A Bulldog comes home: Old friends hail UGA’s new athletic director

Greg McGarity as a sophomore in my Athens High 1970 yearbook.

Greg McGarity as a sophomore in my Athens High 1970 yearbook.

Greg McGarity officially becomes UGA’s athletic director Wednesday, though the hometown boy actually couldn’t wait that long to start and has been on the job for a couple of days.

A lot of Athens folk, including me, were thrilled when it was announced that McGarity was returning to the UGA athletics department where he literally grew up. Greg impressed a lot of people in Athens both as a kid and while working his way up through the ranks of the UGA Athletic Association before leaving for the No. 2 job at Florida in 1992.

I didn’t know Greg that well when we were kids, since he was two years behind me in school, but I knew his brother Stu and was even better acquainted with his dad, who taught my Sunday school class for a couple of years and ran the selling of football programs at UGA home games. He and my father were friends and that’s how I came to sell programs.

My main memory of Greg is that he was great friends with my neighbor Chipper Jones (no, not that one). Greg and Chipper were  constantly playing tennis down at the UGA courts, where they came under the tutelege of the already legendary Dan Magill. When I was a senior at Athens High (which became Clarke Central the next year), among the sophomores on the tennis team were Greg, Chipper and another of Chipper’s pals, Dirk Howell.

A yearbook shot of Greg McGarity (front center) on the Athens High tennis team.

A yearbook shot of Greg McGarity (front center) on the Athens High tennis team.

Dirk, whose Dirk Howell Band has been a party fixture around Athens for decades, remembers that in their senior year, 1972, Greg “was the best player on the team.”

“It was rare for him to make a mistake, on or off the court,” Dirk recalls. “Consequently, it was pretty obvious that Greg was the ‘Coach’s favorite.’ I’m sure that Coach John Williford wished that all of us players were as dedicated and serious about our tennis playing as Greg was. Greg always did everything by the book.”

But on a road trip to Chattanooga to play in a tournament, Dirk remembers, the team got a kick out of the fact that Greg left the shower curtain out while taking a shower and flooded the bathroom. “We all got a good laugh out of that one! … It gave us comfort to know that Greg was actually ‘one of us’ and capable of doing something stupid!”

McGarity inspired Howell even as a youngster. “I remember seeing Greg trimming grass around the fence at the UGA tennis courts around 1966. I was impressed as a 12 year old and I wanted to be like Greg … so I got some tennis lessons and soon became one of ‘Mr.Magill’s boys.’ We would work at the courts for tournaments and tennis matches for the UGA team. It was actually at the Crackerland tennis tournament around 1969 that I worked in the Coke stand with [future Oscar winner] Kim Basinger. We all worked hard and learned a lot from our experiences around the Henry Feild Tennis Stadium. … None of it would have happened for me had I not seen Greg working at the courts on a hot summer afternoon in ‘66.”

McGarity grew up on the tennis courts of Athens.

McGarity grew up on the tennis courts of Athens.

Another member of the 1972 Clarke Central tennis team, Bill McDonald, grew up with McGarity and has remained close to him. They were part of a group of UGA fans called “the Aisle 10 Crew” who chartered buses to away games in the 1970s, and they still spend lake time together in North Georgia each summer.

“I’ve known Greg since we were about 6 or 7 years old,” McDonald told me. “We went to the Y together in the ’60s and were sort of raised and influenced heavily by Coburn Kelley, who many know was like a father to so many of us. Greg used to wear an orange and white Tennessee helmet with a big ole orange ‘T’, while I wore a white, orange and blue Auburn helmet with the ‘AU’ when we played football at the Y back in those days. Everybody wore different gear, since there was no real budget for fancy uniforms. I know we both caught a little grief about those helmets from some of the others, who thought we were crazy, but we were just having a good time.”

The other major influence in McGarity’s life was Coach Magill, McDonald said. “I remember Greg spending all that time at the courts with Magill. It seemed like he was always over there. Dirk Howell used to tell me Coach Magill was always on Greg and the other kids to pick up all those Coke bottles all the time. I know Coach Magill  has been a driving force behind Greg all along. After Greg left in 1992 to go to UF, whenever he, [his wife] Sheryl and [son] Alex would come to Athens, Greg would ALWAYS be sure to stop by and see his mentor, Coach Magill. Always.”

One of my classmates, Ben Anderson, who lived next door to the McGarity family and worked for a while as a sportswriter, remembers, “For many years, if you were around Dan Magill, chances are that Greg McGarity was close by. … Greg went from being right-hand boy to right-hand man. If there were a matter of routine urgency, Dan would preface the issue with ‘Greg, oh Greg!’ If there were a matter of hyper urgency, Dan began with ‘Greg Greg Greg Greg!’

“And in every case, Greg would not only answer the call to action right away, but also answer it thoroughly and effectively. No surprise that Greg has since become one of the best administrators in college athletics. UGA made the right call in bringing him home with something akin to ‘Greg Greg Greg Greg!’”

Bill McDonald said he did offer McGarity a piece of “advice” after he accepted the UGA job. “When he went to Florida in 1992, he told me that … some of the people in the Gator athletic department kind of had to correct him. Seems Greg was referring to the annual showdown in Jacksonville as the ‘Georgia–Florida game.’ Greg was promptly trained to bite his lip and call it the ‘Florida–Georgia game.’ We let Greg knew we did not appreciate that.” So after McGarity got the call to come back home to Athens, McDonald said, “I made sure not to forget to remind our new AD that the game is in fact to be called the ‘Georgia–Florida’ game.”

The thing that always impressed McDonald most about McGarity was “Greg works his tail off. But at the end of the day Greg McGarity is one of us. He truly appreciates people and does not take life for granted.”

On the day the news broke that McGarity was to be named UGA’s AD, McDonald talked with him on the phone, but the primary subject wasn’t the new job. Their main focus was Chipper, their former teammate, who was in the hospital in Atlanta.

“That’s who Greg and I talked about for a good while, before Greg even told me he had the AD job,” McDonald said. “That is just another sign to all that Greg puts people first, not himself or his position. And that is one major reason why Greg will do a terrific job at UGA for years to come. He will work hard, enjoy his work and put people first.”

37 comments Add your comment

Scott

August 31st, 2010
7:14 am

JB

August 31st, 2010
7:30 am

New day. New leader. New vision. New accountability. He likes his coach’s on edge. I’m reading into this that Athletics at UGA will get better.football feeds the entire athletic dept………..Next two years gonna be interesting.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by dogplatesusa, Mark Wood, Go UGA Football!!, UrFamilyLivin, AJC Junkyard Blawg and others. AJC Junkyard Blawg said: A Bulldog comes home: Old friends hail UGA’s new athletic director http://bit.ly/anIPIX [...]

One of the hazards with being "home grown"...

August 31st, 2010
7:50 am

…someone like Bill puts pictures of you as a dork out there for all to see, along with stories of said dorkiness. Best of luck, anyway, Mr. McGarity – woof, woof, woof…

Dawg Days

August 31st, 2010
7:51 am

Great story Bill, and like most Dawg fans, I’m really glad Greg is back in Athens, seems like a great fit at just the right time for the program.

Embarrassed Dawg

August 31st, 2010
7:55 am

As a life long Bulldawg fan, I always hated losing under Vince Dooley but also felt that even while losing we did it with class. I have been a CMR fan but am disgusted with the lack of on and off the field character the last two years. Multiple arrests even somewhat minor and we have almost been last in all CF in penalties with most of them stupid. With a new DC and other coaches, I am looking this year for improvement in fundamentals and character. If we can go 9-3 and improve it will be an accompishment.

The Real SugarHillDawg

August 31st, 2010
8:15 am

He is a good choice in another way that he has been at UF for so long and I am sure he wants to beat his old school and he will do what it takes to see that happens and if it means firing his coach I HOPE he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger. My faith in Richt being able to do it is fading more each day.

how2fish

August 31st, 2010
8:22 am

Bill great article, and welcome back Greg McGarity…now can we just tee it up !

Scott W.

August 31st, 2010
8:23 am

Real nice, you took a story about the AD and turned it into a firing CMR. Good luck to Mr. McGarity and you short sighted folks too.

UGASlobberknocker

August 31st, 2010
8:28 am

There are two Chipper Jones? That’s hard to believe. I wonder if the Braves’ Chipper’s dad had heard that name from the Ga Chipper and named his son that. Braves Chipper was born in 1972.

Embarrassed is misinformed

August 31st, 2010
9:11 am

Hey embarrassed — I was a fan of Dooley but make no mistake — the standards for what goes has changed radically. Georgia had some serious drinking and smoking of herbal cigarettes in the 60’s and 70’s. I know that for a fact. The times were different and the coach was not expected to be a 24/7 baby sitter. Nor did Dooley labor with an overly zealous APD that makes arrests at the drop of a hat. McGarity should have been hired last time. I liked Evan s but it was a pc move to hire him.

Destin Dawg

August 31st, 2010
9:22 am

Richt’s a great coach in a tough business… but our stars in alignment this year… Go Dawgs !!!

btgt69

August 31st, 2010
9:25 am

As a GT fan, I sincerely hope that McGarity can improve the image of the players. As he has said: it is a ‘privelege” to represent a school. I appreciate his attitude and wish him and uga great sucess.

RxDawg

August 31st, 2010
9:28 am

Embarrassed Dawg, nothing has changed since the Dooley days. Well, one thing has changed and thats the size of the magnifying glass that the football players live under. In Dooley’s days, the kids weren’t arrested unless it got real bad. None of these kids are bad to the core. Your letting these sensationalized headlines get to you. I know, they get to me sometimes too. Especially when a few nerds get a hold of them and really spin it. Here are a few facts that might help ease your mind.

1. There are more laws now.
2. Everyone is being watched/supervised/policed more.
3. There is more media.

Now don’t let the media scare you into an opinion. Think for yourself.

Destin Dawg

August 31st, 2010
9:37 am

YES Rx… AJC doesn’t have real sports news.. stirr the pot…. then here come the nerds with no life/women/jobs/sports… Richt’s a great coach…. maybe laid back and too loyal… now we have new coaches we already had players……can’t wait to see BIG DDDDD…. go Dawgs !!!!

Mobile Dawg

August 31st, 2010
9:56 am

Bill, I’ve got a good feeling about UGA, and particularly the football program that I haven’t had for quite a while. I had started to lose that feeling and was holding CMR accountable. He’s still accountable, but I have a different perspective now. It took a while to realize this, when I read your article it jumped on me like fleas on a Dawg….

Reading between the lines, I never have had a foundational respect of Damon Evans, I didn’t think he had truly paid his dues, nor was the most qualified at the time. The rest was just a gut feeling.

I put myself in Mark Richts shoes. He had to know what kind of man “character wise” Damon Evans was. How could he have respect for him? I know how working for someone I didn’t respect affected my attitude and morale during my years of working in the corporate world. Over the years could CMR have lost some of his morale, his edge, and drive, as a result of Evans character. I believe the fresh perspective, and character of McGarity will be a positive influence to CMR and also serve to motivate not only Head Coach to higher levels but the entire staff and team. I believe the struggles, and black eye the program endured because of Evans will in the long run be one of the best things that could have happened for Georgia.

For me this just serves as a reminder that “all things happen for a reason” and “when one door closes, a better one is just around the corner ready to open.” Go Dawgs, I just had my blood doping for the day. Good article Bill, Thanks from an “older, more mature Dawg….

South Jax Beach Bulldawg

August 31st, 2010
10:10 am

After reading this thought provoking and salient column I am dumbfounded as to why Mr Garrity was not hired in the first place! I had no idea he had this much bulldawg blood flowing through his viens! My Gosh if someone was EVER born and bred for a position it is Mr Greg Garrity OUR NEW Athletic Director!

Frank Lane

August 31st, 2010
10:15 am

I know for a fact that several other SEC schools make major donations to the local police to have them look the other way in minor cases. You might guess that the school has major power in Knoxville. Different in Athens where the police are ruthless and against the athletic department and fraternities.

Tdawg money

August 31st, 2010
10:33 am

Glad to have GM on board….but he badly ticked me off with his comments right out the gate. Richt is already keenly aware of the arrests and the embarassment to the program. We don’t need a former gator to stroll in on a white high horse and lecture us about it. How about the days of “I’ve got your back” Coach Richt, let’s deal with this together”.??? Again, I’m glad GM got the job, but somebody needs to pull his fanny aside and remind him that his previous history as a tennis player ain’t **** in UGA athletics stature.

could we drop any more names in this article?

August 31st, 2010
12:09 pm

i could care less about this guy’s past. while i am very happy that we have a ‘georgia boy’ leading the program, i am even happier that he has been working at an athletic department that has been kicking our butts for the last 20 years. Let’s hope that the new AD can use that to turn up the heat with a smile…rather than be lulled to sleep by “being back home.”

As of late, we have been excellent at ringing the cash register but have put a mediocre product on the field. that responsibility gets placed squarely at the feet of smiling mike, our former AD, and ultimately, CMR. It is almost as if we have sold out…..who cares about championships as long as we are making $$$$$.

We need someone to ‘raise the bar’ here and maybe GM is the man…..time will tell.

LCDawg

August 31st, 2010
12:42 pm

To all you loser GT fans out there. I just watched the Josh Nesbitt interview. Wow, you are right! Your team is much, much smarter than us and we are all going to work for you some day. LMFAO!!!!!!!!!!

RomeyDawg

August 31st, 2010
12:52 pm

just checked out the bids.. whooooo it’s startin to get interesting. http://www.UGAKickoff.com/dawgforaday who wants to Run On the Field With the Dawgs!? holy freakin crap!

UGADawg83

August 31st, 2010
12:54 pm

One of your better articles Bill.

Athens, Georgia

August 31st, 2010
1:00 pm

Eisendawg

August 31st, 2010
1:35 pm

RxDawg, You are dead on about the times were different. I was at Georgia in the early 70’s. The police everywhere, including Athens, were much more tolerant of drinking, smoking, speeding, and raising hell in general. I can remember when the police would escort you home if they thought you had had too much to drink, and if you knew someone, you could get a ticket tore up. This was true for anyone, not just athletes. I’m not saying that this was good, but it was definately different. On the flip side of this, we didn’t have the violence back then like we have now. Once a fist fight, is now a gun battle.

Judge Dawg

August 31st, 2010
1:57 pm

Athens has always had a stange relationship with UGA students. Sometimes I wished they had put the university in Watkinsville even though it had one bar.

Clay

August 31st, 2010
4:19 pm

They didn’t put UGA in Athens, Athens built up around UGA. The school is older than Athens.

and you guys call others

August 31st, 2010
9:40 pm

Bama Fan #2

August 31st, 2010
10:27 pm

Sounds like the new AD is going to be a keeper and not a troubled person who made a bad error in
judgement fooling around with the easy lady with the red panties.

hunker down

September 1st, 2010
6:43 am

I feel badly about Damon Evans and know one mistake will haunt him for most likely life and does not exemplify the true character of the individual or give credence to the great job he performed while at the helm. However, one door closes and antoher opens and I am elated about the great hire in Greg McGarity. I think with his leadership and background UGA will take the atletics program to the next level. Best wishes and Go Dawgs!

$750K

September 1st, 2010
6:56 am

How much is this guy going to make? Obviously, UGA is not a serious school, just a party place that always has money for sports and never has money for academics.

Spike

September 1st, 2010
8:14 am

Bill, do you know any of the Gaby family that grew up in Athens?

James T. Kirk

September 1st, 2010
8:24 am

Unless this guy is a rainmaker and makes UF, Bama, LSU, Auburn and UT suddenly disappear, it’s going to be the same ol’, same ol’ out on the farm.

droopydawg

September 1st, 2010
11:52 am

Our new AD definitely has a set of ears on him…no word yet on whether he can fly.

UGA coaches

September 1st, 2010
4:12 pm

Enter your comments here

James T. Kirk

September 2nd, 2010
8:41 am

this piece is such a joke

Julie Anderson Taylor

September 19th, 2010
5:08 pm

Greg McGarity is a quality person– he possesses integrity, an outstanding work ethic, and, most importantly, he is a family man. He will lead with the University’s best interests at heart…something that Evans just didn’t seem to get. I hope the Bulldog Nation realizes how lucky we are to get Greg back in Athens. As far as Adams getting so much credit for this hire… Why in the heck didn’t he give Greg the job five years ago?!?!