Give Seth Emerson credit for asking the tough question.
From his desk, Greg McGarity is insulated enough that he claims not to hear the criticism, whether it be from fans, bloggers or others, that Georgia is not committed enough financially. Especially when it comes to the flagship football program.
Or, to put it in more blunt terms, that he and the school are too cheap.
“I would challenge that,” McGarity said Friday afternoon, then bringing up the news items he knew factored into the criticism:
• A series of new contracts elsewhere that will leave Georgia head coach Mark Richt among the lowest-paid in the SEC.
• USA Today released data showing that Georgia’s assistant coach salaries ranked fifth in the SEC this year, and that was before Auburn hired Will Muschamp at a reported salary of $1.7 million.
These were events at other places, but it was easy to relate it to Georgia, where another good-but-not-great season has unleashed another round of examination of what might be lacking.
“We’re not bound what other institutions are doing. We’re just bound by what’s good for our program,” McGarity said. “I would challenge to say what do they mean by cheap? Seriously, what are they referring to?”
It’s a revealing answer, in a couple of ways.
First, it’s hard to reconcile a claim of being oblivious to criticism with rattling off a couple of specific items that have triggered the recent spate of questions about financial priorities at Butts-Mehre, or, to put it another way, to note the news from your competitors as a factor in the complaints while brushing off what those other schools do as irrelevant to Georgia’s decision-making.
Second, the whole thing there reminds me of the attitude McGarity expressed about the way the school handled public relations in the wake of the Gurley suspension. As I noted at the time,
“…the most troubling aspect of all of this is that McGarity insists he “…didn’t understand the criticism that UGA had mismanaged the situation, or had a ‘P.R. nightmare.’”
Assuming that he’s being honest in both cases (and I certainly have no reason to think otherwise), I’m not sure which is worse, not understanding why fans are frustrated, or not making the effort to understand why that’s the case.
Then there’s this.
As for assistant salaries, Georgia’s rankings of fifth in the SEC and 13th nationally seems about right to McGarity, based on results.
“That’s about where we are,” he said. “That’s about where we should be. Are we there with LSU, and Alabama and Auburn of recent years? Probably not, because they’ve done great things, they’ve played in the bigger bowls. They’ve had great success on a national level better than us. So it’s all reflective of performance.”
But offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, whose offense has set records the past few years, continues to be paid nearly $300,000 less than the school’s defensive coordinator. McGarity said that’s Richt’s decision, or at least Richt’s decision within the salary pool that he is provided each year.
“Mark has a pool of money that he allocates however he allocates,” McGarity said. “There was a significant jump made after the ’12 season for Mike. The pool is reflective of team success. You basically see where the pool is and how it ranks and where you finish. It’s all based on results.”
LSU, Alabama and Auburn certainly make for a convenient excuse. And there’s no denying that McGarity is correct to note those programs have enjoyed greater success recently.
But convenience cuts both ways – in this case, McGarity manages to ignore the arms race with coaching salaries across the conference, which has spread to schools that haven’t done any more of late than Georgia, or, in certain cases, have done less. And that’s the thing here. McGarity is judging his coaches’ pay by one measuring stick; Jimmy Sexton’s market isn’t using the same stick. If you can tell Mike Bobo he’s making almost a million dollars a year less than Cam Cameron because of team success and he accepts that, terrific. But at some point, somebody with a checkbook is going to put a different value on Mike Bobo’s success.
In the end, though, I’m not sure any of this really matters. Here’s the most revealing thing McGarity has to say:
“I sleep pretty well at night, because I know when I go home I’ve given it my best,” McGarity said. “But I’ll let others judge me. I have a boss. We all have bosses. And my boss is the president. So he’ll let me know how I’m doing.”
I don’t think he’s the only one there who sleeps well at night. At least as long as the money keeps rolling in. That’s the Georgia Way.