UGA’s turnaround year began with a nudge from AD McGarity

Greg McGarity: Sounding the right tone at the right time. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Greg McGarity: Sounding the right tone at the right time. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

A different athletic director might have done too much, or too little. Greg McGarity got it right. He met with Mark Richt at the beginning of the first workweek of 2011 and, rather than make demands, McGarity asked a question.

“It was not adversarial or confrontational,” said McGarity of the meeting. “It was heart-to-heart. I asked him, ‘What do you need to get the job done?’ ”

When McGarity gets around to writing his book on management, that deft twist surely will be Chapter 1 — how to make a salient point without pounding the table. By asking Richt what he required, McGarity assured his coach that he and his input were indeed valued, but sent the message that more was expected.

Sure enough, more has arrived. Richt has presided over 10 consecutive victories and an SEC East championship, and this Saturday his Bulldogs will play for their first SEC title since 2005. Credit the coaches and the players, and credit the AD as well. McGarity supported Richt publicly at a time when administrative waffling could have undermined the program, but in-house he delivered a push so gentle as to seem the merest nudge.

A Bulldog born and bred, McGarity apprenticed in Georgia’s athletic department under Dan Magill and Vince Dooley, but it was in his time away that he grasped the ways and means of a cutting-edge athletic department. “It really hit home at Florida,” said McGarity, who worked as Jeremy Foley’s Gator aide-de-camp for nearly two decades. “Jeremy’s attitude toward all his teams is that being mediocre is unacceptable.”

When McGarity was appointed Georgia’s AD in August 2010, some wondered how this famously nice guy would handle Richt, who’s himself a nice guy but whose record had begun to slip. On cue, Georgia went 6-7 in McGarity’s first season back in Athens,  the final indignity being delivered on New Year’s Eve in a dreary Liberty Bowl loss to Central Florida.

Said McGarity: “That was not a very good day. That was not a very good night. I don’t think anybody around the program slept very well. But we used it as a positive. We said we weren’t ever going to go back to that. That wasn’t Georgia football.”

The Liberty Bowl was on a Saturday. By the time McGarity and Richt met, rumors were flying that the AD had seen enough and was prepared to fire his coach. Said McGarity: “That was not even on the radar. It would not have been fair. I’d just started the Monday of the first game of the season. It wouldn’t have been fair to him or the institution or the players.”

Over those four months on the job, McGarity said, he chose “to sit back and look and listen and learn. There would be a right time for a discussion with Mark, but it’s hard to do that during the season because you’re always focusing on the next game.”

When Georgia’s first losing season under Richt was done, McGarity shared his thoughts but let Richt talk, too. “Being accessible is so important, and it goes both ways,” McGarity said. “Me to him and him to me.”

McGarity’s key observation: Richt needed to free himself of all administrative work that could be delegated. “Mark has talked about ’studying the game,’ ” McGarity said. “I call it ‘coaching ball.’ I wanted him to get back to what made him successful, to being a creative offensive mind. And you see him back in the meeting rooms [where game plans are concocted].”

As part of his “studies,” Richt visited Falcons coach Mike Smith in Flowery Branch, and Smith suggested a book — “The Energy Bus,” by Jon Gordon. “On the bus” became Richt’s rallying cry for 2011, and two of those soon ushered off were Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, Georgia’s leading holdover rushers. Perhaps not coincidentally, a summer passed without a player arrest.

For all that, the season began with Georgia losing to Boise State and South Carolina. Here again McGarity served his coach well, offering support and counseling patience. But did he really foresee such a complete reversal after 0-2?

“I thought it was probably 50-50. It wasn’t to the point that people were jumping off the ship. Inside the building it was, ‘We can only control this week.’ ”

The AD’s verdict on this season: “What has happened since the first two games has been very satisfying. It’s what we all hoped would happen.”

Does “very satisfying” mean Greg McGarity is satisfied? Not quite. “I hope to have a Dream Team every year,” he said. “That’s what the best teams do. We’ve got to back that up with another great recruiting year.”

Another nudge, deftly delivered.

By Mark Bradley

581 comments Add your comment

DawgEd

November 30th, 2011
2:27 pm

DawgEd

November 30th, 2011
2:29 pm

In retrospect, based on how McGarity has handled things thus far, that embarrassing DUI of his predecessor may have been the best thing for the UGA athletic dept.

Mark Bradley

November 30th, 2011
2:30 pm

Kudos, DawgEd.

RichtOWNStech

November 30th, 2011
2:30 pm

Dawgs 17, LSU 14 – causing Verne Lundquist to have heart palpitations leaving the GEORGIA Dome!

Brad Clontz

November 30th, 2011
2:34 pm

JARED!!!!!!!!!

LawDawg

November 30th, 2011
2:37 pm

Things are going well in Athens. Even if we lose to LSU (which would be far from surprising) and lose a bowl game (which I do not think will happen unless sugar falls from the sky), UGA is on the right track for next year. Add one good RB and a couple of top-tier OL and we should be stout next year.

Scott in Huntsville

November 30th, 2011
2:39 pm

I’m a Tech fan, but I still hope you beat LSU and beat them badly.

bugsquacher

November 30th, 2011
2:39 pm

dawgs by 7 on saturday.

bugsquacher

November 30th, 2011
2:40 pm

munson and erk says its in the cards.

Macclenny_man

November 30th, 2011
2:40 pm

Let’s Go Dawgs!!! Crowell time 2 man up!!!

DawginAR

November 30th, 2011
2:40 pm

Honestly, with all the nonsense and disturbing things going on in college athletics right now, we should be ecstatic to have both a coach like Richt and an intelligent, common sense guy like McGarity leading things. This truly feels like the early days of Richt’s tenure. Hopefully, much more to come!

SSIgator

November 30th, 2011
2:41 pm

I think McGarity is astute enough to realize that the softness of the schedule also has played a big part in the “turnaround” this year. When LSU destroys UGA on Saturday the reality of it will hit home.

steve

November 30th, 2011
2:42 pm

Any way you look at it things in athens are on the up & up, Good article MB

Mark Bradley

November 30th, 2011
2:43 pm

Thanks much, steve.

Hail Munson

November 30th, 2011
2:43 pm

Dawgs Fans, I don’t want to jinx the game, but as a tribute to the great Larry Munson, we should all bring some sUGAr cubes with us to the game to toss up in the air when the Dawgs win. Please repost this on Facebook/Twitter and get the word out, and lets make that sUGAr fall from the sky! GO DAWGS!!!

bitter dawgs fan

November 30th, 2011
2:44 pm

the departure of “red panties”—-D. evans——was the knife out of coach richts back

———thank the ga. state patrol———–just saying——-PS—turd roll lives in cave —-tuskaloosa area

J-Dawg

November 30th, 2011
2:44 pm

I must admit that I as an Avid dawg and Richt supporter, even I was ready to see CMR get out. But our AD saw the future and handled it all with great leadership and poise. I do believe in our program and we needed to get rid of the energy vampires such as ealey and king. the future is so bright we gotta wear shades baby! Go Dawgs! RIP Larry….

steve

November 30th, 2011
2:45 pm

Now dont let it go to your head HAHA

Gamecocks win SEC!

November 30th, 2011
2:45 pm

So if Georgia beats LSU, seems like only one team is fit to be crowned SEC champ and it’s not the one from Athens. You gotta look to the head to head SEC results, which means South Carolina is your champ, right? They will be the only SEC team with a win over the Doggies, if the AJC cheerleaders can will the local boys to a win over the mean kids from Baton Rouge. If the Doggies beat LSU and Richt is handed the SEC trophy, it will be the biggest travesty since poor Washy Ealey was forced to take a pay cut.

Mark Bradley

November 30th, 2011
2:45 pm

Too late, Steve.

WE BETTER.

November 30th, 2011
2:45 pm

Ringleader

November 30th, 2011
2:46 pm

The Dogs still showed up for Boise totally unprepared. No game plan, no respect for the short passing game, no modifications to the defense. The special teams looked pitiful. No wonder the stands began to vacate so soon. It was after this pitiful game that the coaches began to work and do their jobs.

GO Dogs…….

Bob LaBlah

November 30th, 2011
2:47 pm

All emotions aside, SSIgator has spoken the truth.

Destin Dawg

November 30th, 2011
2:47 pm

SSIgator… Mcgarity was astute enough to leave Fla. ( like Meyer ).. reality will hit home for Fla.. next year.. I mean just look at Crazy Will Muschamp and obese Charlie Weis.. recruits jumping ship..

bitter dawgs fan

November 30th, 2011
2:47 pm

a gator fan showed his face——–learn how to win again before you attempt to move to the

—————————front of the bus————-rep–tail

T-Town Dawgs

November 30th, 2011
2:49 pm

SSIgator, I’m just glad we will be there and have the opportunity to be destroyed as opposed to sitting home like your Gators.

GFF

November 30th, 2011
2:49 pm

Bottomline, I TRUST Georgia’s athletic programs in Greg McGarity’s hands.

GTBob

November 30th, 2011
2:50 pm

Of course McGarity gets some credit. He makes the schedule, right?

SSIgator

November 30th, 2011
2:50 pm

“Mark has talked about ’studying the game”

I am surprised that McGarity did not fall out of his chair when Richt told him that one. After all of these years of trying to be a football coach he just then figuered out that he better “study” the game of football? What was he doing before? Using a ouija board?

Steve

November 30th, 2011
2:50 pm

I think this game is gonna be won or lost based on the play of our O-line , If they can keep Murray upright and open a hole here and there for our tailback i think we can pull one out

Dirty Dawg

November 30th, 2011
2:50 pm

As DawgEd said, I think we owe that Atlanta policeman one for pulling that car over on Roswell Road that night…having Mr. McGarity at the helm will mean Georgia’s at, and will remain, at a high level and not willing to ’settle’ for anything close to mediocrity.

Old Dawg

November 30th, 2011
2:51 pm

Muschamp D.C. ( not H.C. )at Texas going down hill.. .. Weis worst N.D. coach ever got fired.. good luck ??

MrDan

November 30th, 2011
2:51 pm

Thanks for the op-ed Mark. And thanks to Greg McGarity for bringing Jeremy Foley’s attitude to the table: mediocrity will not be tolerated. Considering the amount of money schools are spending on athletics today, nothing but the best in efforts from everyone top down and bottom up should be expected.

J-Dawg

November 30th, 2011
2:53 pm

GT Bob, the ACC is your soft schedule…. go back to the library, Nerd! 10 out 0f 11 ouch!

Terrible Truth

November 30th, 2011
2:54 pm

Fire Andy Landers, McGarity. Haven’t had any use for him since he said a few years ago it wasn’t important that he win a national title. 15-20 programs have surpassed them since, let him sit on a poarch somewhere and slick that hair back with his hands, seems that’s the only thing he’s good at nowadays.

SSIgator

November 30th, 2011
2:54 pm

T-Town Dawgs -

You must like to sit and watch train wrecks also.

SSIDAWG

November 30th, 2011
2:54 pm

SSIGator…Maybe the gators will be soft again next year on our schedule. How many first downs did yall have in the second half?

Dr. Phil

November 30th, 2011
2:55 pm

McGarity is quite a change from Evans, who was Adams’ puppet. McGarity won’t dance for Adams, andt at this point, Adams will not badger him. Remember, Adams would have not part of McGarity earlier. Certainly it was McGarity who put his foot down on the arrests and behavior issues, and that is likely the difference in this team and the last few years.

Destin Dawg

November 30th, 2011
2:56 pm

McGarity huge improvement over D. Evans.. Grantham huge improvement over Martinez.. plus Lakatos, Olivadotti, Friend… great future with all the problems at Fla. Tenn. Auburn etc.. SEC East champs next couple years.

ARdawg

November 30th, 2011
2:59 pm

Wahhhh Wahhhhh Wahhhhh softness of the schedule Wahhhhhh Georgia won 10 straight Wahhhhhh

The cry of losers

vdunkndunk

November 30th, 2011
2:59 pm

I was just about ready to jump ship after last year and the 0-2 start (even though I’ve always liked and respected Richt and hoped he would pull it out), and from the outside looking in I feel like McGarity did a lot to help get things moving in the right direction. Now I’m ready to extend Richt and Grantham, bring in another top 10 recruiting class this year, and continue our strong start on next year’s class.

ATL Fan

November 30th, 2011
3:00 pm

One good thing about being heavy underdogs, if you lose, no big deal. If you win, wow that was not expected.
It’ll be interesting how the recruiting angle plays out. UGA could use another good recruiting class to get in the National Championship conversation.

Chinese Bandits strike again

November 30th, 2011
3:00 pm

LSU 38, UGA 10

In other words… Beatdown City. :-)

T-Town Dawgs

November 30th, 2011
3:00 pm

SSI, so you’re telling me you are happy that the Gators are sitting home because you wouldn’t want to see them get destroyed by LSU? You would rather have your team sitting home than at least have a shot at an upset. You sir, are full of ..it!

Delbert D.

November 30th, 2011
3:01 pm

Another nudge would help as well. McGarity should not give Richt an early contract extension this year. Wait and see how the next 2 years play out.

Destin Dawg

November 30th, 2011
3:01 pm

Go Dawgs… Beat LSU !!

DILLIGAF

November 30th, 2011
3:01 pm

I agree, nice job with this story Mark.

I’m proud of Coach Richt and his entire staff, proud of the players, especially the seniors for being able to stay on the “bus” and have an impressive season. I don’t care what anyone says about strength of schedule, 10 straight wins including is impressive and even more gratifying with wins over UT, UF, AU and GT in one season.
It’s good to be a GA Bulldog!

If the Dogs can establish a running game and the OL can control the line of scrimmage and pass block, special teams play well and the team plays relative penalty and mistake free ball, then I like their chances against LSU. These guys are extremely focused and know what’s at stake.

Hunker Down You Hairy Dawgs!

UGA/85′
GATA!

piermontdawgny

November 30th, 2011
3:03 pm

dawgs win 43-31

david

November 30th, 2011
3:03 pm

for the love of humanity –give it up gtboob. We have seen your comments for months now regarding the schedule– ITS PART OF LIFE– THE ROTATING SEC SCHEDULE. I know if we could drop tech and add a decent team our sos would improve but probably wont happen. 1 w every decade isnt bad though.

Destin Dawg

November 30th, 2011
3:04 pm

UGA 31 LSU 28