Friends, Greg McGarity has a problem.
He’s a modest guy, someone who doesn’t like tooting his own horn in public. How, then, to sell the first good year of his career to a skeptical fan base, at a time when his contract is coming up for renewal?
It’s time for one of the great buddy acts of Georgia athletics, folks. That’s right: enter Mark Bradley.
We sometimes say that a coach is coaching for his/her job. There’s no equivalent for an athletic director. (“Directing for his/her job?” Nah.) Because Morehead is nearly as inscrutable in his public utterances as his AD, it’s unknown whether another lesser Georgia season would have been cause for directorial change. Today the questions are rather different. McGarity, who’s 63, is under contract through June 2019. Shouldn’t he be given a raise – he makes $675,000 per year, well below the SEC’s going rate – and an extension? Then again, are we even sure he wants to stay?
Oh, FFS. One modestly good year and suddenly he’s allowed to play hard to get?
And one good year is all we’re talking about.
McGarity is an Athens native and a UGA grad. When he was hired as AD, there was widespread rejoicing. (“One of our own!”) In some circles, that soon yielded – I don’t fully grasp just why, and I’ve tried hard to understand it – to utter scorn. To hear his critics, McGarity was a do-nothing whose doing-nothing did harm to the program under his stewardship. He didn’t support his coaches. He didn’t care about the fans. He wouldn’t spend money. (Never mind that enough counter-examples existed to laugh those claims out of court.)
Firing Richt – which many Georgia fans wanted to see happen, but never mind that, too – only deepened the discontent. When Smart’s Year 1 was an epic fizzle and McGarity stuck with Fox and Stricklin … well, the grousing rose to a mighty din. (Rumor: Billy Payne would replace him as AD any minute.) A year later, McGarity stands rewarded in his faith in Smart, Stricklin and Taylor, and his choice to succeed Fox – Tom Crean – arrived with better credentials than any Georgia basketball hire ever.
The neat trick Bradley plays here is with time compression. He’d have you believe McGarity just had a bad blip and now everything is back on track. The reality is that when McGarity was hired, he acknowledged his mission was athletic championships, something that’s been noticeably absent during his tenure. (Not that it’s affected his tenure, of course.)
Bradley’s examples indicate how weak a case he makes. Taylor has brought some life back to the women’s basketball program, but it’s not as if her team made much of a mark in the conference or the NCAA tourney. Sticklin deserves credit for this season’s breakthrough, but he’s the flip side of the coin to Mark Fox, who got the same benefit of the doubt from McGarity. Crean at this point is nothing more than the result of throwing a lot of money at a problem; sure, there’s new hope, but he hasn’t coached a single game yet. Which leaves us with what we know is the real bottom line here — after a process that developed from being told to do what the boosters expected, McGarity wants the credit for Kirby Smart’s talent.
Don’t let that stand in the way of a victory lap, though. Bradley sure isn’t.
If there was ever reason to believe McGarity was in over his head, recent events stand as compelling evidence to the contrary. He’d never say so himself, but Georgia’s AD has done his alma mater proud.
Meanwhile, nothing but aw, shucks from Butts-Mehre.
Does McGarity feel gratified by all the above? Silly question. His response: “No personal vindication whatsoever. It is gratifying to see the success our coaches and student-athletes are experiencing.”
Look, I doubt the court of public opinion will have much bearing on where McGarity’s career goes from here. At best, puff pieces like this are nice things to waive at folks like us who’ve grumbled, but the reality is that for the folks who really matter, Greg McGarity has been a faithful soldier. If he’s given the chance to re-up, that’ll be why.