me to retort gently.
Seth, you ignorant slut. No, wait… that’s not it. Let me try again.
Seriously, I don’t think anybody’s accusing the administration of behaving like the owner in Major League. And I’ve never been that convinced an indoor practice facility is the be all and end all that many claim it to be. (Florida’s done just fine without one, for example.) But it doesn’t change that Richt did make a public demand for one almost a decade ago only to be shot down. Did he learn a lesson from that? Well, let’s just say he hasn’t repeated the strategy since then.
As to the real issue here, the one that Seth specifically raised - Why isn’t Georgia spending money like Alabama to hire support staff and recruiting staff? - well, quite simply, that isn’t Georgia’s style. And if you don’t think Mark Richt knows that, you haven’t been paying attention to some of the subtle things that have gone on over the years. Like this. Or this. (I’m still curious to hear what Rodney Garner’s new contract terms at Auburn are.) Richt deals with the financial reality in Athens in the low-key way he deals with most everything.
The folks at Butts-Mehre have been able to leverage the staff’s loyalty to Richt effectively over the years. But when Tennessee and Auburn threw out the pay model for assistant coaches, many schools in the conference followed suit with multi-year deals and rapidly rising salaries for assistant coaches. Georgia? Not so fast. Grantham remains the first and only assistant coach in Georgia football history with a multi-year deal and it’s likely that’s because it was the only way Richt could get the caliber of coach he wanted, given the demands of the market.
Nobody is going to confuse the Georgia administration with proactive behavior. And I’m not even saying that’s a necessity. But the SEC, financially speaking, is a very different place than it was even five years ago. So when Seth says (accurately, I think),
That doesn’t mean Richt – and Spurrier, and others – won’t adapt. There’s a creeping realization that if the NCAA isn’t going to regulate non-coaching staff, and that Alabama is succeeding while hiring a bunch of consultants, that it may be necessary to follow Saban’s lead.