For a long, long time the athletics directors chair, particularly in the South, was kept warm for the successful head football coach who wanted to be his own boss and to eventually have a comfortable place to land after he hung up his whistle.
It really wasn’t that tough of a job. The budgets were small and the demands of the fan base outside of football weren’t that big. The head coach/athletics director would hire a strong No. 2 guy to run the department on a day-to-day basis while he made the big decisions. Those decisions consisted of hiring coaches and making sure the football program had all the resources it needed.
The job began to change in the 80s about the time that Vince Dooley took on both roles at Georgia. Now the budgets were bigger. Women’s sports were starting to explode. Television contracts started paying real money and the fan base wanted to win at EVERYTHING. Dooley is in the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach. His peers will tell you that he was an even better athletics director.
Today, the big-time college athletics department has a budget of over $100 million and the theory goes that you just need a very sharp person to run it like any other business.
That’s not true. College athletics IS a business but it is unlike any other business. Today’s athletics director has to be comfortable at crunching numbers, but he also has to be in tune with his alumni base. They have to trust him with their money and with their loyalty. He has to reward them with success and the ability to make decisions that are in the best interests of the university and its reputation. He doesn’t have to be a graduate of the institution, but he does have to have a strong sense of the place and its value system. You can’t plug a Harvard MBA into one of these jobs and expect it to work.
Which is why, at this particular point in its history, Greg McGarity is the perfect athletics director for the University of Georgia.
McGarity knows the nuts and bolts of the job. He worked for Dooley at Georgia and then spent 19 years as the right hand man for Florida’s Jeremy Foley. You know what Florida has done across the board in its athletics department in that time. McGarity knows how to do this job. That was never an issue.
But McGarity is also an Athens boy. He went to Georgia and played tennis for Dan Magill, the greatest Bulldog of them all. The DNA of the place is running through his veins. He understands the Georgia people from Blairsville to Savannah and what their expectations are. It is a very delicate balance.
They want to win. They want to win very badly. But they don’t want to be embarrassed, either. They want to beat Florida in football and compete for the SEC championship on a regular basis. But they don’t want to hire a Lane Kiffin to do it.
They were profoundly embarrassed by the Damon Evans episode, which was an unspeakable human tragedy.
Here is where we give credit to Dr. Michael Adams, the president at Georgia, for understanding that McGarity was the right man at the right time for this job. Yes, Adams had an ugly public clash with Dooley back in 2003-2004 and there was concern that McGarity might not be in this mix because of his ties to Dooley. Dr. Adams deserves praise for his swift handling of the Damon Evans episode and for hiring the best person to help the athletics department move forward.
At the end of the day, the Georgia people just need reassurance that things are moving forward and that the future is bright. And the future is very bright at Georgia. The athletics department is in great shape financially thanks to the foundation built by Dooley and six really good years of work by Evans and his staff. Does Georgia need to start beating Florida in football again? You bet. But that is another discussion for another day.
McGarity’s quiet competence, vision, and love of Georgia will give the Bulldog Nation that reassurance starting today.
Welcome home, Greg.
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