THE TEN AT 10:
1. Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity made a point to mention that football coach Mark Richt is not receiving merely a contract extension, but a whole new deal.
To say “extension” is to imply that additional years are simply being added to the the existing contract. That’s not at all the case. And the simple fact that UGA and Richt’s representation — Lonnie Cooper and Mark Carmony of Career Sports & Entertainment, Inc. — have been dickering over the details since the first week of December underscores that.
“It is a different contract,” McGarity said of the five-year deal that will pay Richt through the 2016 season. “In other words, we’re blowing up the old contract. I shouldn’t say blowing up, but we’re basically starting over with new terminology and things like that that will probably make it easier to read, easier to understand.”
The most important “terminology” in the new contract will be the buyout clause. In other words, what will Georgia owe Richt if it decided to make a change sometime between now and December 2016?
Under the previous contract, UGA would have owed Richt his full pay for just six months after termination, less the camps portion. Then, for the rest of the calendar year (it’s generally assumed these things happen after the season), he would be entitled to all compensation. But for each subsequent year left on the contract after that, Richt would be paid only — the word “only” is underlined in the existing contract — an amount equal to his base salary and equipment endorsement income.
For example, had Richt been fired after going 6-7 in 2009, Georgia would have owed him about $5 million. Had he remained gainfully employed the remaining contract would have been worth about $12 million. I’m just guessing here, but I would say it’s that portion of the contract Richt’s reps have belabored since the end of last season.
On the flip side, it wouldn’t appear that Richt would have his people scrap much over language binding him to UGA. Richt has said repeatedly — and he repeated it again this past Monday — that it is his full and honest intention to remain in Athens as Georgia’s coach until he retires or the Bulldogs get rid of him, whichever comes first.
“I’ve never really changed my stance on how I feel about Georgia from the first day I got the opportunity to be here,” Richt said. “My goal and my wife Katharyn’s goal was to build our life in Athens, Ga., and raise our children here and finish my coaching career here. That thought has never changed for me.”
2. While the deal has been agreed to in principle on both sides, the new contract hasn’t been finalized. Therefore, it hasn’t been released yet as an open record.
Of course, Richt’s salary will be the area most scrutinized and his situation is tricky when it comes to compensation. While he is the dean of SEC coaches (in terms of being at one institution) and has the fourth-best winning percentage among active coaches (.736), there is not a lot of room for Richt to grow from a salary standpoint. He currently earns $2.81 million a year, which ranks 11th nationally and sixth among SEC coaches.
According to salary figures compiled by the AJC, the five coaches ahead of Richt are Alabama’s Nick Saban ($4.8 million), LSU’s Les Miles ($3.8), Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino ($3.6), Auburn’s Gene Chizik ($3.5) and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier ($3.3). Other than Petrino, whose NFL background commanded an inflated salary, the rest of the guys all have won national championships. So it doesn’t appear Richt will be leapfrogging anybody in that hierarchy.
3. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham received more of a true contract extension. Grantham agreed to a three-year contract worth $750,000 a year when he left the Dallas Cowboys to join Richt’s staff in January of 2010. Georgia has agreed to add back on the two years of his contract he originally received when he left the Dallas Cowboys to join the Bulldogs. But it’s expected that at least a modest raise will be included.
Heading into last season, Grantham’s $750,000 salary made him the second-highest-paid defensive coordinator in America behind Alabama’s Kirby Smart. But since then, Smart has gotten a pay raise to $851,000. Meanwhile, Auburn brought in Brian VanGorder from the Atlanta Falcons and paid him $850,000;Tennessee hired Sal Sunseri from Alabama as defensive coordinator and paid him $800,000; and LSU is working on a new deal for defensive coordinator John Chavis, who was earning $700,000 a year before he received the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach last year. Some reports speculate that deal may go over $1 million.
Meanwhile, Grantham’s defense finished fifth in the nation in total defense last year and was among the top 10 in four other statistical categories. He also still carries a strong cachet with NFL teams, so the Bulldogs knew they had to react. “Todd was probably the most urgent and we needed to go ahead and take care of it,” McGarity said.
But when he’s already paid among the top five or so in college football at his position, how far up do you go with his salary? I’m guessing somewhere between Sunseri and VanGorder.
4. Georgia also announced this week the completion of its strength and conditioning staff. The Bulldogs were two men down after John Kasay retired and longtime assistant Keith Gray left to join the Philadelphia Eagles. UGA rounded out its staff by adding John Thomas of State College, Pa., as senior associate director and Sherman Armstrong of Tampa as associate coach.
I had a few people ask me why Thomas, Penn State’s director for the past 20 years, would leave that job to become the No. 2 man at Georgia. Well, as you may have noticed, there has been a little bit of activity within the Nittany Lions’ football program the six months or so. Reports out of Pennsylvania are that Thomas was not going to be retained by new Penn State Bill O’Brien.
In any case, Thomas brings a different kind of hit-intensity-training philosophy to UGA, and Armstrong’s expertise is as a “speed specialist.” Together with the Bulldogs’ existing staff under director Joe Tereshinski, Richt believes Georgia’s strength program will be on the cutting edge going forward.
“Coach T is kind of a strength, explosive, endurance kind of guy,” Richt said. “John is a little bit more of a high-intensity training guy. So we’re going to have really three guys that have tremendous diversity in how they train. . . . We feel like with the diversity of this strength staff, we’re going to be able to cover every single base and every need of every player and just generate a lot of excitement throughout our offseason program.”
5. There is a rapidly-building, grassroots movement on Facebook.com to get UGA to erect a statue of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker somewhere on campus. Freelance photographer and Bulldog fan extraordinaire Rob Saye said he started the “Herschel Walker Statue Project” page on Facebook on a whim this past weekend and it already has nearly 800 “members.”
“I can’t believe how well it has been received,” said Saye, who has discussed the prospect with several former players and is hoping to eventually get coach Vince Dooley and Walker involved. “Everybody seems to agree this is something that absolutely has to happen.”
Saye said the idea came to him while leafing through some old Sports Illustrated magazines recently. It was realized that there was a statue of Doug Flutie at Boston College. He began to research the topic and soon realized that there are statues of Johnny Unitas at Louisville, Lou Holtz at Notre Dame, Earl Campbell at Texas and Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel at Florida. Statues are in the process of being erected of Cam Newton, Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan at Auburn and Tim Tebow at Florida.
“The bottom line is it’s a good idea and we’re behind the times,” Saye said. “I decided I needed to start a revolution.”
Click HERE if you want to find out more about the project and how you might be able to get involved.
6. Georgia sophomore forward Marcus Thornton underwent knee surgery for the third time in the past two years earlier this week. Thornton, who also had surgery on his left knee last season and on his right knee in December, still managed to play in 27 of the Bulldogs’ 34 games this season. He was unable to perform anywhere close to his capability, however, and averaged just over 3 points and 4 rebounds per game.
“He’s a guy who has great leaping ability who hasn’t been able to use that this year,” Georgia coach Mark Fox told reporters this past week. “Once he’s healthy and gets his legs back he’ll be stronger.”
7. Here’s an interesting nugget about Georgia’s men’s basketball recruits for next season: Each one of the them — Kenny Gaines (Whitefield Academy, ), Charles Mann (Milton, Class AAA) and Brandon Morris (Miller Grove, Class AAAA) — led their high school team to state championships. It the Bulldogs can somehow land Tony Parker, also from Miller Grove, they’d be 4-for-4 in that department. Parker, the 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward, had 22 points and 12 rebopunds in the title game.
8. Georgia’s next best chance at a national championship could come this week. Coach Jack Bauerle’s women’s swim team will be in Auburn for the NCAA championships and, by all accounts, the Bulldogs have one of the teams that can seriously contend. With all the race data, swimming is like other timed sports in that it’s readily apparent what teams have what it takes to win.
“I think there are five teams that can win the title, and we’re one of them,” Bauerle said. “If we swim great, control what we’re doing and get a few breaks, we might have a chance. And it’s nice to have this chance. In September, we were not at this point because we were so young. We’ve grown up and we’ve gotten better. And the best part is we’re swimming faster.”
Bauerle’s latest incarnation already won the SEC championship, a particularly impressive feat considering they lost several top-line seniors off last year’s team and have six freshmen. Also, the Bulldogs are competing without Allison Schmitt, who has eight NCAA and five SEC titles. Schmitt chose to redshirt this season while she trained for the 2012 Olympics.
UGA’s Wendy Trott will attempt to become the first four-time winner in the 1,650 freestyle at the NCAAs. Trott’s 15:40.32 at last year’s NCAAs made her the fourth-best performer all-time (behind Katie Hoff, Kate Ziegler and Janet Evans).
9. Georgia’s baseball team has some issues. The Bulldogs remain ranked No. 18 and defeated Alcorn State 8-5 Tuesday night. But Georgia was swept at the hands of UCLA at Foley Field this past weekend and that same Alcorn State team they beat by three runs lost to Auburn and LSU by a combined scored of 41-0.
Perhaps the Bulldogs will eventually get on track. But for now, their appears to be some cracks showing on the pitching staff. Closer Tyler Maloof is out for an undetermined amount of time with a “lat muscle” problem that arose in the fall. And there are indications staff ace Michael Palazzone may have an arm problem. The senior right-hander is still looking for his first win in four appearances, is averaging just 4 innings per outing and with a 3.71 ERA.
10. THIS & THAT: This past Monday in Montecito, Cal, Georgia’s No. 23-ranked men’s golf team team defeated No. 6 Southern Cal 3.5-2.5 in “The Maestro,” a match-play event. Nicholas Reach, Keith Mitchell and Sepp Straka posted individual wins for the Bulldogs, while Brian Carter halved his match. . . . Georgia’s No. 8-ranked softball team (21-3) takes on Georgia Tech (15-12) in Atlanta Wednesday at 7 p.m. . . . Georgia gymnast Sarah Persinger was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for her performances in the Gym Dogs’ two wins last weekend. . . . The men’s tennis moved up to No. 3 in the national rankings.