Of being Kirby’d and related matters

Perhaps you noticed that Georgia dispatched its two traditional divisional rivals this season by the fairly unheard of combined score of 83-7.  That, combined with Jim McElwain’s early departure from the Florida job and Booch’s toasty bottom, has some observers dancing with visions of “there’s a new sheriff in town, bitch” sugarplums in their heads.

Doug Gillett got the ball rolling with this somewhat tongue in cheek tweet as the Gators were being demolished.  Seth Emerson took a more serious approach with this piece.  I get the point to both, but there’s a little danger of getting out over our skis with this kind of stuff this early.  For one thing, Butch Jones is still gainfully employed by the University of Tennessee.  For another, there was a lot more going on at Florida with Jim McElwain than Saturday’s ass whooping covers.  (More on UF in a minute.)

With that in mind, though, there is something to be said for what both suggest.  The reality is that the East has been without a dominant program for several years.  If in fact it turns out that Georgia is filling the void, that puts an enormous amount of pressure on the other traditional powers in the East to keep up.

The problem for both schools is that, as we’ve seen over the past few years in reaction to Alabama’s dominance, the SEC doesn’t do keeping up well.  All three schools have tried hiring roots from the Saban coaching tree — Florida twice — but only one school has seen their choice blossom.  Part of the blame for the lack of success at Florida and Tennessee may be due to a culture clash with importing the Process.  For example, see if some of what Andy Staples wrote doesn’t ring a bell:

On a day when everything should have been sunshine and lollipops, one of the first major cracks in the relationship between McElwain and Florida’s administration formed. McElwain’s Florida team had just whipped Iowa 30–3 in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2, and Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi served up an easy question about how much positivity the win might inject into the program. The answer started off fine…

“We’ve got a lot of really good recruits that are excited to be Gators, and that’s a good thing,” McElwain said. “We had a heck of a year. Two straight SEC East championships, new facilities.”

Then came the statement that, had it been uttered on a sitcom in the ’80s, would have been followed by a record scratch…

“We’ll look for the commitment that we get from the administration moving forward, see where that’s at,” McElwain said.

When McElwain said this, Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin—who had been on the job about two months at the time—was already working on a contract extension for the coach that would be announced a few months later. This is how some people high in the Florida athletic department viewed McElwain’s sentiment. Here’s a guy who has heard the word “Yes” more than Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook, Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp combined, who is about to get more money despite a second year with an offense ranked in the 100s, and he’s questioning the administration’s commitment?

That may sound overly pushy, but consider the context in which McElwain delivered it.

McElwain was surprised when he got to Florida that the Gators lagged so far behind in facilities. They didn’t have an indoor practice facility. (They got one two years ago.) Unlike most of their peers, their day-to-day locker room facilities are under an end zone in the stadium rather than in a separate football operations building. Stricklin has created a master plan to build such a facility, but that will take time and money and the construction of a new baseball stadium—because the new football building will have to go where the reigning College World Series champs currently play.

This shouldn’t matter that much. Florida’s weight room and locker room are perfectly nice, but everyone else spent the money they weren’t allowed to give to the players and Florida saved it.

Yeah, that do sound familiar.

I once posted that every athletic director wants to win; the question is whether the AD is willing to devote the necessary resources to that.  There’s a third factor I should have thrown in:  the AD’s hiring luck.  Jeremy Foley’s reputation was overrated when it came to his football hires.  He inherited Spurrier (and notably made it difficult for Spurrier to return to UF when he wanted to) and had Meyer forced on him by the school president.  That leaves an unimpressive legacy of Zook, Muschamp and McElwain.

Similarly, Foley’s right hand man, Greg McGarity, inherited Mark Richt.  The similarity appears to end there, as Smart is making McGarity look… well, smart.  But Smart’s hire is as much about luck and timing as anything else.  Smart was a Georgia man who carefully cultivated a following at his home school throughout his time in Tuscaloosa and, depending whom you hear from, was a choice strongly urged upon McGarity when it came time to dispatch Richt.

It’s been to our benefit, so that’s not a complaint on my part.  But it’s also a reminder that a great football coach is a two-sided blade for any athletic director.  It certainly reduces the pressure from the donors and the fan base, but it just as certainly increases the leverage the coach has over the athletic department.  McGarity got a break in that regard as Richt was famously low key about using his leverage, but B-M is living in Jimmy Sexton’s world now.

I tried to make that point with a couple of posts last week, but I’m not sure if I got it across well.  It’s not really about the money.  Sure, Sexton’s going to be pressing for an adjustment to Kirby’s salary and that’ll come.  Just as quickly, though, that’s an expense that will be recouped and then some as contributions and ticket prices rise.

No, where the real battle over leverage will come is in how much authority McGarity will be asked to cede to Kirby.  Saban has near carte blanche to run ‘Bama as he sees fit and while I’m not sure that Kirby will wrest away that level of control this early in his career, you can bet he won’t walk away empty handed from the next round of negotiations.

There are plenty of hints we’ve already seen from Smart’s direction about things he’d like to change.  It’ll be up to McGarity to decide what he can live with changing and what he can’t.  Just remember that Foley stood his ground at UF, lost Spurrier and Meyer and fired the two others he hired.

Meanwhile in Athens, the question is how far each party plays the leverage card.  If McGarity’s not careful, he could find himself being the one Kirby’d.  There would be some irony for you.

68 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

68 responses to “Of being Kirby’d and related matters

  1. Otto

    It will be interesting to see if Florida goes back to getting the it guy new head coach at a mid major who is an offensive guru. The Saban way is a clash with the Florida culture who wants 40+ every weekend.

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  2. “There are plenty of hints we’ve already seen from Smart’s direction about things he’d like to change.”

    What major things do you think Smart is still looking to change?

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    • Derek

      I bet he’d like to have the authority to not sit a kid who is under a felony indictment:

      http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2017/10/alabama_safety_deionte_thompso.html#incart_river_mobileshort_home_pop

      If there’s a place to wrest control I think it would be in the area of automatic suspensions.

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      • DawgPhan

        I wouldnt have a problem with dumping the automatic suspensions and applying some common sense to most common lowest tier infractions. Missing games because traffic tickets seems dumb to me.

        I bet he also have at least half dozen positions that he would like to have created/filled, better/more nutrition, and probably another $100million in improvements for the recruits families on gamedays.

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        • Derek

          Pretty sure we haven’t had anybody suspended over traffic tickets/offenses.

          Personally, I have a hard time justifying alabama’s practice of getting rid of players who may not be good at football while playing accused felons because they are good at football. I like having objective, clear rules. I wouldn’t object to some of those being relaxed, but I’m not sure leaving these things to the discretion of the HC is a good idea.

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          • dawgtired

            “Personally, I have a hard time justifying alabama’s practice of getting rid of players who may not be good at football while playing accused felons because they are good at football. I like having objective, clear rules.”

            Yep.

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      • Good point. I was trying to think of things he hadn’t really been able to at least have some influence over thus far and you are right; our disciplinary policies are a glaring inconsistency still.

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      • Stoopnagle

        Yeah, because that’s getting past Jere.

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  3. DawgPhan

    It will be interesting to see who their search shakes out. Florida job is clearly the best job available this year, unless something crazy happens. I have a hard time believing that Butch Jones keeps his job, which means you likely have a lot of moving and shaking with the coordinators as well.

    Florida is also saving $9million or so on the buyout, so they have a little more fun money.

    Early signing period is a new wrinkle for the ADs this go around as well.

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    • Otto

      Early signing could make Frost a bigger target, and if he moves from UCF to UF does he accept before the early signing period? He is connected with the Florida High School which would help make a quick transition.

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  4. AusDawg85

    McGarity gets the benefit of Kirby’s success and is not likely going to stay beyond the first 5 Year Plan. I would sense he doesn’t put up any resistance to Kirby…he’ll just continue to be the foil for The Georgia Way crowd who may decide Kirby’s caviar and champagne desires are served just fine with boiled peanuts and beer.

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    • JPDawg

      Agreed. I have a feeling McGarity is already planning his exit sometime in the next three or four years. The question will be, does the Georgia Way get it’s man (or woman) in the next AD, or does Coach Smart have enough weight to throw around at that point to get someone more friendly to his cause?

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  5. DawgFlan

    Perfect Book Title:
    “A Choice Strongly Urged: The Inside Story of UGA Football 2015”

    1) Looks like the Foley Way and The Georgia Way combined for an incredibly reactive and penny-pinching UGAA until the Big Money started “strongly urging” for change, both on facilities (with a Pruitt assist) and staff.

    2) I am all-in on Kirby and UGA Football because this year has been one heck of a ride so far, and it looks to continue… That said, there have been a lot of coaches that hit their never-to-be-repeated peak in their 2nd year, so a little more caution about our long-term dominance is warranted. Kirby has shown he has been able to rally this team in truly remarkable fashion (per the Senator’s other posts), but even Saban struggled a bit against complacency in 2010 after his first SEC and Natty at Bama in 2009. I want nothing more than to see how Kirby would manage a similar situation!

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  6. Uglydawg

    Fish Fry looked miserable on the sideline at Clemson. We’re about to see a fruit-basket-turn-over of coaches in this part of the country.
    If Mullen goes to UF (I can’t believe he’s been at MSU since ’08) then MSU could look at Fish Fry.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tennessee go after a Clemson’s DC, Venable. That would possibly get Ted Roof to Clemson.
    Both Butch and McElwain would be available for the GT gig…but they would be wise to promote Roof to HC.
    I just hope Kirby’s got his staff on “lock down”.
    And McG’s huge rainy day fund? Maybe he’s doing the right thing. We may need that $$$ when Saban, one day, leaves Alabama.

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    • Uglydawg

      The “Butch and McElwain going to GT” was supposed to be a joke but it would be a beautiful thing!

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    • JPDawg

      I’m sorry, I’m dense. Fish Fry is Paul Johnson?

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      • Dog in Fla

        Yes because the Genius always has bigger fish to fry than Georgia meaning a destination trip to the World’s Smallest Outdoor Cocktail Party (n.) – Jim Donnan’s designation for the ACC Championship Game. (h/t Lexicon)

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    • Fish Fry constantly looks like he needs a dose of Metamucil. He was miserable because he knows Brent Venables has figured out his offense and has the athletes to manhandle it. Those tackles just gobbled up the dive, and then the ends, LBs and DBs just scraped along the line of scrimmage. They looked like they were playing rugby defense. It was a sight to watch.

      I hope Kirby and Tucker have watched a lot of Clemson / tech film over the last 10 months to prepare for the nerds.

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      • Macallanlover

        Great point about Venables (the true reason for Clemson’s recent uptick in football) having the best plan to stop the triple option. I recall last year, how they completely closed it down early in the game which made GT play catch-up, not their style. I think it was last season. Impressive, we need to study it ourselves.

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    • Otto

      I don’t think Mullen goes to UF.

      “The former school where we were at before, we won championships there, won practically every single game we played for four years there,” Megan Mullen said. “It wasn’t if we won or lost. It was if we didn’t score 43 points or more, I was going to the grocery store in Orlando where I worked with the Golf Channel and I was driving the groceries back to Gainesville, because it was that bad.”

      https://www.seccountry.com/florida/former-florida-coach-dan-mullens-wife-discusses-difficulty-coaching-gainesville

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      • I agree. I have family who are Gators and they want him, but I just don’t think he wants that job. He could have had it when Sharkhumper got it and really never seemed to be a candidate.

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        • Otto

          I remember reading (on the interwebz so it must be true) that when McElwain was asked about the job he said they didn’t want me when I was there why would I want to be there now? But I maybe jumping the shark believing that.

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    • RandallPinkFloyd

      Tech and Paul Johnson are perfect for each other. I doubt that changes any time soon. I hope he stays, not having an in-state rival to worry about taking any of our recruits makes Kirby’s life easier.

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  7. dawgtired

    “as Smart is making McGarity look… well, smart. But Smart’s hire is as much about luck and timing as anything else”

    Maybe I shouldn’t have been so hard on Fran and the elite boosters for pushing McGarity into a hire with blinders on…hind sight and all. Not that I believe the end justifies the means, but I’m happy now.

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  8. Scorpio Jones, III

    I get the point to both, but there’s a little danger of getting out over our skis with this kind of stuff this early.

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    • dawgtired

      You should have ulcers by now. I feel so optimistic with you around 🙂
      P.S. I do enjoy your posts.

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      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Oh darn, I forgot the quote marks. 🙂

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        • Got Cowdog

          Ha ha ha ha! Trick or treater just showed up in a gators jersey and hat. Asked him why he wasn’t wearing a bag over his head. Little shit grabbed candy, ran off and gave me the finger as he left my yard! 😂

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  9. Yeah, great season but this “Kirby is getting coaches fired” BS is just that. The problem as I see it is that Florida and Tennessee fans think it can be like the good old days while their admins are hiring coaches who aren’t there to do it like the good old days.

    I actually like McIlwain and Jones is ok. They seem like honest, hard working guys who mostly came in to clean shit up. You can no longer get away with what those programs did for decades. Maybe the Georgia Way is finally paying off. We were just way ahead of the curve.

    Honestly, I think Mc and Jones were too good for either of those delusional fan bases.

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    • Scorpio Jones, III

      While the premise of your post is probably correct, I must beg to differ about Butch Jones. Jones may very well be an honest, hard-working guy…although that would apply to almost any football coach at a big time program. But he came into a situation where all things flow to he who wins and he did not.

      Florida being a dumpster fire gets a lot of ink here and justifiably so, but Tennessee, in many ways was worse. (is worse)

      Butch Jones was Tennessee’s fourth or fifth pick for the job and he was over his head from day one.

      Tennessee football writers walked away from his first press conference shaking their heads.

      In the end, as with McElwain, its the folks who made the hires who should get the blame, but they never do, do they?

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      • Dog in Fla

        Good walking away money is the Hamiltonian Legacy

        “Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek says he is sorry to see Hamilton leave. So sorry that Tennessee will pay Hamilton $1.335 million not to be AD for the next three years and not to disparage the university.”

        http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/06/so_now_mike_hamilton_leaves_te.html

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        • Scorpio Jones, III

          Yep, and that’s just the visible part of the Hamilton Legacy.

          I’m still unsure what Fulmer’s actual position is in all this…he does have some sort of vague title within the University of Tennessee system, but the consensus among the Tennessee Illuminati is that Fulmer is in a position to “help” with the selection of the next coach.

          I guess that’s a good thing?

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          • Otto

            What I gathered from the Tennessee Illuminati is that the President hired Currie as AD who was not to the liking of many in the University of Tennessee system. The alumni had influence over the University of Tennessee system and put Fulmer into a position overseeing the ADs across the system. Further they stated UT had fallen in sports other than football.

            How much truth there is to it, I don’t know. It did seem to remind me of Adams and his circle of failure.

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            • Dog in Fla

              Don’t know why the Tennessee Illuminati wouldn’t take a liking to this guy

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          • Dog in Fla

            If so, that rules out Johnny Majors.

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    • dawgman3000

      “Yeah, great season but this “Kirby is getting coaches fired” BS is just that. ”

      Im sure you’re happy with the way the season is going so far, but you seem like you’re just totally miserable that Kirby is responsible for it.

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  10. 92 grad

    So, you’re basically saying that Mac probably has attempted to organize his program similarl to what Kirby has done here, except Mac got mostly resistance and Kirby seems to be getting what he wants? I know they’re different coaches with different philosophies, but the organizational stuff perhaps would be very similar if allowed to form without restriction?

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  11. Scorpio Jones, III

    For someone who lived in the Joel Eaves era, calling any AD today a penny pincher is vastly amusing. I suspect Coach Eaves, somewhere, is giggling.

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    • Great point, considering how similar the revenue levels today are to those in Eaves’ time.

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      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Lizard.

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      • Bill Glennon

        I have a very close family member who was hired by Eaves and coached at UGA (in a non-football sport) in the 70s. He had 1/2 the scholarships of Alabama, Tennessee, Aubrun and Florida. Eaves was cheap to a fault.

        The Georgia Way of gratuitously saving money and expecting great results has been around for 50+ years. McGarrity and Dooley drank the coolaid as younger men. They wouldn’t have been allowed to stay otherwise.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. No Country For Old Dawgs

    This is a great post. Even when I disagree with the blog head behind this website, I have to admit he puts out some great content. And it’s free! McGarity and the Picnic Club are swimming in deep waters now and developments moving forward under Kirby bear watching. I wonder how much attention is being paid by B-M to Jimmy Sexton’s Process cranking up at UF on the firing and hiring of a new coach??? Does Jimmy get to have input on just what Florida’s program needs to be a more attractive destination for future championship coaches, many of which he represents…just a thought???

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  13. When saying McG got lucky with Smart you forgot the other half of that equation: McG doesn’t get lucky with the Smart hire if he doesn’t ace Richt and getting rid of Richt put a lot of heat on him from Richtophiles and the national media (“How can you fire consistent 10 win seasons!?!”). So, McG deserves maybe a little more credit than just happening to be lucky.

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  14. Bill Glennon

    Florida has more of a problem than Georgia in accommodating a demanding, control-freak football coach.

    UF has a preconceived notion of what it wants to be successful, a “fun and gun” offense. It’s true Spurrier changed the SEC, but that was the 90s and Saban changed it back. Spurrier’s offenses at S. Carolina looked nothing like his UF days. That approach won’t work today. UF’s fans/administration are inpatient and unforgiving. They have had about 25 coaches since 1963 while UGA has had 6. VD “Dooley’d” them for 25 years and they kept changing coaches. Charley Pell? 2 Hall of Fame Coaches quit in the prime of their careers and coached elsewhere with great success. UF eats coaches as much as Bama.

    McGarrity who is pushing 70 and the old guard is moving on right at the time when Kirby is ascendant. Fans have not been spoiled by recent championships. UGA is more patient. Plus, if its fans do have a vision of what they want their football team to be (Erk Defense; Running Back U), Kirby’s approach matches it perfectly. Kirby could “Jimbo” or “Stoops” where he is a flash in the pan or plateaus, but early returns are promising for UGA getting a big share of the zero-sum pie in the SEC East.

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  15. Russ

    Oh, and Doug’s tweet is protected. I couldn’t see it.

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  16. Stoopnagle

    Let me be the first to wish all the bad luck in the world on Florida in its pursuit of a new HBC.

    Next, if the campus functions is any indication, Greg has carte blanche to make decisions at the AD. So long as Legal Affairs OK’s it as risk-averse, Jere doesn’t seem to be interested.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. The other Doug

    What will Kirby want in his new contract? No buyout if he leaves.

    Saban has that and it gives him the ability to say “FU” and leave anytime he doesn’t get what he wants. That’s the ultimate clause to remove the AD’s control.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. AusDawg85

    Kiffen to FU. Oh dear Lord, please let this happen.

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  19. 69Dawg

    Between UF and UT UF has by far the craziest fan base. They don’t just want to win but to be dominate in winning. They want an offense that throws the ball around like in the days of SOS. UT just wants to win, they could care less how it is done. I think Nebraska is going to give Scott Frost the state to get him and mama calls.. UT should get Tee Martin to come home and be the savior. Florida has, by there actions, warned every coach available that you get 21/2 years to beat UGA and Alabama or your butts fired. Pass the popcorn because it’s going to be very interesting to watch.

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  20. No One Knows You're a Dawg

    And with UF, the #1 Gators Fan is the Ol’ Head Ball Coach, who I’m sure has SOME THINGS TO SAY about who the next HC should be, and isn’t afraid to share his thoughts with the Florida AD.

    The hire is going to have to de facto be approved by Spurrier, otherwise he’ll start snarking to the press with the first loss.

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  21. Carl Barrs

    As a Georgia Dawg from birth I would like to start a rumor. The offensive coordinator of UCLA is Tee Martin and he is very good and a QB guru. I am sure he would bring in a good SEC worthy D coordinator. Local fit…

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