With all due respect to the other candidates, the job offer and acceptance for Smart were mere formalities at this point. All that was left to be done after the handshake entering the room was for Smart to get assurance that the Bulldogs were willing to “go big” if he was to take over the football program.
“I assured him that we were,” McGarity, now retired, recounted recently. “I just needed him to articulate exactly what that meant.”
Essentially, that meant writing a blank check. Which is what McGarity did, happily. And not just in terms of ponying up almost $200 million for facilities, either.
But this wasn’t just about buildings for Smart. It also was about skin-in-the game commitment. It was about top-to-bottom excellence in everything the Bulldogs were to undertake as a football program.
So, in short order, golf carts used for shuffling recruiting prospects around campus were replaced with black GMC Yukon sport-utility vehicles. Later, those were upgraded with Mercedes-Benz high-top sprinter vans.
New support staff was hired almost weekly, it seemed. People were needed to drive those vans, to host prospects’ families and give tours of campus. Others were needed to break down video of prospective recruits as well as the opposing teams set to play the Bulldogs in the fall. Digital equipment was needed to access and process all that video. Offices and desks were required for all those individuals to do their work.
Today, Georgia features one of the largest support staffs in America.
“I remember asking early on, ‘What do all these people do?’ ” McGarity said with laugh. “But after watching them work for a while, it all made sense. He personalized every visit.”
I can’t even say what went before Kirby was all done out of a sense of meanness (in the financial sense, that is). Some was, sure, but some part of it was due to straight up ignorance.
“I just made the commitment that Georgia would commit to giving him whatever was necessary to go big,” McGarity said. “I told him we would support him, but he would need to define it, to give us a road map, for what that was. Those things are always determined by the coach, but it wasn’t, ‘I’m gonna need this and this and this.’”
This is the guy whom Andy Staples once referred to as a sharp athletic director. Reality suggests otherwise. The fortunate thing for Georgia football is that Smart has a clue.