From Dan Magill to Greg McGarity: the evolution of fan relations

Honestly, it’s not like I take any pleasure out of harping on Georgia’s athletic director’s mission in life.  It’s just that it seems as if every time he opens his mouth, I can’t help but dive for my keyboard.

Hence, this post.

This is now a fundraising event, pure and simple. And it’s not something about which Georgia is wishy-washy or apologetic.

“I understand the argument (that regular fans are being left out), but we also understand to make things work at the university we have to generate philanthropic gifts,” Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said beforehand outside on of the Intercontinental’s ballrooms. “We’ve got a huge drive going on for the West End project (at Sanford Stadium) and Kirby will talk about that tonight. That’s definitely part of what we’re trying to accomplish. We need them to help and we need their friends to help.”

McGarity understands the argument, “regular fans”, but that doesn’t mean he has to give a shit about anything other than the money chase.  He’s not shy about that, either.

Indeed, this change has been steady in coming. The “Bulldog Club meetings” that were once the popular brainchild of the late Dan Magill had morphed in recent years into what they called “UGA Days,” which were more fund-raising based in nature and always prominently featured the school president. But those gatherings remained opened to media and anyone who cared to attend. And they were usually worth the visit. They always closed with a colorful Q&A between the football coach and the fans, and that’s where you’d usually hear the best stuff.

That was followed by a long receiving line in which the coaches signed autographs and posed for pictures, sometimes for more than an hour.

“We got a lot of goodwill out of that, but we needed to think about a better use of their time,” McGarity said Wednesday. “We’ve tried something new every year. We’re trying to utilize our resources in the most efficient manner.”

“A better use of their time”.  Too bad, Joe and Jane Bulldog.  You and your goodwill no longer show up on the athletic department’s radar.  Just don’t forget to pony up next year’s Hartman Fund contribution, will ‘ya? McGarity’s still counting on you for that much.  I only wish he’d keep his mouth shut while he cashes our checks.  It’s the least he can do.

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19 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness

The fifth estate responds.

There’s “McGarity’s Minutes”, so it seems like it’s only fair to give this portion of Seth Emerson’s mailbag a catchy name:

THE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR UNDER FIRE

It seems there are some people who do not understand the difference between a “hit piece” and publishing a letter from an influential Bulldog letterman, booster, and alumni in order to underscore the dissatisfaction the majority of people in the vast DawgNation are feeling about the facts of Greg McGarity’s lack of forward-thinking vision and underwhelming leadership as AD; where almost every single sport is performing worse now than when he took over as AD, and how he is doing nothing to stem the tide of mediocrity within the Athletic Association (not firing Fox or Stricklin for starters) or creating a master plan to improve facilities, which are now so poor that UGA lost the ability to host the NCAA Tennis Championships, which Dan Magill worked so hard to make a semi-annual event in Athens. It’s as if Greg McGarity’s short-sighted penny-pinching is costing UGA in more ways then one, which is one of the many issues I believe Carroll Minick was trying to highlight in his letter-not-hit-piece.

Could you kindly explain the difference so those people would no longer be able to hide behind their ignorance?
– Matthew Cafaro

Actually, the response to the Minick letter, at least judging by social media and the comments on the story, seemed to be around 90 percent in support. (Though not everyone agreed with everything in the letter. I didn’t either.) And, as I’ve told UGA officials who have complained to me about the thrust of my stories this year, there hasn’t been much, if any, blowback from the fan base. We feel, as Chip put it the other day, that we’re reflecting the dissatisfaction of the fan base. But we’re also informing them, such as the $33 million that was in the UGA foundation but the school didn’t advertise.

The people I speak to on a regular basis, donors and alumni alike, want Georgia to be great. They feel that enough isn’t being done now to be great. They want the best for a school they love, and they wanted light shed on these issues. I have no doubt that Greg McGarity loves Georgia dearly. So do his critics. They evidently just disagree on the best way to get to the mountaintop.

McGarity’s statement in May to the athletic board – “let us not be distracted by those who seek to divide us” – struck many as not seeing the point of the criticism, and the stories that give voice to these critics: They’re not seeking to divide, they’re seeking to make Georgia better.

The job of the media, meanwhile, is to inform the public and hold the powerful’s feet to the fire. I hope that’s what we’ve been doing.

“Emerson’s Eternity”?  “Seth’s Seconds”?  I dunno.  Can’t say I see anything unreasonable in what he wrote, but, then, again, I don’t have an office in Butts-Mehre.  Fortunately.

What I do find interesting is how McGarity has allowed his athletic department to become such a big issue this offseason.  It’s not a typical situation; the closest analogy I can come up with was the unrest that Dave Brandon stirred up at Michigan, and I’m not really sure how good a match that is for what’s going on in Athens.  Brandon was an outsider who turned out to be a fish out of water in managing a university’s athletic department.  McGarity, on the other hand, is basically an athletic department lifer.  (Plus, Brandon got shown the door.  We all know where McGarity is.)

In any event, having an athletic director with a management style that tends to suck goodly amounts of oxygen out of the room is probably not the best look for a school’s athletic department.  No matter what the press thinks.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

“People are concerned about the time.”

But, as usual, not concerned enough to question the amount of time devoted to commercial breaks.

21 Comments

Filed under College Football

It’s money that they love.

I see we were graced with another edition of “McGarity’s Minutes” (is that supposed to be catchier than the late, lamented “The First Word”?) yesterday.  In case you were wondering where the good athletic director’s sense of priorities are these days (I keed, I keed), he’s not coy about telling right out of the gate: “First of all, we would like to thank each and every one of you who contributed to the record-breaking fund raising year we had in Fiscal Year 2017.”

Hey, it beats talking about your assistant tennis coach’s recent drug arrest.

While we’re on the money front, Kirby Smart wants you to know he’s merely a good soldier following orders.

He was in Atlanta speaking at the swank Intercontinental Buckehad Hotel at an invitation-only event before Georgia donors. Athletic director Greg McGarity also was on hand.

It was one of five similar events this offseason—the other four were out of state. All were closed to the media.

It’s a change of pace from a couple of years ago and beyond when Mark Richt spoke throughout the state on the spring speaking tour at places like Augusta, Columbus and Savannah that was open to anyone that wanted to pay a small charge that often included dinner.

“It was not a philosophical change for me,” Smart said. “It was a philosophical change for fundraising and ways to generate revenue. That didn’t necessarily come from me. That came from people that are paid to do that. For me, whatever the event is, I’m fine with it. I want what gives us the best opportunity to raise money. I also want to be around our fan base, which is why we’re having a Fan Day (Aug. 5) and we’re opening that to the general public to come out and watch practice and see our players afterward.”

“That came from people that are paid to do that.”  You get the feeling that the minute Smart’s got contract leverage over the school — let’s hope that day comes sooner rather than later — he’s going to have Jimmy Sexton deliver a “my client doesn’t have time for that shit” message to McGarity about his fund raising methods.  I doubt that will be a topic for a future “McGarity’s Minutes”.

35 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness

“So much for the old-dog-new-tricks cliché.”

And here I thought that a recruiting post about how “(t)he Miami Mark Richt and the Georgia Mark Richt are completely different beasts” and that “the Hurricanes’ second-year head coach has changed everything … including the results” meant that Richt was no longer hoarding offers and roster spots like they were the Crown Jewels of England.

Nah.

This is the new era of Miami recruiting and the new era of Mark Richt – an era where every advantage is played up to the thousandth degree and every opportunity is seized. Even at the ACC Kickoff event in Charlotte last week, Richt was selling his program. He arrived at the event donning an extremely on-the-nose tan suit, complete with a “U” lapel pin, and carefully cultivated facial stubble that would pass for cool in a South Beach club. He made sure to refer to Miami as “paradise” in his opening statement and even gave a public shutout to the high school players in the South Florida area.

It just sounds like he’s updated his look for South Beach.

42 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

So much for booster pride.

And so much for anonymous charitable contributions:

Ole Miss has been ordered to release copies of its notice of allegations and amended notice of allegations without the booster names redacted after the Mississippi Ethics Commission delivered its final order on the matter Friday.

Per a copy of the final order obtained by The Clarion-Ledger, Chris Graham, the ethics commission’s hearing officer, ordered the university to “produce a copy of the notice of allegations and amended notice of allegations redacted as necessary to fully comply with federal education privacy laws or any other statutes or case law, but that any booster names shall not be redacted solely due to right of privacy.”

Man, you’re an Ole Miss booster, you’ve worked tirelessly to make sure that young men are properly compensated as they try to better themselves through the college experience and you’re selfless enough that you don’t want any credit for it — okay, you don’t want any public credit for it — and this is the thanks you get?  Who are the jerks that won’t let you stay in the background, anyway?

Meet the Mississippi versions of Pork Rind Jimmy.

The final order was spurred by consolidated public records complaints from Steve Robertson, a Mississippi State beat writer for Gene’s Page, and James Hendrix, who manages the Jackson Jambalaya blog.

The university did not intend to release boosters’ names in its 2016 notice of allegations, which it received in January of that year. Ole Miss cited privacy laws as its reason for redaction.

I sure hope they make a movie out of this one day.  It would make a fabulous bookend with Hugh Freeze’s other memorable movie moment, The Blind Side.

5 Comments

Filed under Freeze!

“We certainly have bigger people.”

If there’s any area of Georgia football where you would expect to hear preseason happy talk, it’s the offensive line.

9 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football