Progress pleases McGarity, but he’s still not ‘comfortable’

Greg McGarity is pleased but not content with Georgia's turnaround under Mark Richt. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Greg McGarity is pleased but not content with Georgia's turnaround under Mark Richt. (Curtis Compton)

Greg McGarity is avoiding amusement parks and costumed cartoon characters this week. He found his own “Happiest Place on Earth” in Orlando – roaming the aisles of a Barnes and Noble while clutching a gift card.

“I’m going to spend all of this,” he said by phone.

McGarity loves books, particularly anything on leadership. His favorite is, “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All,” by Jim Collins.

“There’s a section in there on productive paranoia,” Georgia’s athletic director said. “I think all ADs have a level of that.”

It is why, despite the generally positive feelings that surround the Georgia football program these days, McGarity isn’t nearly satisfied. In fact, when asked if he felt comfortable about the program’s turnaround and direction, he all but chewed up the word and spit it out.

“I don’t think you ever get comfortable,” he said. “There’s always something that needs improvement. You always have to find ways to get better. Comfortable? No. I don’t think that’s the word I would use at all. I don’t think anybody should feel real comfortable with any part of our football program, or any program.”

Step on the gas.

McGarity walked into a mess in August 2010. He replaced Damon Evans, who was fired following a DUI arrest. He started work a week before the first game of what turned into a 6-7 football season. He watched as the Bulldogs started the following year 0-2, as speculation grew about Mark Richt’s future. So much for easing in.

As Georgia prepares for the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska, the view has changed significantly. The Bulldogs fell five yards short of going to the BCS title game, losing the SEC championship to Alabama 32-28. Since going 6-9 to begin McGarity’s tenure, Georgia is 21-4. The four losses: two in SEC Championship games (LSU, Alabama), one in a bowl (Michigan State), one in the regular season (South Carolina).

What does Richt get for this? A pat on the back, mostly. He didn’t receive a raise in June. His new five-year contract kept the salary about the same ($2.8 million) but doubled incentive bonuses ($200,000 for an SEC title; $800,000 for the BCS). Richt also was allowed to walk away at any time. No buyout. In other words: You want to go? Go.

“There were some things important to Mark and some things important to me,” McGarity said. “Performance incentives are important. They sort of make all of us work a little harder. I’m not saying that’s the end all, but if you have the opportunity to maximize your potential, any competitive person will justify that.”

Step on the gas.

There’s little sense of satisfaction with McGarity. Don’t misunderstand. He’s pleased with the program’s turnaround. “Gratified,” was the word he used.

He is holding off giving a final grade on this season because, “We still have a final exam against Nebraska. I would just say thus far I’m extremely proud of the way our team and coaches have approached the season. I see tremendous potential for the program continuing to develop, if we have that same commitment and that same drive.”

He understands there’s still an unhappy segment of the fan base. But he refers to them as, “the society of the miserable. They’re going to vent when things are going really well and when they’re not.”

McGarity could have listened to “the noise,” as he calls it, but he didn’t fire Richt after that 6-7 season. He took notes. He asked Richt what he needed and provided support. The nutrition and strength-and-conditioning programs were revamped. When there was a subject that bothered McGarity in the middle of the night, he would wake up the next morning, go to work and ask Richt about it.

College and professional sports aren’t any different in this regard: It’s still about leadership, laying out a blueprint and problem solving.

The 2010 season “wasn’t acceptable,” McGarity said. “Not to Mark, not to anyone. What you saw from that point was perhaps a refocus, a lot of hard work. Mark has said this before, but when the team was 0-2 there wasn’t a lot of finger pointing. Credit goes to the staff and everybody in the program for not disintegrating. The proof is in the record.”

The loss to Alabama still stings. McGarity called it one of the three most difficult defeats he ever has been associated with. The other two: Georgia’s 27-23 loss to Penn State in the Sugar Bowl (1982 season). The Florida women’s tennis team’s NCAA championship loss to Stanford (after leading 5-3 in the deciding set).

“What made the Sugar Bowl loss even worse was the winning touchdown was scored by a player named Gregg Garrity,” he said. “No relation.”

That game was for a national championship. The defeat four weeks ago wasn’t, but the stakes were almost as big.

“You’re fortunate in this business when the great wins in this business outnumber the tough days,” he said. “It just seems the tough losses stay with you the longest.”

The losses mean there’s room for improvement. The losses, and even fear of losses, keeps you a little comfortable. Maybe even paranoid. Nobody should expect that to change.

By Jeff Schultz

364 comments Add your comment

Buckeye

December 28th, 2012
12:31 pm

Buckeye

December 28th, 2012
12:32 pm

dogs are still cryin’ and a humpn’

fearthewagon

December 28th, 2012
12:32 pm

Is it really progress when you have had a cupcake schedule the last 2 years.

Jeff Schultz

December 28th, 2012
12:33 pm

And here we go . . .

Buckeye

December 28th, 2012
12:33 pm

feathewagon,

Don’t mention cupcakes. “Tub” Jenkins might be checking the blog.

82Dawg

December 28th, 2012
12:36 pm

Good to see the trolls are out and about this morning….

Q

December 28th, 2012
12:40 pm

Cheater and Yankee……

Brian

December 28th, 2012
12:41 pm

Richt is a great man and a great coach. Anyone who thinks otherwise can kiss my A**.

JSS

December 28th, 2012
12:42 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
Every year it is the same stuff, UGA and Falcons… This is followed by a whole bunch of crying and righteous indignation behavior by either “fan base.”

Happy New Year!

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

December 28th, 2012
12:43 pm

I think credit goes to the easy schedule

We will see where we are after next season since the schedule goes back to being really tough

But with what I just said I guess Im part of the “Society of the Miserable” aka I dont partake in kool-aid drinking

CANTONDAWG

December 28th, 2012
12:44 pm

The Society of the miserable is already starting to chirp in.

Brian

December 28th, 2012
12:45 pm

Yo Buckeye your coach thinks when the program is about to have a couple years down its time to join ESPN. Wonder if he will go back to ESPN once Miller’s eligibility is up lol Tech coach has man boobs and can not recruit to save his life. Alabama coach is good but it always makes you wonder what Saban really is doing with all that control. Hell Saban ought to have stock in ESPN

JB

December 28th, 2012
12:47 pm

Mark is a top 25 football coach no doubt. We saw a lot of less accomplished men get hired at ” football” schools the last few weeks. Richt is so close to have Georgia as a regular national power, but comes up short in 3 or so areas. Ok, I list my 3. Allowing under performing assit. coach’s to stay on staff. Roster management. Game day decision making….. And for good measure, I’ll add he’s letting the cream get out of state. Dawgs only have 2 commits this year from the top 10 rated players. Now, those who come will be fine……but it could be better. I’ll end with a personal opinion. I don’t think McGarity believes in HIS heart that Richt is 100 % focused 24/7/365 getting a NC.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

December 28th, 2012
12:55 pm

JB

Well put and I totally agree with what you said about the 3 areas that are lacking

I guess you are a member of the Society of the Miserable

RNB

December 28th, 2012
12:57 pm

Still not sold on Richt being the coach to get UGA to the elite level. Record against top 10 teams still has not improved to a level of where it should be. After reviewing the past season, I feel next year will be the year to either stay with Richt or let him go. I say let him go and get Petrino or Smart. At this level it’s all about championships not beating Vanderbilt,Kentucky and Gerogia Tech evvery year.

Joey

December 28th, 2012
12:57 pm

“This is followed by a whole bunch of crying and righteous indignation behavior by either “fan base.
*************************************************
Then that followed by a contrary ASS named JSS, who has nothing good to say about ANYTHING.

EVER.

Buckeye

December 28th, 2012
1:00 pm

I prefer “most delusional fan base” but “society of the miserable” ranks right up there.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

December 28th, 2012
1:01 pm

Society of the Miserable
Energy Vampires
Dream Team
Dream Team II
Finish the Drill
Knocking on the Door To Greatness
Kryptonite Kool-aid
Cutting Edge Football

LOL

If our program would focus more on the task at hand instead of creating more stupid sayings we might end up being an elite program instead of watching elite programs

82Dawg

December 28th, 2012
1:02 pm

@RNB…I agree next year is the deciding year on CMR, BUT Petrino will never be coach at UGA. That is the dumbest suggestion out there. Also think Smart burnt all bridges at Ga.

Birdhair

December 28th, 2012
1:02 pm

Improvement is the key word. Why didn’t our coaches have us prepared for the S. Carolina game this past season? Why didn’t we adjust and decide to block Clowney? Unpreparedness like this game can’t happen again. The players gave all of their heart each and every game. Never once did I feel like our players were not playing hard. I feel like the coaches stepped up and focused after the carolina game debacle.

I think the fact that we get to bring in a new recruiting coordinator will provide a positive impact to the program. We need a fresh start in this area. Read too often about top guys getting offered too late in the process. And too many players in the recent past have gotten kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons.

Will Grantham stay loyal and continue to improve the defense? Rush defense was atrocious last season.

Will Bobo have back-to-back very good play-calling seasons? Many questions with most programs, but the bottom line is that we hit rock bottom two years ago. We have climbed back up the hill very quickly. We need to continue to improve in every facet of the program to get us right back to a chance at a national title game appearance.

KJ

December 28th, 2012
1:02 pm

and Buckeye is a prayin’…. prayin’ that Nebraska is able to hang with UGA, and salvage some semblance of pride for his pathetic conference.

slydog

December 28th, 2012
1:03 pm

Anything less than the dismissal of Coach Richt and his staff smells ‘comfortable’ to me. If you are not ‘comfortable’, then that means you are looking to improve. Georgia is not looking to improve or get better at certain things, as he states. Why would I say that? Absolutely nothing has changed or been adjusted in 12 seasons. Maybe a change in some responsibilities here and there, but nothing major has changed. McGarity is ‘comfortable’ with Richt’s approach to running this program. If your boss is uncomfortable, then he/she will be more than happy to replace you. After all, it’s about your boss make themselves look good, not you.

KJ

December 28th, 2012
1:03 pm

‘I prefer “most delusional fan base”’

Sweet Jesus the irony… coming from the most delusional fan base in CFB.

Joey

December 28th, 2012
1:04 pm

Spot on, JB, but I don’t know what Richt can do about the recruiting issue. I understand the exodus of talent to Bama – who doesn’t want to play in the Big Game 3 outta 4 years? I also understand some going to Auburn – for the obvious reasons.

But what the hell are they leaving to go to SC and Clemson for?

RNB

December 28th, 2012
1:05 pm

Trust me, icht will not survive after next year with the schedule he has and the talent coming back. Petrino or Smart will be the best available. That is if Smart is not named head coach at Bama when Saban bolts to Cleveland this year.

82Dawg

December 28th, 2012
1:08 pm

@RNB ….you would want a lying cheat like Petrino running your football program?? He is only looking for the next payday and doesn’t care about any program he is at.

KJ

December 28th, 2012
1:09 pm

RNB, would you still not be sold on Richt if they had gotten 5 more yards in the last game?

Buckeye

December 28th, 2012
1:10 pm

kj,

“Most delusional” referring to the dogs fan base was Stewart Mandel of si.com, not I.

Joey

December 28th, 2012
1:10 pm

I’m not trusting anybody who thinks Bobby Petrino would even get an interview in Athens GA.

Never, ever happen.

Steve

December 28th, 2012
1:12 pm

Jeff, don’t you think it is about time to ban “Buckeye” since he is just like that “CHOKE” guy? Just on here to cause trouble? He obviously is not a fan of UGA or the SEC, for jealousy reasons I assume.

Lonnie

December 28th, 2012
1:13 pm

Flat tire you are not miserable you just continue to hammer the point!! Yes we had a lighter schedule than some but really middle of the road! We beat teams we are better than. Everybody does not do that. We won SEC East and played a whale of a game against Bama! We have another good class and rid the team of some malcontents! I would say we are on our way but we need to work harder!!! I am a Richt supporter for multiple reasons but I can critique his performance as well! For instance, I think the philosophy of not really going after linemen hurts us and we are just recovering!!!

Big Crimson 75

December 28th, 2012
1:14 pm

For all the joyous love dog-nation was feeling following the regular season & even the sec cg(for the moral victory crowd).
UGA better beat the corn-bred Huskers.
If not, the dogs are looking at 3 losses in a row — SEC CG, Cap One Bowl & Kick-Off Classic.
Won’t be many happy campers if that happens!!

RNB

December 28th, 2012
1:17 pm

All of the gullible Dawg fans, keep thinking Richt can get us to the championship level. Just another year of beating unranked teams. We will not beat Florida, LSU or South Carolina next year for sure. May not beat Clemson. By the end of the season yall will be glad Petrino is even considering to comne to Athens.

Buckeye

December 28th, 2012
1:18 pm

stevo,

I live in Atlanta, pay Georgia taxes and have First Amendment rights.

Therefore,

Bite me.

P.S Are you an Officer of the Society of the Miserable?

Steve

December 28th, 2012
1:18 pm

Interesting Big Crimson 75, since UGA is not in the Kick-Off Classic next year. That game is at Clemson as a normal road game. At least get your facts straight. UGA will be fine against Nebraska.

KJ

December 28th, 2012
1:19 pm

RNB, you’re not answering the question. If UGA gets 5 more yards in their last game, Richt DOES get us to the championship level. Is this really the difference in wanting to keep a coach and wanting him gone?

Lonnie

December 28th, 2012
1:20 pm

Bird hair good point about rock bottom!!! I think the program has some issues but think about this we have arguably best offense in the nation next year. Line has been together all year. Beard and hopefully Tunsel with some of the reserves stepping up give us depth. On defense Taylor, Thornton, Garrison! Drew will be ready with hopefully Adams and Atkins. Schedule is set that if we go 3-1 we will be back in championship game with Bama, LSU and A&M will lose linemen. A&M loses 2 1st round Tackles.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot now Uga IX

December 28th, 2012
1:20 pm

I’ll tell you about miserable . . . being pulled into an electrical closet in Shreveport and having your a$$ painted because somebody is ashamed that you have a perfectly normal dog a$$ and wants to change it to fit some white a$$ed stereotype. That’s miserable. Heck, I was ashamed to be in Shreveport and here I am in Orlando which is not a lot better. Coach Richt is going to have to coach-’em-up for this one because I can tell you the players seem dejected and flat after that game in the Dome. Maybe I’m wrong, and I hope I am, but I am thinking McGarity knows this, too, and he thinks we’re about to be embarrassed again. Of course, I am just a little dog.

GTT

December 28th, 2012
1:21 pm

UGA is AT an elite level, genius.

RNB

December 28th, 2012
1:21 pm

KJ, If if’s and but’s were candy and nut’s UGA would have a Merry Christmas and maybe sniff a championship every year. Quit drinking the Kool Aid. Richt is a fine coach just not an elite coach.

KJ

December 28th, 2012
1:22 pm

I guess if I were a Suckeyes fan living in Atlanta, I’d be pretty miserable as well, given they haven’t beaten a team within a 300 mile radius in many many years.

KJ

December 28th, 2012
1:23 pm

RNB, it’s ONE if. ONE play. You’d fire a coach due to the outcome of one play?

JSS

December 28th, 2012
1:24 pm

You better lookout Buckeye, they are coming for you!

Crusty

December 28th, 2012
1:24 pm

If Richt would have made it to the NC game does Jenkins play?

GTT

December 28th, 2012
1:26 pm

Jenkins cannot play, no matter the circumstances, because he is ineligible. It’s not a coach decision, it’s a rules decision.

RNB

December 28th, 2012
1:26 pm

KJ, We have been one play away for years now. You get to the next level by demanding respect and greatness, not settling for mediocrity. Richt is not the right fit. He is a great 8 win coach. UGA fans deserve a elite program.

Buckeye

December 28th, 2012
1:27 pm

Steve

December 28th, 2012
1:27 pm

Buckeye, it just must suck bad being you. I can’t imagine waking up every day, turning on the computer, going to some Ohio newpaper and looking for an Ohio State blog and then running my mouth about UGA and the SEC on that blog. What a sorry life you must have. Life gets better once you hit 21.

dawggirl

December 28th, 2012
1:28 pm

Big Crimson, just curious why you are already writing us off against Clemson next year? Is it because of the defensive exodus? I think (provided Murray returns) that our offense will be unstoppable so it might be looking more like a traditional Big 12 game – a shootout.

Laughing hysterically at the thought of Petrino coming to Athens. Will never happen in a million years, and I wouldn’t want it to. Does no one remember what he did to the Falcons? You really think they would hire him in Athens for that?

Buckeye

December 28th, 2012
1:29 pm

kj,

I am a huge Falcons fan.

I was a big GT basketball fan in the Cremmin’s era.

Do I get any cred for that?