Chip Towers gets another question.
Since he was hired, Kirby Smart has added significant support staff in recruiting, analytics, etc. He has also convinced the administration to spend over $50 million in the stadium to improve the team and recruiting facilities. The payoff is to be competitive with the best – Alabama. The IPF was begun under Coach Richt but it’s my understanding Jeremy Pruitt was the one who really pushed the idea (again an Alabama guy). Since money was never really the issue, is Smart just a better salesman or was Richt just not assertive enough to ask for these things?
Since Towers only takes a partial stab at answering your question, I thought I’d add my two cents.
First of all, and perhaps most importantly, there is an incorrect assumption buried in your question. Money is always an issue with Butts-Mehre. It may not seem like it should be that way to the average fan, but for Michael Adams and Jere Morehead it’s Issue One. That means it’s a big deal for their athletic directors, too.
Yes, Mark Richt could be somewhat reticent about money-related matters, often to his detriment. The administration was more than happy to leverage his loyalty to the school and his assistants’ loyalty to Richt to pinch pennies when it came to coaches’ contracts. Georgia trailed the rest of the conference in salaries and in offering multi-year deals to assistant coaches because… well, because it could. That led to things like the seemingly annual drama of Rodney Garner pretending to weigh other offers as his means of leveraging a better contract. (And you know the powers that be had to love that the fans were more frustrated with Garner doing that than with the reason he felt he had to do that.)
The topper to all that wasn’t the slow pace of providing improvements. It was Richt having to dip into his own pockets to pay bonuses to his assistants because the administration refused to do so. That is never something you should see happen at an SEC school and it should have raised bigger alarms about Butts-Mehre’s commitment to winning than it did at the time.
As bad as that was, the other crippling factor in terms of economic support was allowing the recruiting budget to lag behind other SEC programs, something that became truly significant when Saban turned up in Tuscaloosa. It was a disparity that McGarity only began to address in Richt’s last year, which is a funny thing for a man who has famously declared more than once that a big part of his job is to find out what his coaches need to succeed and then provide that support.
Towers turns that around when he says,
Secondly, when Greg McGarity came on board as athletic director in 2010, one of his first duties was to preside over the dedication of the Butts-Mehre expansion and the McNalley “multipurpose facility” that came with it. So he was reticent to do something else to the football complex. But, he also maintained that perks such as facility improvements and staff payroll increases should be attached to success on the playing field, whether it be in football or other sports. While Richt had enjoyed much success with the Bulldogs, McGarity placed the bar for success at winning championships, and the Georgia hadn’t done that since 2005.
So we’re supposed to believe that McGarity sat on his hands for six years waiting for a championship before agreeing to provide the resources the football program needed to win championships? In what universe is that considered thoughtful management?
Honestly, if Richt had already been winning championships during McGarity’s tenure, what would be the point of additional resources? (You can bet he would have had that argument thrown in his face, too.) In the midst of a (six-year!) dry run, McGarity’s responsibility was actually simple: determine that either Richt was still capable of winning championships and needed additional financial support in order to do so, or Richt wasn’t the guy. Instead, he left the program in a sort of no-man’s land.
On the field at least. At the bank, it was an entirely different story. Fueled by an explosion of television revenues generated by the conference, the money was rolling in at Butts-Mehre, something that Towers glosses over. During McGarity’s term, Georgia was better able to fund projects than it had been in the prior decade; it simply chose not to do so beyond the poorly thought-out “multipurpose facility” Towers mentions, until, again, the very end of Richt’s tenure.
Which brings us to the second big factor that drives Butts-Mehre: Saban envy.
Towers describes Jeremy Pruitt’s role in the decision to go forward with the IPF this way:
As for the Pruitt factor, there’s no question he was much more outspoken than Richt and added a whole different element to his staff. But the fact is, when he came out with his bold statement in the late fall of 2014, Georgia already had the plans to build its indoor facility. However, UGA’s administration was moving slow and methodically on it and making sure all the resident approvals went through the proper channels before announcing. Pruitt, having gotten wind of this and frustrated after having to scratch a practice due to weather, just decided “to heck with protocol” and put it out in public conscious so he could use it in recruiting.
Well, that’s all nice, but having plans isn’t the same thing as giving the go-ahead to a $30 million project. What McGarity didn’t have when Pruitt undiplomatically complained to the media was a funding source locked down. Fortuitously, it turned out there were well-heeled donors ready to step up. The IPF got built, just not in time for Richt. It also became the template for funding other capital projects for the program.
Once funding became secured, the money spigot was turned on, because the one thing Saban disciples who migrated to Athens were able to convince the administration was necessary was that funding big would lead to winning big. From Butts-Mehre’s perspective, how could you argue with Saban’s dominance at Alabama? They really couldn’t, because they had no experience in that regard.
So, here we are now. There’s money to spend, there’s a head coach who has a real clue about what to do with it in order to win, along with the sense to use his leverage to get it, the administration is sufficiently cowed to let the head coach do as he likes and the wealthy boosters aren’t pissed off at anyone involved with the program.
In other words, all the oars are in the water and rowing the same way. It’s really not all that amazing a program that enjoys the natural advantages Georgia does is finally taking off. It’s only amazing that it’s taken this long for the program to get its collective act together to do so.
Hope this helps.