By R. Alan Richardson, Sports Editor
The Morgan County Kiwanis Club was honored to have University of Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity as their guest speaker last week. McGarity has been serving in that position since August of 2010 after an 18 year stint as the Executive Associate Athletic Director at the University of Florida. The gigantic task of overseeing Georgia’s 21-sport athletics program that includes a $99 million budget has seen a lot of success during his tenure. National and SEC Championships as well as many top 10rankings are only part of that success. Academics, facilities, and personnel have also improved during that span. He is an Athens native and University of Georgia graduate who lettered in tennis in 1973 under the legendary coach and all-around Bulldog historian Dan Magill. After graduation he served in several capacities at UGA including assistant sports information director, head women’s tennis coach, and assistant athletic director before moving to Florida.
After a nice luncheon and some initial business, McGarity was introduced by Jerry Caldwell who was in charge of the program. McGarity was quick to say, “I want our athletic department to be an open book. It’s been a blast coming back to Georgia and we’ve had some challenges and successes along the way. The players represent the University of Georgia and I think it’s like going to summer camp. You hope they grow up, learn, become better individuals, and stay safe. We want them to mature while both the players and parents trust the coaches to do what’s best for them and win some championships along the way. Our graduation rate for athletes is up to 83 percent which is on par with the general population of students so we’re proud of that. One of our concerns is how to get all of our programs to perform and compete at the highest SEC and national level. For example our swimming program has multiple SEC and national championships as well as numerous All-Americans while volleyball has virtually no accomplishments to speak of. We want to support them and help them get to that same level of success.”
Of course the conservation turned to football very quickly and McGarity made these remarks, “People think that just because we’re playing Vandy this week and are favored that it won’t be much of a contest. Let me assure you that the Dogs are approaching this game in a highly motivated manner like they would any other SEC game. There is no finer leader in college athletics than Mark Richt. You have to give him a lot of credit as he lost about 70% of his staff and has seven new coaches that come from many different schools so it’s a nice blend of new ideas. The thing I like the most about Coach Richt is you don’t have to worry about him at night. He’s always doing the right things on and off the field. Mark is a professional that deals with young people, changes lives, and helps them. We have a phenomenal football staff that expects the players to be the best they can be while being ambassadors of the game and of the University and do things the right way.” Following the short intro McGarity opened up the floor for questions and the first one was a good one.
When asked if deep down when he was at Florida who did he want to win the Georgia-Florida game he gave a great answer saying, “When I first got to Florida we were eating in the dining hall upstairs in the stadium and I didn’t know many people yet. I was going through the cafeteria style line and I see Steve Spurrier standing up at a table waving his arms. My thought was surely he’s not waving at me, but he was. Coach Spurrier says to come and sit with him at his table. He said, ‘You’re the new guy from Georgia, right. Well you’re a Gator now.’ He then proceeds to give me the gate code to his home and told me the front door was never locked so anytime I needed to do laundry or just get some rest or whatever that his home was open to me. He disarmed all of it right off the bat and that flipped the switch for me. They were good people and always transparent.”
The next question was concerning the cost of attendance gap between SEC schools. McGarity answered, “That is a concern and all the AD’s in the conference and across the nation are trying to find a standard for that. For example there is about a $2000 gap between attending UGA and Alabama. That means that over a five year period a student athlete would receive $10,000 more to attend Alabama than Georgia. However, we believe that parents and players who want to come to Georgia do so because Mark Richt treats kids right.” Someone then questioned McGarity on his thoughts about the idea of pay-to-play issues surrounding the NCAA. He answered, “Recently the Notre Dame President came out and said that student athletes should play for the love of the game. He’s right. The athletes get a free education that costs $40,000 to $50,000 per year, free food, nutrition training, strength and conditioning training, and a great venue to participate in. In the end we hear our athletes say that Georgia is treating me very well. There are also unintended consequences like taxable income, but as of now the O’Bannon ruling has been stayed.”
The O’Bannon vs. NCAA is a case involving former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon who was a starter on the 1995 National Championship Team. The suit states that O’Bannon believes that upon graduation a player should be given financial compensation for the commercial use of the athlete’s images and could involve billions of dollars in television and licensing fees. McGarity finished his talk with a number of different thoughts. “I’m extremely proud of the fact that we have sponsored legislation that would disallow student athletes to transfer and play after domestic violence problems and issues. I’m all about taking chances, but in the right way. There are always going to be a few discipline issues and I believe if you didn’t know about it, then you probably should have. Some of our fans were upset last year during the Todd Gurley situation saying that a lot of schools wouldn’t have done anything. It turned out that during that time and injuries to the next two guys in line that we found a certain number 27 named Nick Chubb that nobody had even heard about. He’s full speed, fun to watch, and respects the game. When he scores a touchdown he just hands the ball to the referee. The offensive line love to block for him because of how hard he prepares, practices, plays and runs. He’s a perfect student athlete.” said McGarity.
These were his final words for the members, “I want to be a servant leader that helps others and helps make dreams come true for people on my staff. I want to be an open book. It’s a mentally taxing job dealing with personnel, parent, donor, and coaching decisions as well as 250 employees and 500 student athletes. My job is a lot about customer service.” After the meeting adjourned all were invited to stick around and chat with the AD who was very accommodating and stayed for about an hour extra. One question arose concerning the rule surrounding last week’s Georgia game against Louisiana-Monroe University that ended with about 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. He explained what happened like this, “In an SEC game, the game is automatically terminated after a two hour delay no matter what the score or time remaining and is a complete game at that point. Also, you cannot restart a game after midnight so the game would be terminated at that time. In this case it was up to the coaches, athletic directors, and referees to come to a mutual agreement by all involved so that’s what happened.
It was mostly about student safety, but the delays, score, and time remaining certainly came into play. I think it was the right decision.” It doesn’t take long when you speak to someone to tell something about their character. Greg McGarity exudes character, class, and a definite concern for young people’s lives. The state of affairs at our Georgia Bulldog Athletic Department is in the right hands. Go Dogs!