Georgia’s loss to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl will have no impact on contract negotiations between UGA and football coach Mark Richt, which remain at least “three to four weeks” away from completion, according to Athletic Director Greg McGarity.
“We plan to meet as soon as we can get together,” McGarity said Wednesday. “But I don’t see anything, certainly not a signed document, anytime soon. We’ll start the process of digging into the details of our extension and it will be determined in the near future.”
McGarity also urged fans upset over the Bulldogs’ 33-30, triple-overtime loss to the Spartans to keep the defeat in perspective.
“Blair Walsh kicks a 42-yard field goal and we’re sitting here feeling great about ourselves,” McGarity said. “But would we have solved our running game problem? No. Would that have solved them being able to go on an 85-yard drive with no timeouts? No. So, I mean, the dynamics haven’t changed. It’s not going to matter diddly-squat when we start lifting weights in three weeks. If anything it’ll add more incentive for next year.”
Georgia lost back-to-back games — including a loss to LSU in the SEC Championship game — to finish the 2011 season 10-4. Richt, 51, is 106-38 heading into his 12th year as the Bulldogs’ coach.
McGarity said there is no rush to complete a new deal with Richt, who has two years remaining on an employment agreement that pays him $2.81 million annually. Including bonuses and outside income from endorsements, Richt earns more than $3 million a year.
Richt is expected to receive an extension of at least three years, which would keep him as the Bulldogs’ coach through December of 2016. McGarity said he and Richt already agreed in principle when they met last month.
“This is an important recruiting time and I told Mark after the SEC Championship game that he could go to these high school kids and tell them he’s going to be their head coach,” McGarity said. “We felt it was very important to send out the message that we haven’t worked everything out but Mark’s going to be our coach. That was the immediate need, to go ahead and address the future of our program. But we didn’t get into any details or anything like that that’s kind of where we left it. He wants to be here and we want him to be here.”
Any renegotiation is unlikely to include a significant pay raise for Richt, however. Richt is sixth among SEC coaches in compensation but that ranks No. 11 nationally. Alabama’s Nick Saban ($4.8 million), LSU’s Les Miles ($3.75), Auburn’s Gene Chizik ($3.5), Arkansas’s Bobby Petrino ($3.1) and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier ($2.88) currently make more than Richt.
“Longevity is the first priority and then compensation would follow,” McGarity said.
McGarity said he has received about 50 emails in the wake of Georgia’s loss this past Monday. He said “about half” of those fans complained about coaching decisions made as the Bulldogs let a 16-0 at halftime lead slip away. Michigan State scored a touchdown with 14 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 27-all and send it into overtime.
Walsh missed a 42-yard field goal attempt that would have won the game in the first overtime, then had a 47-yard attempt blocked in the third OT.
“Any time you lose a game, especially one as gut-wrenching as that one was, people get frustrated and they vent in various ways,” McGarity said. “If the game was lopsided, if we had lost 42-0 or something, then there would be some concerns. But to point the finger at a player or a coach or offense or defense or special teams is a waste of time. That was a true team loss. There are plenty of second guessers out there, but there are so many what-ifs on either side it could have gone either way.”
What McGarity hasn’t heard is enough credit being given to the Spartans, who recorded back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history.
“What I have not seen in one email is anyone giving any credit to the Michigan State team, and that’s very unfortunate because they made the plays they needed to win the game,” McGarity said. “The first thing you should do when you get beat is give the other team credit, because they’re working just as hard as you are. Kirk Cousins, look what he did in the last two minutes of the game with no timeouts. That was pretty impressive, as was the way they defended us in the second half. Unfortunately people never give the opponent any credit.”
McGarity said it’s important that Georgia fans rally behind the team, which he thinks has a chance to do some great things next season.
“We go from 6-7 to 10-4 and we’re looking forward to 2012,” McGarity said. “We’ve got a lot of kids coming back, a great nucleus and a great group of leaders. There’s a segment of our fans that want to play the blame game. But when you have a loss like that, everybody shares in it. I’m sure everybody on that field felt like they if they could have done something differently, coaches and players, we might not have lost the game. But that’s just part of the deal.
“What is important is for people to know that Mark Richt is our football coach, and he and his staff and these players spend so much time in an effort to bring championship football to Georgia. . . . The more negative people become, the more it distracts you from being successful.”
NOTES: Georgia’s annual G-Day spring football game has been set for April 14. No other spring practice dates have been set. . . . Junior noseguard John Jenkins sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder late in the Outback Bowl. However, the injury is not expected to require surgery and he will be available for spring practice. . . . Freshman wide receiver Chris Conley will undergo wrist surgery this month. . . .Redshirt freshman tailback Ken Malcome suffered a concussion early in the fourth quarter against Michigan State and did not play the rest of the game.