“I don’t know anybody that says a bad word about…”

I got a few emails yesterday about this Bruce Feldman piece.

I’ve covered college sports for 20-plus years and have often dealt with the inner workings of the games, but one area I rarely thought much about was the people at the top: the athletic directors. I knew what ADs generally did and I knew who most of them were, but when it came to who the good ones were and, more specifically, what made them good at their jobs, I didn’t have a lot of answers. So about a year ago, I began a project to get a better handle on what makes a good athletic director and who the best ones are. I decided to conduct two anonymous surveys: one with 15 of my media peers who cover college sports, both on TV and in print. The second was with 10 ADs themselves.

I asked two basic questions of each group: What factors determine how effective these folks are at their jobs? And who are the best three ADs in the business?

Gee, I wonder why anyone might think I’d be interested.

Actually, the second question really matters little to me — let’s face it, had Greg McGarity’s name popped up as one of the top ones in his profession, it would have said more about Feldman’s methodology than about McGarity’s competency.  (In case you’re wondering, McGarity didn’t get a single vote.)

The first question, though, is another story.  Here’s the media’s criteria for what makes an athletic director successful:

Hiring and retaining coaches/staff (34 points): “Clearly, their most important role is hiring the right football and men’s basketball coaches and then keeping them happy and focused.”

“I respect athletic directors who don’t rely on search firms and make hires themselves.”

Fundraising (25): “Smart ADs are great salespeople. They know how to leverage their assets, and they understand the business of college athletics.”

Accessibility/Communication skills (10): “This is the tricky one for the long haul. It’s about being able to say no to powerful coaches or boosters and recognizing when a little problem is threatening to metastasized into something larger (hello, Baylor).”

Crisis management (8): “I’m also big on ADs holding their employees, players and themselves accountable. That includes meaning the AD is accessible to the public, doesn’t just hide behind nonsense statements and doesn’t put himself out there simply to get attention. When times are tough, does the AD make the right call and/or explain himself or herself? Properly handling a crisis is one of the biggest tasks for an AD these days. Look at [former Baylor AD] Ian McCaw and how that worked out.”

Culture building (4): “You have to make people proud of what they have and in a sense what they don’t have.”

Innovation/creativity (4): “Thinking outside the box is also a key trait for me, especially with the need to find different ways to sell out stadiums and pay for the increasing costs associated with athletics.”

And here’s how athletic directors judge their peers.

Culture building (18): “Everything starts with your ability to develop a culture of integrity and accountability and how well you communicate, and then everything falls from there.”

“If you have the right culture, you’ll be able to attract the right coaches.”

“You can look at the kind of experiences the young men and women are having in your program and also the level of academic success they are having.”

Hiring and retaining coaches/staff (12): “It’s not just about being able to hire good coaches. It’s also really important about knowing when to fire those that are a bad fit.”

Fundraising (9): “You hire good people/personnel, you win football games and then it’s easier to raise money.”

Crisis management (5): “You’d better be flexible and not someone who gets stuck in their ways because it seems like every day arrows are coming at you.”

There’s a good deal of overlap between the two.  Outside of bringing money in the door, it’s hard to see where what goes on in Athens checks any of the boxes.

I’d love to hear what you guys think about the lists.  Is McGarity being underrated, or are the lists an inaccurate way to evaluate the job?  Should Jere Morehead pay attention?  Have at it in the comments.

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38 Comments

Filed under College Football, Georgia Football

38 responses to ““I don’t know anybody that says a bad word about…”

  1. Granthams replacement

    GM doesn’t have the leadership ability to elevate UGAs athletic program. The athletic department is always catching up to other programs, the indoor practice facility, football non coaching staff additions, and major fundraising campaigns are a few examples. His PR skills are poor, so lacking it seems the WWE writers are advising him in the heel role. He is a cost manager without strategic vision that needs to retire.

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  2. Cousin Eddie

    I don’t see where he is adequate in any of those criteria. Even in fund raising as UGA has reportedly dropped over the last few years in the rankings of SEC schools. He has created a culture of mediocrity. He is a bumbling idiot in front of the press. He has no vision, or the ability to share one. He is totally reactionary to every issue and doesn’t seem to be able to think about more than one issue at a time
    If I didn’t know any different I would assume he was Moorhead’s idiot son in law that got a high paying job because he was married to the favorite daughter.

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  3. Macallanlover

    I doubt GM has the skill set to competently manage a convenience store, much less UGA’s Athletic Department. Seems to be another example of inbreeding and selected entirely because of where he came from, and who he knew. I am not surprised he got the job, that seems to be the way things work in academia (and some poorly run private businesses as well), but how can you justify keeping him after his continual fails? Unlike tenured professors who get undeserved protection, the AD spot is subject to close inspection and can be terminated quickly when a mistake is obvious. Didn’t take long for Texas and ohio to make changes, McDoofus has been at UGA for what, about 7 years? Must have some pictures.

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  4. I would have fired McGarity after the 2014 season. The fact that he is still here reflects on the rest of the decision makers involved with UGA athletics.

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  5. saildawg

    The one good idea that has happened under GM (and I doubt it was his idea) was the 93k day. There was a conscious effort to put resources in making it an event and was well promoted. It created an opportunity to challenge fans, and show the nation what passion we have for our team. It was well recieved by fans, players, coaches, and most importantly recruits. It helped produce the best recruiting class in recent history It also may have lead to better donations even if it was a “free” event.
    Everything else has been a disaster under his watch, most eggregiously PR skills in handeling TG3 suspension and the firing of CMR.

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  6. suite jesus

    He has the soul of an accountant. Check the stats on EARLY GAME STARTS in the SEC for proof…we lead the league. Its no skin off his nose since he lives close to the stadium, parks VIP style, sits in Air Conditioned suite, and does some “relationship building”..while looking out at all his “clients” who drove in friday, slept in watkinsville,slogged thru compressed traffic, enjoyed tailgate for 1 hour then trekked on in to the 95 degree heat. As long as they brought their wallet it all looks fine from the Suite where Greg sits..Hopefully water sales were extra high when he gets the concessions sales report.; he can put that in his next powerpoint presentation to management

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  7. 79DawgatWork

    Building a culture – nope, preserving a culture that is absolutely rotten to the core
    2.Crisis management – nope, manages any crisis right into a black hole of oblivion
    Accessibility – nope, only accessible afterhe declines to comment and a newspaper slightly edits the item they asked him to comment on
    Innovation/creativity – check, we are the only school innovative enough not to have professional concession management and service at our 90,000+ football stadium (just kidding, this is really a nope)
    Hiring coaches/fundraising – check, hired the right football coach and used it as fake juice to get delusional baby boomer boosters to pony up cash for one more shot at glory before they finally peace out

    So all in all, he has about the same batting average as our baseball team has recently, which apparently is good enough for him and his bosses!

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  8. Russ

    Well, let’s see…
    ADGM is certainly maintaining the “Georgia Way” culture. He’s very creative in finding new ways to separate money from fans. We know he didn’t really use the search firm to find Kirby.

    I’d say he’s doing a bang-up job, Brownie!

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  9. Other than fundraising, I don’t see a single thing on that list that the AD has done well. It took a tirade from Pruitt to get the CJPMIPF built. He completely mishandled the AJ and TG situations. He goes to the press when it’s not warranted and then refuses to answer the hard questions at the right time. He completely screwed up the CMR hiring and then misled everyone about the hiring process. He presided over the loss of the NCAA tennis tournament and the downfall of the dynasty that was Georgia gymnastics. Need I say more?

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  10. Bright Idea

    It seems to me that an AD needs to have some degree of a competitive spirit and I just don’t sense that with McGarity. That ingredient would influence your coaching hires and the culture of the department. He appears to be just a managerial type of daily issues that crop up with not a lot of fire in the belly. That may be all that UGA expects.

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  11. junkyardawg41

    My takeaway from this is how little is regarded by the ADs for either the student athlete (regardless of your view on the amateurism spectrum) nor the general fan. There is one quote from one AD that addresses it in their definition of Culture building. Even so, Culture only makes up 18%. I am blown away by their (ADs) definitions as well as their lack of understanding on how organizations work. Whether it is an employer-employee relationship or a teacher student relationship, a strong culture of trust is paramount. The same goes to external customers/fans. I think there is a complete disconnect.
    I also think the “Crisis Management” being on the list at all further lends itself to questioning what is it exactly these guys are supposed to do. You have crisis because you aren’t driving the train, the train drives you.
    I also view Felton’s media group as being out of touch. The biggest focus is on bringing in the right revenue generating coaches. What about the other sports? Should there be a AD over Football/Basketball and one for the rest?
    Finally, to your question does GM meet the established criteria, no. Having said that, I am not sure how many current ADs actually do. Does that mean I am happy with his performance, absolutely not. I think something is foul in Denmark with the lot of them.

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  12. The Georgia Way

    Rest assured, The Georgia Way keeps it simple:

    Fund raising to the university (50)
    Cost containment (50)
    Moral stuff (10)

    We always give 110%. You should, too.

    #COMMITTOTHEG

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  13. Normaltown Mike

    I thought swimsuit competition would rank in there somewhere.

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  14. Was going to add some thoughts.. but yea… you guys pretty much covered above.

    So this ^^^^ all of it…

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  15. W Cobb Dawg

    Greg Mediocrity can take any issue and make it worse, whether it be a coaching change (CMR), player discipline (TG3, etc.), contracts (Ludicris), media relations, alumni/ticket holder relations, changing vendors (BBQ), etc. Even facility upgrades turn into p.r. problems! If he has a plan for success it’s a well guarded secret. Coaches are essentially on their own.

    He can carry a TV check from the mailroom to the bank and balance a checkbook. That’s it.

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    • Russ

      “He can carry a TV check from the mailroom to the bank and balance a checkbook. That’s it.”

      And that’s all that is really expected from him.

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  16. Dawgy1

    I guess fair minded people can debate Mark Richt’s firing? What’s not debatable is that McGarity fired a coach who averaged 9 wins a year for 15 years, and retains a baseball and basketball coach who are bottom feeders in the SEC. Vandy and South Carolina have exponentially better programs.

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  17. 92 grad

    Seek out the Alabama camp tour segment that McLeroy and his co host do on the college football station/Sirius channel.

    The Alabama AD answers questions and speaks about the department and it’s very good. His primary goal right now is developing a “strategic plan” which is what any institutional organization does regularly and its key to their consistent operations. I’m certain no such thing is done under mcgoofy, or, if it is, it’s a joke where he just panders to the money donors.

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  18. Charles

    I think I’ve shared this before, but I actually saw GM speak to a class I audited in grad school (in the Spring of 2012). He got some pretty hard hitting questions from the students – two in particular were: (a) Did it ever enter your mind to fire CMR after the 2010 season? (b) What do y’all think are the drivers of subpar student attendance?

    His answer to (a) was actually pretty thoughtful (“He’s one of the most successful coaches in the history of our program, unparalleled character, hasn’t forgotten how to coach, deserves all the resources we can give him… blahblabhblahblabh”).

    His answer to (b) was terminally dumb. The only correct answer to that, of course, is: “We were jealous of the market clearing prices that paper student tickets were fetching on the secondary market, so we decided to imprint them onto student ID’s knowing full well that we would have to oversell student tickets to fill at least 60% of the student section for cupcake games while also being cool with creating a fire hazard for the big conference games. Yes, we skipped that day in microeconomics.

    One of the follow up questions to the exchange in re: keeping Richt was, “Alright… we have boatloads of money… and we want to put Coach Richt on the best footing to succeed. When are we going to staff up to the level of Alabama?” McGarity’s response was best summarized as: “We expect the NCAA to issue a ceiling on football staffing levels, so there’s no sense going there anytime soon. Also, we need a healthy reserve in the event the NCAA allows compensation of athletes in revenue generating sports.”

    It was then and there that I knew we were toast.

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  19. McTyre

    Ability to effectively rep your programs amidst your peers in Conference affairs may rate a stand-alone criterion. Conference scheduling, bowl assignments, and disciplinary rules and enforcement (for athletes and programs) all seem to test an AD’s ability to compete with peers on big matters in B’ham. McGoo looks like a minnow in a pool of sharks when UGA should have so many built-in advantages over several other SEC schools. Exhibit A: what the hell did UGAFB get from the SEC and Auburn for playing back-to-back games at Auburn and forever diluting our odd year home slates?

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  20. Mike Cooley

    Interesting to me that when asked how they rate their peers, ADs omitted accessibility/communication skills. Interesting because that coincides with one of McGarity’s greatest weaknesses and what most often gets him into trouble. His PR blunders have been referenced here many times. He is a terrible communicator and that is on display every time he does something that has us discussing him.

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  21. hooper

    The UGA AD job should be one of the most wanted. The fact that we had/have to hire rookies says quite a bit about how the rest of the country sees the job. OR do we just not hire the best person for the job?? IF we don’t hire the best that we can, maybe someone who has proven themselves elsewhere, then all I can say is that’s a hell of a way to run a business!!

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    • Bulldog Joe

      Experienced ADs are competitive people.

      None of them want to hand a large percentage of their budget over to the university and suffer the indignity of having to lie about it.

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  22. 69Dawg

    When it comes to the “Peter Principle” McGoofie is the poster boy. Seventeen year asst. AD at UF, so he must have done at least a competent job. Hired without competition to the AD Job at UGA, where we discover we should have read his duties at UF. He only did what Jeremey Foley wanted him to do and that was money man, bean counter. Just another in the long list of Georgia Way hires that has enabled us to be the 2nd – 4th best program in the SEC East. Oh well things are never going to change at UGA.

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  23. Interesting, build a culture. What the hell does that exactly mean? Look at this blog, and the comments on many things, to see that culture means things all over the board. That is a crap answer. Oh yeah, our culture is great, yours sucks.

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