Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity met with football coach Mark Richt on Friday to formally open discussions about a contract extension.
McGarity said further talks will be held, perhaps next week, but that UGA and Richt are in agreement on the central point: “He wants to be our coach. We want him to be our coach.”
McGarity added: “There’s really no need to speed through anything right now because he and I are in a good place.”
Richt has two years left on his existing contract, but his job appeared in peril when the Bulldogs opened this season with back-to-back losses to Boise State and South Carolina. A 10-game winning streak and SEC East championship removed Richt from the much-discussed “hot seat” and all but ensured a contract extension.
The McGarity-Richt meeting came on the morning after rumors and reports surfaced that Texas A&M was targeting Richt for its coaching opening. McGarity said the timing of the meeting was unrelated to that speculation, in which he said he put no credence.
McGarity said Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne had not contacted him and would have done so if he were pursuing Richt.
“You don’t waste your time on [rumors] that have no legs,” said McGarity, who added that he has no doubt Richt will be the Bulldogs’ coach next season and beyond.
“We just know Mark is going to be our ‘ball coach,” McGarity said.
Friday morning’s meeting, held in McGarity’s office, was the athletic director’s first with Richt regarding a contract extension. The two had planned since last week to meet at some point late this week, McGarity said.
“This is the first time we’ve had a chance to get together and start discussing the process,” McGarity said. “You sit down when things are calm, talk through things on his list, things on your list, soak that information in.
“I need to review certain things with [UGA president Michael Adams] and review some ideas and thoughts I may have now that we have had a discussion, and at some point in time we can get back together. . . . We are moving forward on discussions on the future.”
McGarity would not disclose details such as potential contract parameters.
“We discussed several things, but I’m not ready to say what those things are,” McGarity said.
Richt’s contract, most recently amended in 2008, is a complicated document. Variables to be discussed could include how many years are added to the deal, whether Richt gets a raise from his current income of about $3 million annually and how provisions such as buyouts would be affected.
Richt didn’t publicly address the contract-extension matter or the Texas A&M speculation on Friday. He also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Richt has said frequently over the years, including as recently as last week, that he wants to complete his coaching career at Georgia.
“It’s too hard emotionally for me to recruit guys and look them in the eye and say, ‘I’m going to be your coach,’ and knowing deep down, maybe, if something better comes along I’m leaving,” Richt said last week. “I just didn’t ever want to operate that way.
“So Georgia’s my home and my family’s home.”
McGarity noted that Richt has a busy schedule this weekend, with many recruits visiting campus.
“I’m sure we’ll meet a couple other times after he gets through this weekend and things settle down,” McGarity said.
McGarity said Texas A&M was not mentioned in his meeting with Richt on Friday or in his trip to Tampa with Richt on Thursday for an Outback Bowl contract-signing party.
“I didn’t even ask,” McGarity said.”He’d tell me [if anything were going on]. . . . Nothing came up other than Georgia.”
Richt, Georgia’s coach since 2001, has a 106-37 record with the Bulldogs. His team reached the SEC Championship game this season for the fourth time, the first time since 2005.
The Bulldogs’ 10-3 record this year followed their two worst seasons under Richt, 8-5 in 2009 and 6-7 in 2010.
McGarity said discussions about possible changes in the contracts of Richt’s assistant coaches will come later.
— Tim Tucker