… then it shouldn’t take too much to find the right guy to step in and fill Mark Richt’s shoes, right?
I guess Greg McGarity didn’t like appearing clueless at the press conference.
The Clay family received an in-home visit from UGA assistants Thomas Brown and Jeremy Pruitt on Monday night. But what happens when the new staff comes in? Will his scholarship offer be honored by the new coaching staff?
“We got reassurance from Coach Pruitt and Coach Brown about that,” Willie Clay said. “(The athletic director) has told those guys that anybody who is committed obviously we are honoring them and we don’t care who ‘the new coach is,’ we are obviously going to honor that commitment we got.”
Good to hear.
If there’s a story that sums up all of the arrogance that I despise from college athletics administrators, this is it.
About 1,000 miles to the west in Lawrence, a battle to eliminate a student fee at the University of Kansas ended differently.
In two years as a walk-on golfer, Catt got an inside view of Kansas athletics and began to wonder why the department needed $50 from each student every year in addition to ticket payments.
In two years, Kansas athletics spent $9 million in severance on fired football coaches Mark Mangino and Turner Gill. When Catt did not notice any corresponding layoffs or cutbacks, he decided to do some research.
Catt reviewed financial statements that showed Kansas athletics income rose from $50.8 million in 2005 to $93.6 million in 2013. In early 2014, Catt sent a 35-page report to the student senate, arguing that the fee, which produced about $1.1 million for athletics, should be eliminated.
“Students were seeing a rise in tuition, more student debt . . . and the athletics department was making more and more money every year. It just didn’t seem like they needed it,” Catt said in an interview.
Catt’s report was persuasive. Students voted to kill the fee. Athletics administrators fought back, though, and eventually won a compromise from the chancellor that kept a reduced $12 fee. Ultimately, the change cost Kansas athletics about $350,000.
Kansas athletics administrators weren’t satisfied. A few months later, they eliminated one of the best student sections at men’s basketball games — 120 seats right behind the Jayhawks’ bench — and gave the seats to donors who contributed at least $25,000 per year.
“When the student government proposed [eliminating the fee] . . . it made it very clear that it wanted the athletic department to find other ways to raise revenue,” Kansas athletics spokesman Jim Marchiony told a local newspaper. “That’s what we did.”
When Catt talks about the experience today, one comment from a deputy athletics director sticks out in his mind.
“He told me, ‘We’re in the business of being great, and it costs money to be great,’ ” Catt recalled.
A few months later, Kansas fired football coach Charlie Weis, who won just six of 28 games at the school, taking on another $5 million in severance.
“It became clear in our meetings,” Catt said, “that normal economics don’t apply to anyone in Kansas athletics.”
Honestly, were I a Kansas student, the thought that part of my student loans went to pay Charlie Weis’ buyout would drive me to drink. Heavily.
… but at least they’ve got a search firm!
Now that there’s someone in place where blame can be deflected if things don’t work out, the process can move ahead.
Hey, baby steps, peeps.
Will Leitch watches yesterday’s presser and nails the underlying message:
The move to fire Richt was, in this way, the precise reactionary one that Georgia has always claimed it wasn’t about. At a bizarre press conference on Monday morning, McGarity attempted to keep up the façade that Georgia remained the classy place you thought it was, heaping praise on the man he had just fired right as he sat next to him. He was able to bathe himself in the Christian good nature of Richt, who answered questions honestly but with no malice or anger toward the executioner a few feet away; Richt, by taking the high ground at every opportunity, allowed McGarity to believe he was somehow still doing things the Right Way, even as he evaded every question and refused to even give a reason for Richt’s dismissal.
Richt said he told his players that the way you feel and the way you act should be two different things, and he couldn’t have exemplified that any better in his press conference. McGarity tried to pretend he was somehow doing the right thing by Richt by standing beside him, that it meant Georgia football Stood For Something. But the only reason you felt that way was because of Richt.
With Richt gone, Georgia can no longer claim that it is any better, or different, than any other school that believes it should win a championship every year, that it will do anything in its power to get one as soon as possible, that cares more about expedience and emotion than prudence and patience. Now, it’s very possible, even likely, that Georgia shouldn’t have felt it was any different in the first place, that it was smug and self-aggrandizing to believe it wasn’t playing by the same rules everyone else was. Georgia is a big-time football program like the rest of them, and now it’s acting like one. “About time,” many will say. The illusion had to evaporate at some point.
I understand this. But then you can’t pretend, as McGarity tried to in the press conference, that things are the same as they ever were. They’re not. The central organizing principle of Georgia football, of this community, was that it was different here, that Richt was different, that this was all different. Now, no one can claim that, ever again.
The end result may be good. It may not be good. But it’s definitely going to be different, regardless of who they bring in. Because he won’t be Mark Richt.
And the guy who has the most at stake in the new world is Greg McGarity. Holding a joint press conference won’t change that.
Assuming the rumors about Kirby Smart and Georgia are true – and at this point they’re so universal it’s almost impossible to discount them – there’s a fascinating dynamic in play that will give us an early indication of who’s in control of the football program. That dynamic (again, assuming the rumors are credible) centers around how much autonomy Smart will be given by Greg McGarity to assemble his staff, particularly, the defensive coordinator position.
You would think it would be something of a no-brainer that an incoming head coach would be able to select the members of his staff freely, but that’s not always how things work. And in this case, there appears (feel free to add that “if” again here) to be some resistance to certain potential candidates from McGarity, whether due to expense or a more basic personality clash.
The tricky part here is that both Smart and McGarity have some real leverage in this situation. Smart knows he’s the first choice, of McGarity and key boosters both. McGarity knows he’s offering a plum job and that if Smart can’t bring himself to shake hands – and that wouldn’t be the first time Kirby’s walked away from Athens – there will be plenty of other candidates willing to step up and take his place.
But there are risks for both, too. Smart’s waited for his opportunity at Georgia for a while, and now Mark Richt is gone. If he doesn’t take the job and Georgia’s next choice turns out to be a good hire, that opportunity may be gone forever. Is that something you really want to risk?
On McGarity’s side, you’ve already got a fan base upset over Richt’s departure; do you want to compound that by irritating the boosters who pushed you to do to fire Richt so you could hire Smart in the first place? Not only that, but what kind of message does it send to other head coaching candidates that you couldn’t close a deal with a defensive coordinator who is also an alum?
I don’t know who wins, but I’ve got to say if I’m Kirby Smart, I’d have to think long and hard before swallowing a deal where the AD gets to dictate who I can hire. Because you know that’s only the beginning of where the lines of operation get drawn. As it is, you’re going to be expected to uphold the Georgia Way in areas you haven’t had to in Tuscaloosa. (Jonathan Taylor comes to mind here. So does Georgia’s drug policy.) Do you really want to cede even more control to the administration? You know the guy you’ve been working for wouldn’t.
UPDATE: Via Emerson,
1. No offers have been made as of last night at 8 p.m., according to a source, nor has a search firm been retained. But the same sources continue to say that Kirby Smart is the target unless he turns it down. Since Alabama is in the SEC championship this week, Georgia may have to wait awhile to nail things down, assuming they will be nailed down.
2. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is still unlikely to be retained on the new staff, the source reiterated on Tuesday. That’s not necessarily because of Smart but because of Pruitt’s strained relationship with UGA’s athletics department. There remains sentiment among players
Just a reminder, as Jacob Eason prepares to take an official visit to Gainesville, Florida, that what’s going on right now for Georgia as McGarity figures out whom to hand the reins to next is bigger than one recruit, even one as important to the team’s immediate future as Eason appears to be.
As I keep insisting, as big a mistake as it is for a school to hang on to an underperforming head coach solely for the reason of holding together a recruiting class, it’s just as big a one to rush into a hiring decision to replace an established head coach for the same reason. For a program like Georgia, there will be other quarterback recruits, but get the next coaching hire wrong and you’ll be paying for that decision a lot longer.
Besides, who can blame Eason and his dad for being prudent at this point? In any event, there’s still time for Georgia’s next head coach to preserve the relationship.
Georgia’s got enough questions as it is about getting the right man in. Rushing to get someone here just to keep Eason in red and black only makes that tougher. Take the right amount of time to get it right.