I think Andy Staples is a good pundit, but the description he provided of McGarity a few years ago as a “sharp athletic director” struck me as either odd or coming from someone who didn’t follow the program as closely as he thought.
So, how else to explain the lede to his piece ($$) about the current state of affairs with regard to Dan Mullen?
In November 2015, Greg McGarity watched his team celebrate an overtime win against Georgia Southern as if it had just won the Super Bowl. That’s when he knew. McGarity, then Georgia’s athletic director, had been under pressure to make a coaching change for a while. But firing Mark Richt was a huge step. Georgia didn’t stink by any stretch of the imagination. That team finished the 2015 regular season at 9-3. But the Bulldogs weren’t meeting expectations.
That same week, Alabama coach Nick Saban had launched into his infamous “shit through a tin horn” rant — which, coincidentally, was about Georgia Southern in 2011 — as the Crimson Tide prepared to play Charleston Southern. Alabama beat its FCS opponent 56-6 on the same week Georgia needed overtime. The Tide didn’t need to celebrate as if they’d won a championship, because they had played to the level of their talent. McGarity and the rest of the Georgia leadership decided they wanted that mindset. They wanted to look and play like Alabama did. So out went Richt and in came Kirby Smart.
“That’s when he knew.” That makes at least the third different time frame for that decision I’m aware of — Georgia Southern, Florida and hell, 2014, when events led up to Mark Richt addressing the rumors at his presser after the Belk Bowl victory. For what’s supposed to be a story about a decisive guy, that’s not very decisive sounding.
And of course the take is truly ironic in this specific context because Dan Mullen was McGarity’s guy back then, as Dan Wolken related at the time.
McGarity, who has been Georgia’s athletics director since 2010, has never conducted a coaching search of this magnitude. He previously worked under Jeremy Foley at Florida, and it is expected he would lean heavily on Foley’s advice should he find himself in the middle of a coaching search.
Multiple people told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity that McGarity has a very high opinion of Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen from their time together at Florida. Though that does not necessarily line up with Foley’s opinion of Mullen — he was not considered a candidate for the Florida opening after last season — Georgia is a job that worries Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin, according to one person with knowledge.
Sometimes, Occam’s razor is your friend. Somewhere in the middle of the 2015 season, Mark Richt burned his last bridge with influential boosters who directed McGarity to can him and hire Kirby Smart. The insistence that McGarity pulled all the strings by his lonesome is about as convincing as his need to spend money on a search firm to help with the hire then.
That’s all there is to it.