[Ed. note: I gotta tell you… that never gets old.]
Chip Towers rises to defend the beleaguered Georgia athletic director.
Look, I realize it’s cool to bash on Greg McGarity right now. That certainly seems to be the trend judging from commentary I see on my social media feeds. And some of it is justified, at least based on the overall performance of Georgia’s sports teams. I’m sorry, but with the exception of a few Olympic sports, we’re not in the midst of glory days when it comes to this period of UGA athletics.
That said, I can’t get on board with the meme that McGarity is cheap. I certainly can’t when it comes to the facilities arms race that is currently raging full bore throughout the SEC. The Bulldogs are in there slugging it out when it comes spending money on buildings and “stuff.” And they’ve been at it for a while now. But they’ve also had a ways to go.
If you want to point fingers over how Georgia got so far behind with respect to facilities, you’d be better served to direct them toward McGarity’s predecessors. It was during the administration of Damon Evans and his CFO Frank Crumley that the Bulldogs fell behind, in my opinion. UGA has been playing catch-up ever since those guys left.
Hmmm… I didn’t know I was being cool griping about bathrooms and tailgating. I just thought I was pissed off. Neat trick.
There’s something both obvious and curious about Towers’ argument. But before I go there, I have to start with his pointing a finger at Frank Crumley, who Towers mistakenly references as McGarity’s predecessor. Crumley was indeed at his position before McGarity triumphantly returned from Florida, but he stayed at his position in the aftermath. Crumley was let go afterwards, but not because his new boss walked in one day, cried “begone, thou foul skinflint!” and hustled him off the premises.
No, Crumley and Georgia parted ways because he got caught with his hand in the Butts-Mehre cookie jar, spending athletic department revenues to promote a married female employee with whom he was having an affair. (Okay, maybe another part of the anatomy, too.)
What made things so special from McGarity’s standpoint was that it took him more than a year — and an open records request! — to work up to the step of actually canning Crumley. As I referred to it at the time, the Butts-Mehre Way. (The Georgia Way has many rooms, my friends.) You’d think a guy who leaped into action when Todd Gurley got a few bucks from a shady autograph dealer could have moved with more alacrity when it came to an inside job like Crumley’s, but I guess it was more important to protect amateurism than the house.
Anyway, as Marlon Brando alludes, Chip is right that it’s not totally fair to Greg McGarity to call him cheap, when he’s clearly following orders from others as to how athletic department moneys are being spent. It could be argued that it’s also not fair that those who give him direction as to the reserve fund leave him hanging with having to make absurd defenses about rainy days that may never happen, but, hey, them’s the breaks and that’s what they’re paying him for.
That being said, let’s not make McGarity out to be nothing but a helpless pawn, either. After all, it wasn’t the nameless powers behind the throne whom Jeremy Pruitt called out when he made his pitch to the media for an IPF and it wasn’t them who were publicly embarrassed by it. If you want to choose to believe that the about face on the status of the facility that occurred shortly thereafter was purely coincidence, be my guest, but that explanation strains credulity.
As far as whether McGarity is cheap, well, cheap is a relative term. Internally speaking, it’s nice to give McGarity a pass on increasing spending, as Towers does, in comparison with what went on before that fateful night of the red panties, but to do so glosses over the fact that athletic department revenues have also increased over that time, from “just shy of $90 million” in fiscal 2011 to nearly $100 million two years later to more than $116 million in fiscal 2015 (with the likely odds that number increases significantly for the following fiscal year). So, yeah, when you’ve got more coming in than before, you can spend more, too, especially when you’ve got donors who are willing to step up and participate in the funding for big capital projects.
In other words, let’s not throw any ticker tape parades yet.
Cheap is contextual in a macro sense, too, as a look at those 2015 finances in comparison with the rest of the SEC will quickly tell you. Of the thirteen conference schools listed (remember, as a private institution, Vanderbilt doesn’t report) Georgia was eighth in total revenues, but tenth in expenses, resulting in the third-largest surplus of the group.
Now if that got you wins because it was wisely managed, or if Georgia were both fiscally prudent and first-tier as far as facilities go, then there would be little room for griping. The reality, of course, is quite different. Georgia, as Towers acknowledges, has been in a catch up mode with its peer athletic departments for years, as complaints from both Richt and Smart would indicate. And as for the other little matter,
Now as for how things are going in the fields of play, McGarity is probably rooting harder than anybody else for some good things to happen. In fact, on Monday he sent out a rare direct email message to fans and donors lauding the men’s and women’s track teams for their recent fourth- and second-place finishes, respectively, in the National Indoor Championships this past weekend. And he’ll point with pride to Georgia currently being ranked No. 5 in women’s gymnastics and perennially highly-rated programs in golf, tennis, softball and swimming.
But you won’t hear much talk about volleyball, which has been a disaster and is now under the direction of the second coach under his watch. And it’s in the high-profile sports of football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball that McGarity really needs some good things to happen.
Football just lost to Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt in the same season; baseball continues to struggle in its fourth season under his hire, coach Scott Stricklin; and men’s and women’s basketball both missed NCAA Tournament play for the second straight season.
Yeah, that’s going well.
The problem isn’t so much that McGarity is cheap — the Georgia Way’s gonna Georgia Way, y’all — it’s that he lacks the vision to make the most out of what he’s been dealt, which, let’s be honest, isn’t inconsiderable.
A perfect example of that is evident in how taken by surprise he was with the fan base’s reaction to the announcement of the Sanford west end capital project. It’s as if he was completely unaware of the grumbling that’s gone on for years regarding the bathrooms and concessions. At least now we’ve moved on to the hinted promise stage.
More importantly to you fans, I’m hearing that there’s an announcement forthcoming — possibly as early as this week — on restroom improvements at Sanford Stadium.
Be still, my heart.
Hey, if I’m wrong, it seems there’s an easy way to prove it. As we discussed before, there’s a long list of items that would cost relatively little in the vast scheme of things, all of which would serve the fan base’s interests. All it takes is a little openness. And a little vision. Anybody at Butts-Mehre listening?