Taking the “Question of the Day” ball and running with it

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?

Thanks,
Mid Ramsey

Dear Mid,

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.

— SB

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17 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

17 responses to “Taking the “Question of the Day” ball and running with it

  1. I’ll say it this way. Greg McGarity’s neck was in the noose when he carried out the liquor barons’ wishes to fire the previous guy. He knew he better provide whatever was necessary to make Kirby successful or his @$$ was next.

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    • @eethomaswfnc: And there is the entire answer. And he will continue to fund cause he does not want his ass out the door. I put him at about 5th or 6th on the decision making list. Hope he does well on the BB hire.

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  2. 92 grad

    Didn’t the television money boost budgets by 200% conference wide? I don’t think this explosion gets enough attention. I certainly will not add anything to the post by senator because it’s fantastic, but, mcgoof was suddenly the poodle in the Wolfpack and still is. What a horrible example of an AD.

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  3. DawgFlan

    Everyone has a boss (or bosses), and no doubt Richt’s didn’t put him in a clear position to succeed in a way that would keep pace with the investments being made in other top programs.

    McGarity’s bosses (President and boosters) finally got on the same page with respect to the football program, and McGarity’s job is tied to Smart’s success, so of course Smart is set up for success. Now about the other sports…

    This is to take away nothing from Smart, who is clearly an elite recruiter, very good coach, and skilled at leveraging his political power to improve the program.

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  4. Cojones

    Almost, except for the part that set the course initially and that was the charge given to McG by the Bd of Regents and the rest of the GOBs to get rid of Richt and his Bowdin-smelling ass. That had to end in a firing because Richt chose to ignore the hand-in-the-face foot-dragging on promises and adequate pay for Richt’s coordinator help that he had to supplement out of his own pocket.

    There. Fixed it.

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  5. PTC DAWG

    Richt got complacent, glad he is gone.

    I know some can’t stand GMac being AD…never will. B-ball decision looms…do you want him to succeed in that? I’m convinced that some don’t.

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  6. Russ

    “McGarity placed the bar for success at winning championships”

    LOL! Maybe in football. Maybe.

    But we can see where the bar is set for all the other programs. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t cost too much money.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hardcoredawg 93

    It’s unreal to me that we dicked around for so long. What a goat rodeo that was. So thankful those days are behind us.

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  8. rchris

    McGarrity shocked Richt right from the gitgo in 2010 when he came in, and the effect was immediate and long lasting. He didn’t like Richt, but he couldn’t fire him at first, so he just starved him of resources until it inevitably showed up on the field. Imagine if he had paid reasonable asst coaches salaries, hired support staffs, gone to bat for players in trouble, built the IPF and the West endzone project, like he has for Kirby, surely that would’ve meant at least 1 more win a year. Think he could’ve fired Richt then? No way! I’m just sorry that we fans had to endure it while his nefarious little scheme took effect.

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  9. HiAltDawg

    I always thought Pruitt would backstab his way into Richt’s job (for no reason other than his act wore thin in Tallahassee) but Pruitt’s IPF play really set a lot of things in motion, lol

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  10. AirForceDawg

    University of Georgia 1998-’99 Annual Report to Donors:

    “The Athletic Association will complete an Indoor Practice Facility behind Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, which will enable football, track and other outdoor sports to practice year-round in a climate-controlled facility. Architectural drawings and schematics are being drawn up now and we have begun securing the necessary funds to begin this project. The initial estimate of the facility is $12 million. Projections for completion have yet to be determined but we are hoping to break ground on this project immediately.”

    September 2004: UGA Head Football Coach Mark Richt: “It would be nice to have an indoor facility. Right now on my list of things, that’s No. 1 right now.”

    September 2014: UGA Athletics Association Board of Directors approves $400K to conduct a feasibility study to determine what would be required of an indoor practice facility.

    November 2014:

    UGA Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt: “I know our competitors are not gonna say anything bad about the coaching staff here. They’re not gonna say anything bad about the people here, because it’s a great place. But what they’re gonna say – and that they’ve always said is – how important is football to Georgia if they don’t have an indoor practice facility? …I’ve been on the other side when you recruit against Georgia, and when you don’t practice you don’t get better, so that hurts player development. The reason I came up here is because we’re fixing to take care of that. And this is gonna be the last football team at Georgia that’s gonna have days where they don’t get better because of not having an indoor facility. Because I know our folks upstairs are gonna get it done.”

    UGA Athletics Director Greg McGarity: having an indoor facility ready for next season is “impossible.” The UGA Athletics Board of Directors has to approve the project, and all that it did in September was approve a design study.

    February 2015: former UGA Athletics Director and Head Football Coach Vince Dooley: “We had a plan [in 1999]. The indoor facility itself was excellent and was just what we wanted.”

    February 2017: UGA officially dedicates its indoor practice facility

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